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X-Men: First Class: Winners and Losers, Fassbender Up, Lawrence Down

X-Men: First Class: Winners and Losers, Fassbender Up, Lawrence Down

Thompson on Hollywood

X-Men: First Class‘s $56 million opening (no 3-D premium ticket sales) marks a big win for most of the folks involved. But there are a few losers, too.

Twentieth Century Fox and Marvel Entertainment:
Both companies recognized that the X-Men franchise needed a reboot. With Patrick Stewart (Charles Xavier) and Ian McKellan (Magneto) heading into senior status, the only real star in the franchise was Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, so those spin-offs made sense. They also commissioned a Magneto origins story from Sheldon Turner (Up in the Air), but decided to use that material in their X-Men origins feature, First Class. That was also smart, because now they can go back to a Magneto series if they want to, because the X-Men series now boasts a new star: Michael Fassbender.

Thompson on Hollywood

Michael Fassbender:
That this German-born, multi-lingual, masculine, athletic Irishman would become a major movie star did not take much figuring. Everyone in Hollywood saw the promise in The Hunger, Fish Tank and Inglourious Basterds. Now, after the double-whammy of his Mr. Rochester turn in the class-act romance Jane Eyre and the successful reboot of a major studio comic-book franchise, Fassbender has arrived. The world is his oyster. Judging from my early interview with him, he has a good head on his shoulders and will not go crazy with foolish material (he managed to survive B-movies Jonah Hex and Centurion, which served to showcase his action chops).

Coming up: Steven Soderbergh’s black ops actioner Haywire (Relativity, August 11), the role of Carl Jung in David Cronenberg’s Oscar-bait drama A Dangerous Method (which still seeks a U.S. distributor), The Hunger director Steve McQueen’s sex addict drama Shame (also lacking a U.S. distrib), Ridley Scott’s currently filming big-budget 3-D actioner Prometheus (Fox, 2012), possible Brit music movie Good Vibrations, and Jim Jarmusch’s untitled “crypto-vampire flick,” set to start in 2012. It sounds like an intelligent mix of big and small.

Matthew Vaughn. The man walked away from one chance to direct X-Men, and stepped up to do this one when he felt ready. The idea of filtering the movie through a 60s Bond film works brilliantly for the most part–visually the movie soars, and most of the actors manage to rise above the action pyrotechnics. The return to a focus on character is welcome. While the movie boasts awkward moments, Vaughn still enters the big leagues. He may not have to do Kick-Ass 2. (I flipcammed him for Kick-Ass).

James McAvoy:
McAvoy is a terrific actor who ably carried Wanted and Atonement. But oddly, in both cases his co-stars, Keira Knightley and Angelina Jolie, respectively, were considered the films’ real marquee draws. Unfortunately, McAvoy missed the opportunity for a franchise with Jolie’s refusal to do a Wanted sequel. He’s solid and charming in X-Men: First Class, but because he plays the film’s humane conscientious hero, he comes off soft to Fassbender’s hard. It’s a case of the straight leading man looking less sexy and dangerous than the bad guy. Fassbender comes out ahead on this one. McAvoy remains a lovely Ewan McGregor-style leading man–as opposed to a move star. I define movie star very strictly–and have gotten into fights about this. It’s someone who actually puts butts in seats. Will Smith. Angelina Jolie. Past their prime are Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Julia Roberts, and Tom Cruise. The list keeps getting smaller, have you noticed?

Jennifer Lawrence:
This untrained young actress deserved her Oscar nomination for Winter’s Bone, for which she was perfectly cast. Jodie Foster also used her well in The Beaver, as a high school over-achiever, a role that most young actresses would have walked through–but Lawrence nailed it. She brings depth and grit to her roles, and has the makings of a movie star. I suspect she’s well-cast in what will be a huge franchise: Hunger Games. But in X-Men: First Class she’s a lox. The weakness of this movie, which played better to men than women, by the way–is the female characters. While Rose Byrne makes a competent if uninspired CIA agent, Vaughn uses gorgeous Mad Men star January Jones as a Modesty Blaise/Pussy Galore sex object, and wasn’t able to save Lawrence from standing around awkwardly. Her Mystique makeup is just awful. She looks uncomfortable throughout. (I flipcammed her for Winter’s Bone.)

Go ahead, argue with me.

