TR Review: X-Men: First Class
?Let me run a theory by you guys. People are wondering why X-Men: First Class only did all right at the box office this weekend, as opposed to something like Thor, which did damned good. The question is why would an unknown quantity such as Thor succeed better than a known and proven movie franchise like X-Men. The easy answer is, of course, that the last two X-Men movies were fucking terrible (that’s X-3 and Wolverine, of course), which probably soured a lot of people. However, that ignores the fact that both those movies, while being totally fucking awful, still made a shit-ton of money anyways. Movies don’t have to be good to be popular and make a lot of money; Transformers 2 was proof enough of that. And X-Men: First Class is pretty good (I swear I’ll get to that in a second).
Here’s what I think the problem is: It’s that all the X-Men movies are always about Magneto. Folks don’t get tired of Spider-Man because he fights a new crazy villain each time. Meanwhile, Magneto was the bad guy doing the same shit in X-Men 1, 2 and 3, more or less. And now, First Class is like, “You watched three movies of Professor X and Magneto fighting… here’s a movie about when they first started fighting!” I don’t think mass audiences are that intrigued, especially when they can see something new like Thor, or Green Lantern here in a couple of weeks.
Which is a shame, because again, X-Men: First Class is pretty good. I think it drags in the first half in a lot of places, but everything from the initial training montage through the final battle is swell. James MacAvoy is delightfully dickish but charismatic as a young and extra cocky Professor X; Michael Fassbender does a shit-ton of fassbending as the younger, more tortured, not-quite-evil Magneto (actually, I saw a ton of tweets over the weekend saying that Michael Fassbender should be the next James Bond, then I saw the movie, where Fassbender is pretty much a magnetic James Bond for the first quarter). Kevin Bacon is a goddamned delight as Sebastian Shaw. Jennifer Lawrence is pretty good as an oddly central Mystique, and Nicholas Hoult is good as Beast, although neither of them are the deepest characters. Actually, none of the kids or other villains are, but it’s not that big a deal. It is, however, worth noting that January Jones is a terrible fucking actress. She’s not quite Channing Tatum level — who is? — but her utter refusal to act or show even the barest hint of a human (or mutant) emotion is quite astounding.
But all in all, I liked Thor better than First Class. This maybe because I’m more of an Avengers guy anyways, but I really think it has to do more with the Professor X/Magneto fatigue, really. It’s a shame, because MacAvoy and Fassbender have a great chemistry together, and the scenes where they’re recruiting mutants is a joy (and not one of the movie’s draggy parts; I’d have happy just watched them smarmily meeting mutants all day). The ’60s setting — which is distinct but not obtrusive — makes for a nice twist from the other X-flicks, too, which helps, too. But in the end, I still just liked the movie, and that’s it.
Okay, two last things: 1) I think, if you ignore the existence of X-3 and the Wolverine movie, First Class actually fits works with the continuity of the first two X-Men flicks… I think. Obviously, all good people should ignore the existence X-3 and Wolverine anyways. 2) There are two cameos in the film which are really, really worth seeing before they get spoiled for you. If you have any interest, watch it sooner rather than later.