X-Men: First Class Trailer Breakdown

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The first trailer for Matthew Vaughn’s X-prequel was unveiled, and it’s got the interwebs buzzing. But what’s going on here? Who are these people? And what can you expect from the film itself? We take the trailer apart shot-by-shot to find out…

The trailer for Matthew Vaughn¹s X-prequel starts with a look at an empty wheelchair. But not just any old empty wheelchair: the giant X on the wheel should be a clue as to the identity of its owner even if you don’t remember it from the previous outings.

But in case you weren’t aware, next comes the slogan: “Before he was Professor X…” Followed by a shot of the back of everyone’s favourite bald telepath wearing Cerebro. This is the only glimpse of Patrick Stewart in the trailer: we love the way that you don’t see his face, or Ian McKellen’s. Instead, we get subtle reminders of the powerful iconography of the characters – a helmet, a bald head – sufficient to stir our memories. Also, it means that it doesn’t jolt when…

We see the new, younger models. In this case, James McAvoy as Professor Charles Xavier, with hair and eyebrows Spock would kill for. In this scene, he appears to be in the grounds of a stately home; smart money is, it’s probably his own.

Similarly, we now get a refresher course on Magneto, from his helmet to that cracking scene in Bryan Singer’s first X-Men when he confronted the police outside the train station, which sets us up for…

The introduction of Michael Fassbender: not as Magneto, but as Erik Lehnsherr, a young, embittered and vastly powerful mutant with vengeance on his mind. And a rocking black turtleneck.

Here, the two old friends – allies for the moment – walk down a corridor, accompanied by armed guards. It’s a fair bet they’re on their way to suss out a potential new recruit for their burgeoning league of mutants. We know who they’re going to see, but we can’t tell you yet, lest it wreaks havoc with Fox. And no, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: not only does Xavier have hair, but he can walk! Praise Jesus, he can walk! For now anyway…

This is Xavier’s home, the X-Mansion, in Westchester, New York. Could do with a lick of paint here and there, but otherwise it’s quite nice.

In Xavier’s study, we get our first look at the all-new, all-different X-Men as they watch a broadcast on TV. From left to right: Fassbender’s Erik, Lucas Till’s Alex Summers (aka Havok), Jennifer Lawrence’s Raven Darkholme (aka Mystique), Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy (aka Beast), and Caleb Landry Jones’ Sean Cassidy (aka Banshee). Sitting down – a harbinger of what's to come? – is Charley X and Rose Byrne’s Moira MacTaggert, the team’s CIA liaison officer. So what are they goggling so intently?

It’s John F. Kennedy’s speech about the Cuban Missile Crisis, which places the movie in 1962. OK, so this may set some X-Men purists agog (if Singer’s original X-Men took place in 2000, does that mean Mystique is 50 years old or so?), but Vaughn has said that he is more interested in what works for his movie, rather than trying to leap through hoops to make continuity work. It’s a blunt and typically Vaughn approach, and we like it. The use of the all-too-real Missile Crisis also sets the movie in stark relief: this isn’t some conjured mutant threat to world security. This puts the X-Men right in the middle of a historical, and genuine, threat to the future of mankind.

Here we see McAvoy open a door. We promise that the action gets better than this. Unless it’s a metaphorical door to the future of human evolution, eh?

This is January Jones as Emma Frost, the White Queen of the nefarious Hellfire Club (the true villains of the piece). Fanboys (and everyone else with an appreciation of the female form) will rejoice that she’s wearing a tight white catsuit. They may grumble that a character called Emma Frost appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and was considerably younger. Again: Vaughn isn’t interested in linking up with what’s gone before at the expense of hamstringing himself. Intriguingly, though, she appears to be in some sort of holding cell. Perhaps one that negates her telepathic powers?

This is Zoe Kravitz as Angel. No, not that one; another one. Instead, this Angel has insect wings and a darker nature. And if you’re slightly baffled by the setting, she’s also a go-go dancer, here giving a sharply-dressed Charles and Erik a very private display of her unique, ahem, talents. This mutant recruiting business looks like a lark.

Here we see Nicholas Hoult’s Hank McCoy, with nary a patch of blue fur in sight. That’s about to change.

And here we see Lucas Till as Havok, the younger brother of Cyclops. At least, he is in the comics. Again, let’s not get our continuity knickers in a twist, shall we? He’s in a room that appears to be belching flame: a nod to his personality?

This is Edi Gathegi, formerly of Twilight and House, as Darwin, a mutant whose power evolves to meet any threat he faces. He doesn’t feature anywhere else in the trailer: maybe evolution isn’t about the survival of the fittest after all…

Here’s Byrne again as the fetching Moira MacTaggert, the only human member of the X-crew (she’s not an official X-Man by any means). You may remember that the same character was portrayed by Olivia Williams in X-Men: The Last Stand as a geneticist (her traditional job-spec in the comics); you can expect her to be rather more involved this time around.

Here we see Raven change her form from shapely young blonde to the blue-skinned, red-haired Mystique we all remember from the original trilogy. Interestingly, Raven starts the film as a friend of Charles: we can’t wait to see what happens between them to send her scurrying into Magneto’s arms.