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You must be blind to say that James McAvoy is not a movie star as well as saying even Ewan McGregor is not a movie star. Every movie i’ve seen of James was amazing, the list including Penelope, Antonement, even Gnomeo and Juliet his voice acting skills were impressive. I even saw wanted when I don’t like Angelina who in my mind is not a movie star or attractive. James is a movie star and has a lot ahead of him and he was terrific in X-Men no doubt about it.


Completely disagree about Lawrence, who was terrific in the film.


Film isn’t released yet in my country and as much as I enjoy your article(as always),but I’m bit surprised by putting James McAvoy on loser section.I think he is very fine actor and I’m sure he has a long,good career ahead of him.And he is getting great reviews for his performance in this film.As for Fassbender,IMHO,I think he has a potential to be a great character actor.No matter how great he is in this film,right now he is a supportting actor or actor who plays villain in studio films.A huge star in the futute? Probably time will tell.


Stars. Schmars. Give me a good actor in a good movie–better yet 2 good actors in a good movie–and I’m there. McAvoy and Fassbender in “First Class” filled that bill equally well and were a joy to watch. Nuff said.


Anne, with all due respect, James McAvoy did just as well as Fassbender if not better. Fassbender’s character was written with more depth. He had more emotional scenes. But McAvoy did not let it that stunt him one bit. He turned up the charm and charisma and was just as powerful in the emotional scenes that he had. My favorite scenes were of Charles either trying to control Erik’s anger or attempting to get it in with the women of the movie. He gives Xavier real charisma…something that he lacked in the previous films. And makes him a character who isn’t afraid to have a lot of fun. Grade A performance.

LL Findley

Michael Fassbender said the fact that James McAvoy had already been cast was one of the main reasons he signed on to XMFC, because he knew he would have a strong ally. McAvoy has a way of letting other actors around him shine (and get Academy Award nominations)–Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland; Christopher Plummer and Helen Mirren in the Last Station–so actors love to work with him–he’s always committed to the story.


“McAvoy is a strong actor and he’s fine in this. Just saying: of the two, Fassbender comes out the Grade A movie star. They give McAvoy the sexy lines. But Fassbender’s got the sexier role.”

Sorry Anne, but not portraying the “sexier role” does not make the actor a “loser.” Both are your terms, not mine. I thought you were smarter than confusing the character for the actor.

Patrick Stewart, as Prof. X wasn’t as charismatic as Ian McLellan as Magneto either. Is Sir Patrick a “loser”? Was Christian Bale a “loser” because Heath Ledger got the dramatic role of The Joker”?

Thank heavens some of our up and coming actors don’t put their egos above their craft and are willing to serve the story and not their publicity.

I enjoy Fassbender but I’ll drive 100s of miles to see McAvoy in anything. I’d call that star power. McAvoy was excellent for this role and will have a long career, in spite of your labels.


“James McAvoy will break out big time with Atonement,” predicts Variety’s Anne Thompson. ”

“I might not be in movies in 10 years’ time and I might not be playing nice, big lead roles.

“But I’ve still got to be an actor, I’ve still got to have a career and I’ve still got to be allowed to work. If you go down that blockbuster, starry route too much, there’s no way back to being a normal actor.

“Not that I’m not a ‘normal’ actor now, but it’s like some people can’t actually make the step back to character parts.”

“I don’t care what I’m doing, I just want to be working when I’m 80.” –
James McAvoy

James is such a great actor that people WANT him to blow up. Honestly, James doesn’t want to be the next Tom Cruise, he just wants to continue to be able to choose his work and this will go along way to doing that.


I’d prefer Fassbender as James Bond over Daniel Craig. If there’s ever another re-casting in that franchise.

Steven Castagnoli

Actually Anne, I think you’re trying to stir things up a bit. Using the term loser in relation to James McAvoy is not the appropriate descriptive for one of the finest young actors in film. I’ve not seen X-Men, but I have watched a number of his films including Atonement, and he is quite capable of giving a moving performance. I also felt Fassbender was very good in Jayne Eyre and Fish Tank. You may be correct concerning the star potential of the two, but you more than most are well aware of numerous actors who have had great and rewarding careers honored by awards and the respect of their peers who were never stars. In fact, those are the kind of performers I respect the most.

Some of those stars you referenced are not even top-notch actors. Besides, how many performers in today’s environment can guarantee big opening?

