This movie is everything a prequel should be: entertaining in its own right and true to the characters we’ve come to know in the previous franchise films. For the uninitiated, the X-Men (and women) are a superhero team sprung from the pages of Marvel comic books. They are considered mutants because they have an extra “X” gene that gives them each a unique power or ability that normal humans lack.

X-Men: First Class looks and feels quite different from the typical superhero fare (of which there is much more to come this summer season). It takes place primarily in the 1960s at the height of the Cold War. The world is on the brink of nuclear Armageddon, much to the delight and machinations of age-defying mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). He is evil personified – and must be stopped. But how?

Enter mutant expert Charles Xavier (James McAvoy). At the behest of the CIA, the telepathic Xavier embarks on a mission to identify and recruit a sort of mutant Justice League. His first recruit is a tortured soul named Erik (Michael Fassbender), a “magnetic” young man who has a personal score to settle with Shaw.

The relationship between Xavier (a.k.a. Professor X) and Erik (the future “Magneto”) is an interesting and complicated one – and it serves as the true catalyst for how the heroes and villains of the X-Men Universe come to be defined.

X-Men: First Class is an action-packed drama that’s part throwback to the old Bond films and part Smallville – i.e. a look at superheroes and super villains in their formative years, coming in to their own powers and forming the alliances that will ultimately land them on the side of good or evil – or somewhere in between. As prequels go, what more can you ask for?

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