I came away from X-Men: First Class feeling strangely apathetic. I think James Berardinelli's review is pretty spot-on. Says Berardinelli:
"The easiest way to summarize my reaction to X-Men: First Class is with a shrug. The movie is competently made (and not in 3-D, thankfully), has some nice action sequences, tells its story with workmanlike efficiency, and will probably please fans of the comic books. None of these things, however, could chase away the feeling of indifference that settled over me as I watched the movie unfold. X-Men: First Class is not only a prequel to the popular cinematic series about Charles Xavier and his merry band of mutants, but it's an "origin story." And therein lies the problem. Origin stories, by their nature, are less about telling compelling tales than assembling all the pieces. In road trips, the journey matters more than the destination - in origin stories, the journey is irrelevant as long as, when it comes time for the end credits, everyone is where we expect them to be. It's difficult to surprise, tough to become immersed in a narrative when there's a checklist in the back of the mind of things that have to happen. This impediment is not unique to X-Men: First Class. It's a universal prequel problem, and one of the reasons why superior prequels are hard to find."
That said, there's certainly stuff to be admired here besides the aforementioned. The Cold War allows for an intriguing plot setting that blends real life historical events with political espionage fiction. This was always going to be Charles' and Erik's movie, and McAvoy and Fassbender are terrific in their respective roles. They play a critical part in selling the mythology, their opposing views sharply developed throughout the era's rising anti-mutant sentiment. It's unfortunate how much momentum is lost whenever the story veers away from their relationship and the antagonistic clash with big baddie Sebastian Shaw. (Played with villainous appeal by Kevin Bacon.) The younger, 'first class' mutant characters are throwaways, as are Shaw's own henchmen -- though there are a few entertaining sequences involving the usage of their powers, particularly during an obligatory training montage, and the final end battle. I do approve of the way they handled Mystique, though. Interesting choices were made concerning her back story, and Jennifer Lawrence plays up her vulnerability and eventual resolve nicely.
I echo Wanderer's sentiments: outside of the track "X-Training," I found Henry Jackman's score to be woefully unmemorable. The electric guitars make for an interesting sonic edge, but without a strong thematic knot, they're really only there for texture. I don't want to write off Jackman completely for 2011 just yet; I'm still very much looking forward to Winnie the Pooh, which will hopefully allow him to flex his thematic muscles a little more freely.
To quote Chud.com's Renn Brown: "The film comes from a solid place conceptually, but looking at the execution it becomes a much more complicated picture in which brilliant performances, painfully cheesy moments, energetic pacing, occasionally dodgy effects/action, and fun comic book sensibilities all collide together." The pros certainly outweigh the cons, but again, that feeling of predictability is palpable enough to bring the film down a few notches in my book. As a one-off prequel, X-Men: First Class should be considered a success, but I wish the filmmakers left things a little more open-ended, and to the imagination.