Who's In It: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Kevin Bacon, Rose Byrne, Jennifer Lawrence, Oliver Platt, Zoe Kravitz, Nicholas Hoult, Caleb Landry Jones, January Jones, Edi Gathegi, Lucas Till
The Basics: Eleven years ago, audiences were treated to a movie about a whole bunch of mutated humans slugging each other. And now, that franchise is being reinvigorated by the tale of some of those very same mutants before they wanted to slug each other. Professor Xavier (McAvoy) and Magneto (Fassbender) are at the center of this tale, and as their bromance blossoms, so does the Cuban missile crisis. Silly us, we thought it was world politics that caused the row back then--we had no idea that ex-Nazi mutants were behind it all. The movie shows us what it was like when the world's mutants first figured out they weren't alone, and what happened when the non-mutated human beings realized it too.
What's The Deal: You can't get much worse than the last two movies of the X-Men franchise (The Last Stand and Origins: Wolverine), so this movie is starting out at an advantage. And the good news is, Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughn totally nailed it. Finally, a movie about mutants that doesn't make my brain melt into Senator Kelly-esque gelatinous jellyfish goo. Although this movie definitely has prequel-itis--lots of setup, not enough action--it is still compelling and fun from beginning to end. I am a big fan of revisionist history when it has to do with mutated human beings with fly wings, telepathy, supersonic screams, and tornado hands. For the next movie, I suggest they blame the Tet Offensive on the Scarlet Witch.
This Movie Brought To You By Mad Men: This is a period piece, and they don't let you forget it. Since the '60s are the new "in" decade generating money for other projects, that automatically makes studio execs think that it is the only decade that exists. This meant that the costume designers got to have some fun with smart fedoras and horn-rimmed glasses. It also guaranteed January Jones another paycheck, since she's The Iconic '60s Wife. They give her some fun go-go dancer finery and she gets to beam her trademark glassy-eyed stare around at every man in the film, so that's fun. The only part of this decade choice that doesn't work is that James McAvoy spends the first 15 minutes of the film sounding dangerously close to Austin Powers, telling chicks they have "groovy mutations." No, I am not kidding. But luckily things get serious after that and his libido is no longer an issue. Whew. Saved by the bomb.
Somewhere Between Rage And Serenity: Art reflects life and vice versa, and lately movies are showing us characters that are pursuing the elusive concept of tranquility. Here, as a younger man, Magneto doesn't understand exactly how to generate his greatest power. Much like Po in Kung Fu Panda 2, he is told to look for inner peace. Does this mean we as a society are just as conflicted as this panda bear and metal-bending mutant? Or that among the insanity of our lives, we're finding our spiritual center?