X-Men: First Class (2011) – 2/5

Disappointing. Very disappointing. So disappointing, in fact, that I’m a little disappointed at just how disappointing it all was. And I’m a huge X-Men fan, and still think the second X-Men movie is the best comic book film ever made. This movie is all hype, very little substance. Poor script/story, poor acting, bad editing, terrible CGI, little believable character development, all neatly tied together by direction so half-assed, not even the presence of several great actors, including the beautiful Jennifer Lawrence whom I love very much, could turn it into something enjoyable.

Even as a summer movie it’s not particularly remarkable; granted, it’s no “Fast Five,” but for a movie that received so much critical acclaim, you’d think that, at the very least, it would have a few redeeming factors. But nope. All hype. Well, maybe a few things here and there were cool, but overall? No.

I guess my main issue with the film is that it’s not particularly engaging. The movie starts out ripping off the intro to a previous X-Men film, for god’s sake. How’s that for lazy filmmaking? Sure, you could argue that it was necessary for the scene that comes afterward with Kevin Bacon and blah blah blah, but you’d be wrong. Hollywood’s full of creative types; I’m sure they could have come up with something else, something original. Or why not put a different spin on it, rather than steal the scene nearly shot for shot? Or was it a symbolic foreshadowing of what a hackneyed, derivative copy this film would be of the two infinitely superior X-Men films Bryan Singer directed?

The story isn’t all that creative, nor does it make sense. If you were an inexplicably super evil former Nazi villain who also happened to somehow be good buddies with a mutant who can ***SPOILERS** take over people’s minds at will, like Emma Frost, (whose abilities to both read minds and turn to breakable crystal seem random and completely unrelated to one another, but whatever), and your intention was to start World War 3 and rule what would undoubtedly be a very toxic, mostly unlivable world of suffering, death, and nuclear desolation for everyone, not just the humans you’re trying to enslave, why not have her take over the mind of the people in charge of pushing the buttons and, I don’t know, make them push the buttons at the appropriate time? Rather than come up with this whole elaborate plan to force the US and Russia to build nuclear silos close to each other’s borders on the off-chance they don’t communicate with one another on an almost constant basis like two world superpowers are likely to do?

It’s not like she wouldn’t be able to do it, either; there’s a scene near the end of the film where Professor X does exactly this by entering the mind of some Russian guy and literally making him push a button to avert nuclear catastrophe. Surely if he can do it, she can as well? So why the stupid contrived plot? Think logically before you sit down to write a film, Hollywood.

There’s also very little to no character development. Kevin Bacon’s character is just evil for the sake of being evil, no explanation given, no motivation, oh and he’s somehow also a mutant for some reason, a fact the film tries to hide at first, then just kind of blurts out all at once to, I don’t know, shock us? What was the point of hiding it until a third of the way into the film? Why was he a Nazi anyway? And why, if he values mutants so much, would he kill Magneto’s mother in front of him, an act the film treats with the same level of intensity and emotional investment you’d expect from watching a character eat a bowl of cereal? Why not just hurt or torture her instead? And then Bacon’s character expects him to join his cause? After murdering his mother? Really?

The relationship between Magneto and Professor X is also kind of stupid. The man is your best friend, one who has helped you every step of the way and whom you now consider a brother, when suddenly, he’s struck in the spine by a bullet you deflected because your sudden adoption of your worst enemy’s philosophical beliefs have made you act like an idiot, and what do you do? Why, cradle him for a bit, then leave him to die by running off with the other stupid poorly developed characters whom just a few seconds ago you were battling to the death. Ah, logical, and consistent.  **END SPOILERS** And those are just a few small examples of the type of terrible writing this movie contains. I haven’t even touched the Mystique character’s cartoony, sitcom-like sense of relationships and self acceptance, or just how inconsistent her friendship with Professor X is throughout the film. Nor the side characters and how terrible and one-dimensional they all are.  I mean, come on. Talk about lazy screenwriting.

And the acting was pretty bad too. Not bad per se, but not particularly decent given the wealth of talent that was at their disposal. Two freaking Academy Award nominees, maybe more, and an army of great character actors like Rose Byrne, James McAvoy, that secret service guy from 24, freaking Michael Fassbender from Inglourious Basterds, and not one of them gives a performance that doesn’t feel wooden. Maybe that secret service guy from 24, he was good, but everyone else was mostly ho-hum. One of the worst examples of this is the scene where ***SPOILERS** all the little teenage mutants gather together to get to know one another. It’s so forced and awful. No chemistry whatsoever. They’re just spitting lines at one another, poorly written lines at that, and the scene is so poorly shot and edited. Terrible. ***END SPOILERS**

And the CGI, god. Fake looking, crappy, and, in Zoe Kravitz’s character’s case, downright silly, especially during the battle at the end where she’s flying around like an idiot screaming and spitting flaming hairballs at people. Ugh.

Okay, I’ll stop. To its credit, the movie did have some interesting parts. I liked the ending battle until they get to the beach, and the shot of Magneto ****SPOILERS** lifting the sub out of the ocean as he’s hanging off the side of that plane was cool. ***END SPOILERS*** And Jennifer Lawrence is pretty as heck, but that’s to be expected. The woman knows how to wear an outfit, what can I say. But everything else was mediocre at best. I guess I wouldn’t have been so hard on this film had it not been for all the praise it received. I was expecting something great, maybe along the lines of X-Men 2, but it didn’t even come close. The film barely tells an entertaining story, squanders a great cast, ruins cool set pieces, and just overall is not a well made film. Poorly directed by a poor director. Stop giving the guy money. And avoid this film.

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