Ms. Lawrence was quite good in Winter’s Bone, but I need to see more of her to get a sense about whether she will become a legitimate star. We do have many young performers who are very talented today. However, I feel the real special one is Saoirse Ronan. I’ve never seen anyone so good at such a young age. She is so naturally gifted and possesses a very powerful screen presence and charisma. If the Hollywood gods are just, she will become a huge star.


It’s pretty unfair to say an actors “loses” because he plays the “moral compass”. I really don’t know what to say, it’s kind of shocking to me.

James McAvoy is a fantastic actor and human being, well respected by his fellow actors and directors who worked with him. But he’s, maybe, too egoless for this business. He didn’t run and move to LA like Fassbender, who probably hired a really great PR person, and is set to conquer Hollywood. Not saying Fassbender is a bad actor at all, just that maybe he’s interested in some type of stardom that McAvoy isn’t. If you consider a “loser” an actor who’s much more interested in his craft than in being a “movie star”, so in that case McAvoy is and will always be a loser. But it’s our loss too, if we think it’s all about fame. Sad.

LL Findley

Wow, I have to wonder at your motive for calling James McAvoy a “loser”… That’s a harsh assessment of an actor you even admit is a strong actor. Perhaps you may mean it another way, but you can be sure it’s going to be picked up and headlined all over the place that he’s a “loser.” It was James McAvoy who brought me and my friends to this film. I believe he and Michael Fassbender have amazing chemistry (watch their interviews together, particularly the Face2Face on Sky TV), and I’d love to see them in a contemporary film together. I like Fassbender very much–but I don’t think he is destined for superstardom–there’s something subversive about him, which will keep him more in character roles.

Onyx 1

McAvoy a weak link, seriously??? Now, that’s a notion I can’t even fathom. If I recall that’s the same actor who gave us Robbie Turner in Atonement, a character whose STRENGTH emanates from being subtle and humane. If that’s not sexy, I don’t know what is. That being said, as young Charles Xavier, Mr. McAvoy was definately well cast. Personally the chemistry between Fassbender, whom I absolutely adore, and him was brilliant. I just couldn’t keep my eyes off of them and that was NOT because they are BOTH desirable. Performance played a major part there.

Anne Thompson

McAvoy is a strong actor and he’s fine in this. Just saying: of the two, Fassbender comes out the Grade A movie star. They give McAvoy the sexy lines. But Fassbender’s got the sexier role.


Magneto’s big arc was this movie…..Professor X’s arc will be over the next 2 movies & given the way he was played in this film, his arc should be quite significant (“randy”, egotistical, beer loving, with hair…to bald, monk-like saint of a man). I sooo look forward to McAvoy’s acting chops with THAT arc!!

I too put my butt in the seat for First Class entirely because of James McAvoy!!! (& the chemistry between McAvoy & Fassbender is AMAZING).


This is a solid article, but I don’t agree at all about James McAvoy. Actually, he nailed it perfectly in the persona of Charles Xavier. So you are saying the devil is more attractive than God? For a weak soul sure, of course, but moviegoers are not that stupid to fall entirely for the dark side, when there would be no story without McAvoy’s performance. I guess is a personal taste, which we respect, but as for me, he is already a Movie Star and a strong actor. Even more than Fassbender.


I would give January Jones a win for the fact that she starred in two films that ended up #1 at the Box Office in the past six months. It puts her ahead of the Mad Men pack with getting some visibility outside of basic cable.


McAvoy a ‘loser’? Did I miss something? Was he supposed to ‘put butts in seats’ for this? I don’t think he had that expectation, and I can’t believe Fox did either. From what I’ve seen and read, that kind of stardom is not even something he aspires to. That said, while I like Fassbender, make no mistake: it was McAvoy who put THIS butt in a seat for the first X-Men movie I’ve ever seen. And it will be McAvoy who puts it in a seat again for any possible sequel.

Also, McAvoy was the first actor signed and Fassbender himself has said a major reason he signed on was for the opportunity to work w/ him…something I’ve seen repeated more than once when McAvoy comes aboard a film. He’s well respected by his peers.

Admittedly, the role of Charles Xavier is a thankless role. I have to say I was a bit disappointed that apparently some scenes were cut from the film–was expecting more to be made of his womanizing and arrogance, the scene in the strip club, and a romance w/ Moira. I guess that’s to be expected when you have such a crowded canvas, and the central relationship in the film is between 2 men.

