X-Men: First Class is an entertaining prequel/re-invention of the X-Men saga (it's Batman Begins, X-Men style). Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Kick-Ass), the story follows the parallel development of James McAvoy's Charles Xavier (Professor X) and Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr (who later becomes known under a more familiar name). After a brief prologue showing the childhood days of Xavier & Lensherr, this well-made film follows the formation of the X-Men team, during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. It's an exciting movie that's equal parts science-fiction, spy thriller & slam bang action.
McAvoy does a good job as Professor X, with an interpretation of the character that's a little different from the Patrick Stewart version we've seen before. Fassbender is excellent as Lensherr, who develops into the character X-fans know as Magneto (played by Ian McKellen in the earlier X-films). Kevin Bacon is deliciously evil as the villainous Sebastian Shaw, with January Jones (Mad Men) assisting him as the beautiful but deadly Emma Frost. We see some familiar characters among the team of mutants that Xavier assembles, and a few new ones as well. There are also memorable cameos by two cast members from the previous X-films (though you may miss one because it's so brief). There are also a lot of familiar faces in the supporting cast, including Oliver Platt and Michael Ironside.
To say too much about the story would spoil the fun, but the film mixes fact and fiction as Bacon's villain tries to start World War III at a time when tensions between the U.S. and Russia were high, and the there was a real threat of nuclear war. One of the co-writers and producers on the film is Bryan Singer, who directed the well-received X-Men and X-Men 2 (but not the less successful X-Men: The Last Stand), so that helps the film, even though some of the X-history is re-written a bit. The action sequences and special effects are first rate. X-Men: First Class is one of the best of the recent slate of superhero films, and is fun for fans and non-fans alike.