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Movie Review: X-Men First Class

Movie: X-Men: First Class
Starring: James Macavoy, Michael Fassbender
Director: Matthew Vaughn

Let's start with the good: Lead actors Michael Fassbender, who plays a young and as-of-yet evil Magneto, and James Macavoy, who plays a young and as-of-yet paralyzed Professor Xavier, are two outstanding performers. The acting of these two as wary strangers, friends, colleagues, and inevitably enemies, is believable on all counts. Michael Fassbender plays Magento with just the right amount of smarm, intelligence, and angst needed to dreg up plenty of sympathy for his character, while at the same time, making it possible to see his turn towards a less peaceful path. His history as Jewish prisoner is a large part of the story and provides a backdrop to his personality that cannot be ignored or just dismissed by the audience as an excuse to be evil. His traumatizing experiences are actually quite valid in support of his developing philosophy. Professor X is realistically portrayed as a bit of ladies man (though not gratuitously or caddishly) but is also a bit naive and cold, especially to a young Mystique who is obviously in love with him. On merely the strength of these two performances, I would recommend the movie.

Now to the not-so-good: All the other actors. Jennifer Lawrence is stiff and wooden as Mystique and also saddled with cheesy and transparent dialog such as "mutant and proud". We are also supposed to assume that her whole turn towards evil is because of beauty issues (because, you know, that's the most important thing to a woman apparently). The younger actors that are gathered as the first class at Professor X's school are so generic and one-dimensional that I won't even bother to name them - except Zoe Kravitz who exceeded my expectations for terrible acting by simply being in the movie to wear skimpy clothes. Speaking of which, I'm just going to come out and say it: January Jones is also a terrible actress. Playing Emma Frost, she can't seem to muster up one bit of intimidation or darkness. She merely walks around the set in ill-fitting fembot 60's outfits and sparkles.

Which brings me to the real problem with the movie - the villains. I have to admit that when Kevin Bacon first came onto screen with an ascot on, I laughed. I shouldn't laugh at villains. But he was so non-threatening. He also rode around in a white-decorated submarine, drinking scotch. His henchmen, Emma Frost included, were simply disappointing. Azazel looked like he was wearing a cheap devil halloween costume, and Riptide stood around posing in suits with Fabio hair. I may be in the minority, but I always believed that a hero movie was only as good as its villains.

But with Magneto not yet on the path to evil, I guess we had to settle for second best.

I know this review seems mostly negative, but I still recommend the movie simply for the story of Magneto and Professor X.

You can buy X-Men: First Class on Blu-ray or DVD here.
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