And McAvoy’s ‘soft, humane, conscientious hero’ makes him less sexy? Well, for myself, I would look forward to seeing McAvoy take Charles forward as he faces his friend turned nemesis, deals with his paraplegia (BTW the film’s reason for this was inspired) and soon-to-be baldness, and evolves into the steely, brilliant, compassionate, powerful visionary leader he becomes. Now that’s sexy.


Winter’s Bone was an amazing film and Jennifer Lawrence IS an amazing actress. It seems as if some people are ready to pounce on Lawrence most of all and claim that her fine turn in WB was a fluke when it definetly was not. I also really want to know why, if you believe that ALL of the women in the film were weak or handled poorly, then why do you single out Lawrence in your headline???. Indie Wire has been pissy ever since Lawrence took this role…why?. Why is it alright for Fassbender (who hammed it up in more than a few scenes in the film) to deviate from Indie films and not Lawrence?. I actually preferred McAvoy to Fassbender in this film. I think Vaughn directs women in a condescending way, to be honest. Anne, you mention that Lawrence an untrained actress, has so far nailed every role she was in so, no fluke about her talent correct?…and Lawrence did very well here as well…with all that makeup on she was still able to convey emotion and depth. Not everyone has to be a fan but you have to admit that as an actress who has had NO training Lawrence is damn good. You guys try acting sometime…especially with all that makeu on. After all, you have had as much traing as Lawrence has. See if you can do as good a job.


I agree that Fassbender is the break out star in X Men. But his turns in Hunger and Jane Erye really impressed me too. He’s got the “stuff”

But I also agree with Norman that Lawrence is overrated. I don’t see what’s the big deal with her. I wasnlt impressed at all with her in Winter’s Bone nor with the film itself. It was a long dull slog as far as I was concerned.

But the two other losers are Zoe Kravtiz who’s totally wasted. She’s much better in the film Yelling to the Sky And how come the only black woman in the film has to be a stripper/hooker? But even worse was poor Edi Gathegi. Like I wrote in Shadow And Act last week he only has a few scenes and of course since he’s the only brother in the film they just had the kill him off quickly. That’s OLDEST and LAMEST cliche in movies and they’re STILL doing it. God forbid we can’t have a black hero on the screen. People will scream in horror and run out of the theater in droves


I can’t say I agree about McAvoy – he wasn’t given nearly as a good of a character arc as Fassbender but he matched him step for step. The two worked very well together.

Agree about everything else, though. January Jones was the OBVIOUS weak link – she was embarrassingly bad. Lawrence was wooden and added no depth to her character at all. She seemed out of place.


I wonder though, why in your headline do you mention only Lawrence in your headline and not McAvoy if you think he was a loser as well in this film???.


I really enjoyed Jennifer Lawrence in this role because I thought that she brought a lot of depth to the character…a very difficult role to play actually and when you factor in that Lawrence has had absolutely no training well, she did an awesome job I think. I also agree that she’s well cast for the Hunger Games as Katniss Everdeen and I can’t wait to see her bring that character to life.


Agree on pretty much all points. McAvoy’s frequently angst-ridden Xavier seemed almost out of place. He fit in much better in Wanted — but after 1st Class opened in the lower end of expectations, Wanted 2 without Jolie is probably dead. And Lawrence was miscast and looked stiff and unattractive here.


You are so spot on in your assessment of this movie. I was surprised how many critics sang the praises of Lawrence; perhaps it was a knee-jerk reflex to her being already christened the next-big-thing. She was likable but unremarkable and simply a poor fit. Like many of the supporting players, she was given a very awkward character arc. Vagabond child, then Charles’ super-close sister despite their mismatched personalities, then a kindred spirit or romantic interest to Beast, then in bed with Magneto out of nowhere, then abruptly turning on her supposed brother at the end. Maybe over two or three movies, but not within an hour. It was whiplash-inducing.


I completely agree with you, i think Fassbender stole the show in this movie, macvoy ​​was a little weak in his performance. I didn’t like either Jennifer Lawrence, I think she is a bit overrated as an actress, with a great maketing behind him, but still lacking.
The movie was good but not great. X2 was the best for me.

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