rating-3.5x-men-first-classI have to admit that I grew up reading X-Men; it will undoubtedly color my entire perception of the movie series and, ultimately, view it more negatively than it would if I had never read the comics. The fact that I haven't read comics since the early 90's doesn't seem to matter, as all the comic movies seem to mine the time period before I stopped reading for their films. It may be the fact that those were the only truly good years of the X-Men that they feel the need to constantly go back to the 80's Claremont well for their material.

The X-Men films have never truly satisfied me. I know the characters and situations well and the movies never did a particularly good job of handling the characters and giving them a plot that brought everything together in a completely coherent way. Though there are moments of real enjoyability, they're only moments. One might think that my familiarity is breeding contempt, but I'm almost as familiar with the whole Marvel milieu and I intensely enjoyed Iron Man (and its sequel), Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and, to a lesser extent, Incredible Hulk. I hated the Spider-Man movies, as they were really shitty, but X-Men, for all it did do well, just didn't sit right with me. It was probably the fact that, if you strip away the flashy looks and big actors, the scripts just weren't that good. And the X-Men were never a team until The Last Stand, the most-hated of the series for the majority of people, but at least they didn't split up Scooby-Doo-style like they did at the end of X2.

Given how much they'd beat the same characters to death over those first three movies (Magneto got way too much use, as if they don't have a good rogue's gallery of villains to choose from), I was disappointed that their logical continuity sucked. If you expected this movie to make rational sense in concordance with the previous films, then you'll be unhappy if you start thinking about it too much. All of a sudden Mystique, who couldn't have cared less about Charles Xavier in the previous films, was more or less his adoptive sister for most of his formative years. Many of the characterizations don't seem to fit with that's already established.

But about the actual movie... A problem with the writing of this entry, aside from nothing particularly interesting happening, a weak plot, and silly use of a concept as interesting as the Hellfire Club, is the fact that they're basically back to square one and this is another damned origin movie, where the setup ends up eating all the running time of the film and the plot takes a back seat. Adding to this the weak background cast, with a bunch of stupid characters (like Angel... who the fuck came up with that chick?) and ones that felt mismanged with total indifference (like Havok).

As for the rest of it, the direction was the best of the series; Matthew Vaughn never seems to take a misstep when it comes to filmmaking and the style is great, even with the 60's retro-ness permeating the film. The acting is also top-notch (despite most people's complaints about January Jones, who wasn't terrible), though I question the need for the number of people they threw into the mix.Jennifer Lawrence was totally new to me, but I was impressed with how she managed to play the petulant, silly Mystique, despite how obvious the plot beats were. McEvoy and Fassbender were top-notch and Kevin Bacon really managed to surprise with his performance. Perhaps Mr. Bacon needs to take these kinds of roles more often, because it's become too easy to forget what a good actor he actually is, as rarely as i seem to see him anymore. Despite the fact that I think tossing Moira MacTaggert in as a CIA agent (the woman is a doctor and Nobel prize-winning scientist, for fuck's sake; why turn her into a spy?) was exceptionally dim-witted, I appreciated getting to see more of Rose Byrne, who I never seem to tire of in any role. It is a good cast, all-around, and they seemed to have fun together, making it fun to watch. Even still, that wasn't enoughto completely please me.

I was stuck spending most of the movie waiting for them to start tidying up the messy plot, which only seemed to be written the way that it was to make as many comic-related things happen as possible, never stoppng to ask if they were even right for the movie. The setpieces felt almost predestined and the actions around them served only to set them up. If I were to write this movie, it's definitely not at all the tack I would have taken.

Many will prfer this version of the X-Men, having no connection to the comics, as they find it humanizes the characters. That's fine and good, though I would have a hard time believing that anyone would like it better than the more fun, more interesting movies that Marvel is producing themselves. It makes me wish that they would just get the rights back from Fox so that the X-Men could be the proper X-Men again and that all the movies could tie back together. Maybe someday, but for now we've got to hope that they've learned something from this movie and that the next film won't be another Wolverine. Still, it was a good enough film to warrant viewing.

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