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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

X-Men: First Class

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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 X-Men: First Class

They may not be riding in luxury aboard some pimped-out aircraft, as the title might suggest, but X-Men had to start somewhere and most of them, the good guys anyway, can trace their discovery, roundup, cultivation and training to Charles Xavier, the future Professor X, in this history-bending prequel.

Beginning in 1944, we are introduced to Erik Lehnsherr (Bill Milner) and Charles Xavier (Laurence Belcher) in vastly different circumstances.  They are both boys, mutants actually, possessed of powerful, telekinetic minds.  Erik is in a Nazi concentration camp, where he inadvertently reveals how he can bend metal - with concentration – which takes on a new meaning here.

Charles lives on an upscale estate in New York and is a telepathic superstar.  Two more mutants swiftly enter the picture in the ever changing forms of energy-absorbing Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) and shape shifting Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) attach themselves to Erik and Charles respectively, taking the mutant count to four.  Again, the circumstances differ substantially, but the quartet will cross paths again, altering the planet’s history.

Fast forward eighteen years, to 1962.  John F. Kennedy’s in office and the Cuban Missile Crisis places two superpowers at nuclear odds.  The now-Professor Xavier (James McAvoy), specializing in genetic mutation along with his “sister” Raven, team up with CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) and an unnamed operative (Oliver Platt) against Shaw and his accomplice Emma Frost (January Jones) who are the REAL antagonists behind the Cold War as prophesied in the Marvel Comics universe.

An adult Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) teams up with Xavier to destroy Shaw, but the two men differ in temperament and philosophy.  The hot-headed Lehnsherr wants revenge for his mother’s death in the camp.  A kinder, gentler Xavier simply wants the evil Shaw stopped so that mankind and Marvel mutants can coexist.

The two men seek out and assemble a good mutant team to combat the bad mutant team.  Here’s where the superhero names come in handy.  Xavier, as head guy, gets to keep his title as Professor X.  Lehnsherr, due to his ability to manipulate metal becomes Magneto.  The blue-skinned, shape-shifting redhead known as Raven – perpetually disguised as a long-haired, fashionable blond becomes Mystique in original form.

Other “good mutants” are:  Hank McCoy/Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Sean Cassidy/Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Armando Munoz/Darwin (Edi Gathegi), Alex Summers/Havok (Lucas Till) Angel Salvadore/Angel (Zoe Kravitz)

“Bad” mutants include Janos Quested/Riptide (Alex Gonzalez), and Azazel, the red faced demon (Jason Flemyng) in addition to the evil Shaw and telepathic, multi-faceted Frost.

All of them will get to show off…I mean demonstrate their superpowers.
The film is super-stuffed with backstory and subplots, so I won’t even begin to enumerate our mutants’ abilities except to say expect conflicts that employ fireballs, sonic beams, flight, invisibility, speed, whirlwinds, and teleportation.
There are turncoats and defectors; any decent Cold War has them.

James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are the acting tag-team that anchors this effort. Kevin Bacon looks like he’s having a good time being bad.  After all, someone with that surname belongs at the helm of a submarine in the Bay of Pigs, right?  January Jones is suitably frosty and non-emotive in her icily seductive role.  Jennifer Lawrence is good for a few meaningful glances when her character is not obsessing about her looks.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kick Ass, Stardust) the film takes distracting liberties with the early sixties time period.  It’s supposed to be set in 1962, but the long hair and mod styles suggest 1967 – a great distraction when juxtaposed with archival footage of President Kennedy.  Shaw’s submarine of mutant mischief has a set that looks like it’s on a magical mystery tour of its own.  Men sport long hair and mod clothes.

Elsewhere in the film, the women’s skirts are as short as their male counterparts’ hair is long.  There are a distressing amount of lingerie shots.  Hairstyles are anachronistically out of place on both genders.  I am willing to suspend my disbelief only so far.  Riptide could make a ponytail with his locks; sprouting wings (like Angel does) would be more feasible than that in 1962.

A Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) cameo brought audible cheers from the audience.  Storm must be on the horizon, because she wasn’t around at all.

Fans of the comics will either embrace this version or shudder at its variations, huffing and puffing about purist pretensions while secretly deriving guilty pleasure from them.  It’s slick-looking, hindered by sometimes inane dialogue (someone actually says “whatever”) and detracts from female power by basing it on superficial appearance.

Other than that, it’s perfectly fine, just not X-cellent.

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