Here we see the very first X-Jet – designed by Hank – swooping to the rescue. Judging from the various assembled battleships, this looks to be from the film’s Cuban Missile Crisis climax, with a stand-off of US and Russian ships off the coast of Cuba threatening to escalate into thermonuclear war on a global scale. These are real events, readers: we didn’t know there were mutants involved before but presumably Vaughn has come across some freshly declassified materials.

Here we see Xavier in full-on Kirby-inspired yellow-and-blue costume on the X-Jet. “Ready for this?” he asks. This is the look that Singer and his team rejected on the first film (remember Cyclop’s sarky line: “What would you prefer? Yellow spandex?”) but in the 1960s setting it works rather well…

“Let’s find out,” says an intense-looking Erik, also sporting those natty duds. We’re not quite sure what he’s trying to do, but we reckon it will involve testing his power like never before on some of those gigantic hulks of metal shipping below. That, or he’s about to watch Take Me Out for the first time. One of the two.

It's a missile! This can’t be good. Not in the middle of a Missile Crisis anyway.

A view shared by a mutated Hank, now mutated into the bouncing blue ball of fur called Beast. Here he’s flying the X-Jet and he doesn’t look happy about what’s coming his way.

This is Landry-Jones’ Banshee diving underwater, perhaps to use his sonic scream to some end. For those who are less than au fait with the more obscure X-Men in the comics, Banshee was an Irish X-Man whose ability centres around that “sonic scream”, which in the comics can be used as an offensive weapon against his enemies by generating percussive waves of noise, deafening his enemies or causing serious vibrations. He can also fly, in the comics at least.

Part of the movie seems to be concerned with Erik’s quest for revenge against the Nazis who tormented him during his internment at a concentration camp (as seen in X-Men). Here, he’s striding down a corridor, taking out goons with his powers. If there’s one thing that excites us about First Class beyond anything else, it’s the potential of Fassbender’s performance as a mad, bad and dangerously cool Magneto. The man’s the next Bond if there’s any justice.

And here we see Hank changing into the blue-furred incarnation of Beast we all know and love. Perhaps the needle he was holding in that earlier shot has something to do with it. Imagine the pain of puberty condensed into a horrendous one-minute spell of fiery agony and you’re not even halfway there. Also, at least puberty didn’t leave most of us covered in blue fur.

And here we get our first look at the baddies of the Hellfire Club proper, including Spanish actor Alex Gonzalez as Riptide (a character who can basically spin incredibly fast, creating deadly gales), Kevin Bacon as the movie’s Big Bad and Hellfire Club leader Sebastian Shaw (who can turn kinetic energy into strength, meaning he gets stronger when you hit him) and Jones as Frost, this time showing off the secondary mutation of her protective diamond skin and literal rock-hard abs.

Here we get our first look at Hank’s athletic skills, doing the sort of jump for joy that science-nerds simply aren’t supposed to be capable of. Look closely and you’ll also see Oliver Platt’s CIA wonk, The Man In Black, further indication that the origins of the X-Men are tied in with The Agency.

Clearly Raven is smitten with young Hank, sneaking towards the tentative lad for a kiss. Oh, my stars and garters, think of the beautiful blue babies these two could have.

Here we see Alex unleash his powers. First, he’s all over the place in his own clothes. But then we see his plasma / energy beam – red, like his brother’s force beams – focused by his X-Men costume. Unlike Scott, though, Alex’s energy emanates from his chest, not his eyes.

How badass will Fassbender’s Erik be? Well, in this bar scene – presumably during his Nazi hunt – he uses his magnetic powers to whip a knife out of one bad guy’s hand and slam it into the hand of another. That’s how badass he'll be.

Here, McAvoy tries on the new – or very first iteration of – Cerebro, the device which will amplify his telepathic powers and enable him to seek out mutants around the world.

Either that, or – judging by the look on Charles’ face – it’s an Orgasmatron.

Meet Jason Flemyng, Vaughn’s lucky charm, as the devilish mutant, Azazel, the fourth member of the Hellfire Club. That guy he’s teleporting is Glenn Morshower, late of 24.

Azazel, for those in the know, is the father of blue, be-tailed teleporter Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming in X2). Here he shows that, when it comes to teleporting and taking out Secret Service agents, it’s very much a case of like father, like son.

Hey, we’ve seen that helmet – or one very similar to it. And here is Erik, now in full-on Magneto garb, in the same room where we glimpsed Frost in earlier on. What does this mean? WHAT DOES ANY OF IT MEAN???

For those of you thinking that this might be a superficial superhero confection, here comes the lines that suggest that X-Men: First Class will aim for genuine psychological depth, as a cautious Xavier says, “Listen to me very carefully, my friend. Killing will not bring you peace.” To which Erik, clearly a man racked by psychological torment, replies, “Peace was never an option.” Hello, goosebumps, it’s been a while.

Just to confirm that peace is definitely not an option, the next shot – the money shot – shows a submarine (perhaps belonging to the Hellfire Club?) being lifted out of the sea and heading straight for the X-Jet…

It’s clearly being manipulated by Magneto, at the very limit of his powers.

And here it is from a different angle; an angle which reveals a Russian flag on that warship. Hmm, so we’re definitely in the middle of the Crisis then. It looks like Kevin Costner lied to us in 13 Days: it wasn’t just diplomacy that ended the threat.