Review: ‘X-Men: First Class’

I must confess to you, I never saw any of the original X-Men movies. They came out before I was in the habit of seeing almost everything to hit theaters, and I’ve never read a comic book in my life. Still, I love the superhero movie. So when the trailer for the reboot of X-Men surfaced, I knew this was my chance to get aboard the mutant train.

Aside from the superhero appeal, there are several actors in this film I think very highly of. Jennifer Lawrence gave a performance last year at the tender age of 19 that won her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. James McAvoy has chosen a wide range of projects over the years and always done very well with them. Michael Fassbender was great in Inglourious Basterds, I enjoyed Zoe Kravitz’s recent project It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and of course January Jones is most well-known for her role in my favorite on air show, Mad Men. Rather than casting a big name actor to jump-start a new superhero franchise (Ugh, Ryan Reynolds as The Green Lantern) X-Men: First Class wisely chose smaller names that are on the rise.

The tactic paid off. The acting in X-Men is fantastic, with the exception of January Jones, who is so bad that you have to wonder if she can act at all. All this time, I thought she was relatively brilliant for playing Betty Draper as a slow-talking, immature child, but it turns out that’s all she knows how to play. Emma Frost should have been a seductive, fiery bitch, but she was just Betty in diamonds instead of pearls.

Moving on, starting all of the mutants off as basically children in the middle of the Cuban Missile Crisis was a good way to keep the story interesting. Hormones flying between everyone and insecurities running rampant makes all of the characters seem more human, for lack of a better word. Lawrence’s Raven is at the heart of all of this, and the movie doesn’t give her quite the level of emotional exploration she deserves. If it had, X-Men: First Class would have been great instead of just good. It is great entertainment–visually stunning, narratively compelling–but X-Men would have done better to focus more on the feelings of the burgeoning superheroes than on training montages.

It is important to note that while this movie had the weakest opening weekend in X-Men history, it is also the best-reviewed X-Men film of all time. Hopefully, producers will see that as enough success to continue the franchise with these actors.

Verdict: B+

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