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The Ladies of 'X-Men: First Class'

The Ladies of 'X-Men: First Class'

Rose Byrne, January Jones, Jennifer Lawrence, and Zoe Kravitz all costar in the strong summer superhero pic. Find out which actresses brought their A-game to the all star prequel and why the X-Men is one series that should continue to grow.

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The X-Men are back! Or rather, they have officially arrived in X-Men: First Class, the prequel to the previous batch of X-films that have been gracing cinemas since 2000. Now, never fear if you haven’t seen any of the last three movies (four, if you count Wolverine’s origin story).

One of the best things about a prequel is there’s no pesky back-story to get in the way of your X-comprehension. Sure, it adds a layer when you understand the cameos and connections, but this newest addition to the already awesome franchise is a smart, fun, action-packed mutant extravaganza that works all on its own, and it may be even a little better than its predecessors.

Essentially, X-Men: First Class tells the story of how Charles Xavier a.k.a. Professor X (played by James McAvoy) and Erik Lehnsherr aka Magneto (played by Michael Fassbender) meet and become the best of friends, only to be torn apart by their differing views on humanity, setting the scene for the past films’ of the saga. For the most part, this all takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which, apparently, mutants played a huge part in. Kevin Bacon costars as the bad guy whose plan for world domination forces a newly formed band of young mutants to fight to the death to defeat him and his henchmen, including a literally dazzling January Jones as telepathic Emma Frost.

But it isn’t the grand, explosive battle scenes that makeFirst Class the stand-out summer blockbuster that it is; it’s the young actors who take on the classic hero roles, and the believability and chemistry they create as a team.

Strong acting is rarely a factor in summer action flicks (oh hey, Transformers...), but First Class’s A-list cast does not disappoint. Michael Fassbender’s dark, tortured, and touching portrayal of the rebel Magneto is the obvious standout performance, and his connection to James McAvoy’s kind-hearted, wise Xavier is almost poetic. Damages star Rose Byrne (below) is also exceptional as Moira MacTaggert- the only non-mutant lead, and a dedicated CIA agent trying to be taken seriously in a world of men. Now, can I just take a moment to say how much I appreciate Rose Byrne? She starred in three seriously different movies this year-Insidious, Bridesmaids, andFirst Class- and performed brilliantly across the different tones.

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Of course, being an actress, one would be expected to be at least somewhat different in each new role- or at least one presumes, right? 

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Not so, in the case of January Jones (below). I don’t know if I’m missing something here, but every time I’ve seen this woman, she could literally be playing the same character. Yes, she’s cute and has certainly mastered the art of playing a stone-cold bitch, but I could use a level or something. Dear, January, if you’re going to continue to act, please act next time. But enough about Ms. Jones.

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Of all the female leads in First Class, there is one that has undoubtedly received more press lately for her Oscar nomination and subsequent nabbing of the coveted role of Katniss Everdeen in the 2012 Hunger Gamesmovies, and that’s one Jennifer Lawrence (below).

1. Parting Glances

In First Class, Jennifer takes on the role of Mystique, a shapeshifter whose non-Jennifer form is blue, naked, and scaly. Like any teenager, Mystique struggles with her appearance but instead of trying to change it decides to accept herself, scales and all- or “Mutant and Proud!” and she cries constantly throughout the film. It’s a complicated part, and one I was very much looking forward to seeing the incredibly talented Jennifer tackle. Unfortunately, Mystique is one of a few characters in this film whose journeys are so oddly developed that they turn out a bit muddled, and, while I still love Jennifer, I just couldn’t connect with her character. Zoe Kravtiz' (below) teen mutant Angel could also have used a bit more fleshing out, especially since her character had not been introduced to the film series prior to this.

2. Dallas Buyers Club

The other teen mutants, played by Lucas Till, Nicholas Holt, and Caleb Landry Jones, were all fun additions but maintained a one-note appeal that left me wanting more.

X-Men: First Classis truly one of the better films to come out in theaters this summer. It’s a fantastic introduction to a classic superhero franchise, and an origin story that actually enhances its predecessor immensely. Even with its flaws, First Classprevails, and may even live to carry on a couple more prequels before the series catches up with itself. These mutants definitely have something to be proud of.

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Preston Max Allen