X-Men: First Class


Directed by Matthew Vaughn—who was famously replaced by Brett Ratner the last time he was hired to direct an X-Men movie—First Class is dumbass, single-trick revisionist history. What if Mengele-style Nazi human experimentation was actually, like, part of a world-domination plan perpetrated by a mutant (Kevin Bacon)? What if the Cuban Missile Crisis was actually, like, part of a world-domination plan perpetrated by that same mutant? This fifth installment in the X-Men series is also the origin story of how Professor X (a puffy James McAvoy, in the role previously played by Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender, whose steely studliness doesn’t exactly suggest a younger Ian McKellen) transformed from intensely bromantic collaborators into mortal enemies. Most of Vaughn’s choices are inspired by the early-’60s setting, which offers ample excuse to tart up the actresses (including January Jones as evil telepath Emma Frost, Jennifer Lawrence as a barely le-gal version of the naked blue shapeshifter Mystique, and Rose Byrne as a mutant-friendly CIA agent) in go-go boots and miniskirts; allows for the appropriation of actual Bay of Pigs–related archival footage; and facilitates incredibly facile nods to the civil rights movement (when somebody says the word “enslaved,” Vaughn cuts to a black guy for reaction). A cameo from an old-school X-Man only serves to remind how stylish and witty the first installment was a decade ago. Lacking a single memorable joke or striking image, First Class is as perfunc-tory and passionless as would-be franchise resurrections get.