Friday, September 19, 2014
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The latest X-Men movie: Do you think I’m ‘X’-y?

About the movie
X-Men: First Class
Genre:
Action, Adventure; SciFi, Fantasy
MPAA rating:
PG-13
for intense sequences of action and violence, some sexual content including brief partial nudity and language
Running time:
02:11
Release date:
2011
Rating:
Cast:
Michael Fassbender; Oliver Platt; Rose Byrne; January Jones; Kevin Bacon; James McAvoy
Directed by:
Matthew Vaughn

Here's a question you never thought would be relevant to an "X-Men" movie:

Is it subtitled?

The answer, in the case of "X-Men: First Class," is yes.

German, Russian, Spanish - there are half a dozen languages in play, as the franchise (following "Hangover" and "Fast and Furious") declares itself to be a citizen of the world.

It's all part of Fox's long-overdue makeover for "X-Men," which had been Bret Ratner-ed to death, and was not worth watching even when Hugh Jackman was isolated from the cast and given his own origins story.

Ratner is gone, along with his emphasis on superexpensive, superboring special effects.

His replacement is the super-cheeky Matthew Vaughn, a high-energy, low-scruples director who made the kiddie-violence eyepopper "Kick Ass" and cast Robert De Niro as a cross-dressing pirate in "Stardust."

If he'll do that with De Niro, what might he do with Kevin Bacon?

Clue: if you're still playing Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, there are now no degrees separating Kevin from the Holocaust.

In the opening sequence he's a death-camp Mengele named Sebastian, trying to coax mutant powers from a young prisoner by threatening to shoot his mother, and the scene is just about as shameless as it could be.

What could be tackier? Well, invoking the Holocaust and then jumping straight to 1960s Vegas, where a now-groovy Sebastian is using hookers to lure U.S. Army brass into nuclear war with the Soviets.

Certainly this isn't your father's "X-Men," full of esteemed, wrinkled British actors making windy speeches and spinning whirlwinds from their fingers.

Here, the esteemed British actors are much younger. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender are Charles Xavier and putative Magneto - friends here, and future enemies.

What a coup it was to get Fassbender - with his dark and brooding good looks, his intensity and versatility (you can still see him in "Jane Eyre"), it's like having a second Daniel Day Lewis, only one who's willing to make three movies a year, including "X-Men 4."

Other casting choices are not so inspired. Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence is the new Mystique, and I must say, it is a role that does not call for Oscar-caliber acting. It calls for a Hawaiian Tropic model, and while Lawrence is certainly lovely, I'm afraid there is simply no replacement for Rebecca Romijn when it comes to walking around covered in nothing but blue latex. Plus, with her blue face and slicked- back red hair, Lawrence looks like a smurfed Eddie Munster.

Mystique, like all the growing roster of mutants (Zoe Kravitz as a dragonfly/pole dancer!), must decide whether she wants to be on Xavier's good mutant team, or Sebastian's bad team.

As Sebastian, I doubt Bacon has ever had more fun. In Vaughn's swinging 60s, he's a Hefneresque sociopath with a neckerchief and peg-legged suits in every color. He even has his own submarine, outfitted with a bachelor chamber, where he keeps his very own Bond Girl to fetch him cocktail ice.

She's played by near-naked January Jones, a mutant who can turn herself into diamonds, so she's her own best friend. There's a big debate among "Mad Men" fans about whether Jones can act. It's probably not fair to judge her on "First Class" but it does appear she's doing an impression of Kristen Wiig in "MacGruber," and maybe not on purpose.

Try not to laugh when she talks.

Or when Sebastian confronts the grown-up version of the boy whose mother he tormented at Auschwitz and says, "Sorry about the camps."

But not, apparently, about the camp.

Superhero movies have erred recently in trying to make themselves respectable.

Vaughn's "First Class" is not one of them.

Gary Thompson Daily News Film Critic
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