The polished, professional action that bolsters Matthew Vaughn's prequel treatment of the X-Men franchise can’t make up for its insincere handling of both history and nostalgia.
The First Class here refers to the earliest days of the X-Men, when telepathic father figure Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) still had hair and didn't rock a wheelchair, and mental-bending Magneto (new It-Dude Michael Fassbender) was less interested in ominous capes than designer bomber jackets and super-tight turtlenecks. The early-'60s Cold War setting does hew to the early days of the X-Men comics, but this isn’t a straight origin story so much as an excuse to roll out a bunch of young, apropos-of-nothing characters with little to do and less to say (Degrassi style!).
While familiar/blue faces like Mystique (Winter’s Bone’s Jennifer Lawrence) and Beast (Nicholas Hoult) are granted itty-bitty backgrounds, most of these new-to-screen mutants (Darwin? Havok? Azazel?) are fringe-y to begin with, meaning they'll only register with the most hardcore X-Men fan contingent. Vaughn lazily stews the signature personal-identity struggles that plague the mutant community with garden-variety teen angst, and not even an ultra-excessive performance by Kevin Bacon as dapper villain Sebastian Shaw can make that fun to watch.