|James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender|
This is particularly surprising because First Class uses as its backdrop the Cuban Missile Crisis, a historical event weighty enough to provide sufficient threat and conflict for any super team. Given the novelty of the period setting and the possibilities inherent in the blending of history with fiction, it is puzzling why the filmmakers decided to eclipse the drama of Magneto’s supposedly unique origin with a villain who is essentially the character we know Lehnsherr will become, a character we have seen plot against humanity and be defeated before.
The other major figure is Charles Xavier, destined to become Professor X, a man committed to protecting humans regardless of how poorly humans treat mutants. The younger Xavier portrayed by James McAvoy is less restrained than the serene elder portrayed by Patrick Stewart in the other X-Men movies. Because his mutation — the ability to read and influence other peoples' minds — is not readily apparent to the outside world, Xavier effortlessly enjoys human society, winning drinking contests and hitting on women with a practiced pickup routine. Consequently, he is detached from the pain felt by mutants who, like his friend Raven, a scaly blue-skinned shape-shifter, must work hard to conceal their difference in order to be accepted. We see in Xavier a genius with a lot to learn, and though we can assume the events at film's end will humble him somewhat, we never see a true epiphany.
We do get to see Xavier, supposedly a professor in earlier films, actually teach in First Class — he helps Lehnsherr develop his powers of magnetism to astonishing levels, and watching him show a young mutant named Banshee how to fly is the film's highpoint of fun. The role of cool Nazi hunter suits actor Michael Fassbender very well, maybe in part because he played one so well in Inglourious Basterds, though certainly his own multilingual European background and good looks make him a natural for such a role. He keeps Lehnsherr's childhood trauma just under the surface at all times, unpacking it as needed to great effect and making Lehnsherr the most tortured — and most appealing — character of the film.
See also: Iron Men