As I've said in the past, I enjoyed the first two movies but hated X-Men 3. Even worse was the abomination of Wolverine: Origins - which was almost as bad as the comic book series that gave Wolverine a mystical blade and introduced Romulus. Let's not get into that since this technically isn't a comic book blog though. I came into this movie with no expectations whatsoever. I wanted to give it a chance, but I wasn't going to get my hopes up considering how much I disliked the last two movies. I was ready to give up on the X-men movies if this one sucked, so how was it?
I thought it was good. It's definitely leagues ahead of Wolverine: Origins, and maybe better than X-Men 2. I'll have to see it again in a few months to be sure, but I enjoyed myself enough. While the movie shows the beginning of the X-men (in the movie's universe anyway,) First Class is more about the relationship between Professor X and Magneto than anything else. The casting and acting was strong throughout, from Beast's self-consciousness about his appearance to Magneto's inner rage. The story ties into the cold war and feels both epic and believable. That said, it's not perfect.
My main complaint is that the film's climax felt somewhat uneven. At times, the action was fast and intense, at other times it dragged on a little. This is especially true with Magneto's final confrontation with Sebastian Shaw, although I won't spoil it for those who haven't seen it yet.
Overall, I was satisfied and my faith in the franchise has been restored. If you liked the previous movies, or the comics, I'd recommend this one.