When X-Men: First Class hits theaters on June 3rd, you may notice that the blockbuster series has changed a bit. The costumes and setting are different, as are the actors playing lead characters Charles Xavier and Eric Lensherr/Magneto. But the most noticeable departure for the franchise is its super-powered roster. The A-team of Cyclops, Storm, Jean Grey and Wolverine are gone, along with heroes-in-training like Ice Man, Rogue and Kitty Pride. And though you’ll hear a few familiar names like Mystique and Beast, you won’t recognize their faces. Filling in for these future fighters are a new batch of mutants who join Xavier in actually founding the X-Men, and a young and talented cast of newcomers who you’ll be seeing a lot of in the coming years. Let’s take a look at the new mutants (well, not THOSE New Mutants…).
Emma Frost/The White Queen
Played by: January Jones
First Comic Book Appearance: X-Men #129 (1979)
Mutant Abilities: Various telepathic powers, including mind reading, mind control, mental sedation and psionic force bolts. In addition, she can transform her skin and hair into a diamond-like substance, rendering her nearly invulnerable.
Emma was born into a wealthy Boston family, but shunned its success and instead wished to make it in the world on her own. Guided by her ambition, intelligence and charm (not to mention her telepathic powers), she climbed the corporate ladder of big business and became the majority stockholder of a multi-billion dollar conglomerate principally involved in electronics and transportation. Her success caught the attention of the Hellfire Club, an elite secret society bent on global domination led by Sebastian Shaw, which is at the center of the conflict in X-Men: First Class. From there, she became one of the Club’s most respected members, and eventually its White Queen.
Played by: Kevin Bacon
First Comic Book Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #129 (1979)
Mutant Abilities: Can absorb kinetic energy and re-channel it into superhuman strength, speed and durability. He also has minor telepathic capabilities.
It’s no wonder that Frost and Shaw hit it off so well; they come from different sides of the same coin. Born to a poor family in Pittsburgh, Shaw turned his fortunes around by his mid-twenties with Shaw Industries, a company he built from the ground-up. He was quickly invited to join the Hellfire Club, and rose it ranks to become the Black King with relative ease. At this point, he planned to use its political and economic resources to further his own goals of global domination, but the X-Men surely had something to say about that…
Played by: Jason Flemyng
First Comic Book Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #428 (2003)
Mutant Abilities: Like the video game Portal? If so, this is the mutant for you. He can teleport by opening portals from one dimension to another. He can also concentrate this portal energy to conjure devastating blasts. Additionally, he shares a mental link with all of his offspring.
Believe it or not, mutants have been around since biblical times (Jesus? Maybe?). Azazel is one of the oldest, and he’s a pretty bad dude. As ruler of the Neyaphem (demon-like mutants from the old days), he believes that Earth and everything in it belongs to him, which kind of puts him at odds with the X-Men. It’s quite strange, then, that one of his children would turn out to be one of them! That’s right: Nightcrawler, the blue teleporter from X2, is the son of this evildoer, though I wouldn’t expect him to bring that up in First Class.
Played by: Zoe Kravitz
First Comic Book Appearance: New X-Men #118 (2001)
Mutant Abilities: They’re quite icky, actually. Angel possesses a few abilities akin to that of a common housefly. Aside from having a pair of wings that allow her to both fly and create a deafening ultrasonic sound by vibrating them, she has an insect like reproductive system that lets her lay eggs that can hatch after just five days. If that’s not weird enough for you, she can spit up an acidic bile-like substance that’s probably not too good for your skin.
Not to be confused with Ben Foster’s winged character from The Last Stand, Angel comes from a very different background than Warren Worthington III. Her abusive stepfather drove her out of her home, forcing her to sleep in the woods where her mutant abilities kicked in a formed a cocoon around her. When she woke up, she had her wings and ran into Wolverine, who took her to Xavier’s mansion. On an interesting side note, actress Zoe Kravitz, who plays Salvadore in First Class, briefly dated the fore mentioned Foster, bringing the cinematic mutant universe back full circle in a sense.
Played by: Lucas Till
First Comic Book Appearance: X-Men #54 (1969)
Mutant Abilities: Havok can absorb cosmic energy into the cells of his body, transform it in an unknown manner and release it as waves of energy that heat the air in their path enough to turn it into plasma, which is a super-heated state of matter consisting of charged subatomic particles.
This is where things get tricky for the chronology of the mutant universe. You see, Alex is the younger brother of Scott Summers a.k.a Cyclops. When we catch up with him in First Class circa 1963, he’s well into his teens already. How, then, can Scott the elder brother be in his early thirties in 2000s X-Men while Alex, the younger is 16 in the sixties? I really hope that director Matthew Vaughn and his army of writers address this fallacy, because it actually has kept me up at night.
Anyway, after a tumultuous upbringing in an orphanage followed by foster care, Havok joined the X-Men and fell in love with Lorna Dane, a.k.a Polaris (who is noticeably missing from the roster). After time spent abroad together doing research, he later would rejoin the X-Men and eventually lead the second iteration of the government sponsored mutant fighting force known as X-Factor.
Played by: Edi Gathegi
First Comic Book Appearance: X-Men Deadly Genesis #2 (2006)
Mutant Abilities: As his moniker would suggest, Darwin’s game is adaptivity. If he’s trapped in a burning building, his skin becomes fireproof. If he’s deep underwater, he grows gills to let him breathe. Get it? Unfortunately, he has no control over his powers; they are purely the result of an instinctual response. However, they have increased his intellect to near genius level.
Darwin is a relatively new addition to Marvel’s mutant universe, but no less important. His story begins in a 2006 run of comics in which he’s born to a father who rejects him and a mother who resents him. However, his intelligence got him a full scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, where he was bullied because of his wraithlike appearance. At 15, his latent abilities kicked in and he used them to fight back. It was then that he was sent to Dr. Moira MacTaggert, a renowned geneticist and friend of Charles Xavier. Eventually, all of MacTaggert’s students joined Xavier’s growing band of freedom-fighting peacekeepers known as the X-Men.
Played by: Caleb Landry Jones
First Comic Book Appearance: X-Men #28 (1967)
Mutant Abilities: Sean’s got a powerful set of pipes; thanks to his superhuman lungs, he can produce a sonic scream for various effects. First off, he can stun, disorient or knock someone out with his deafening shriek. He could generate sonic blasts that strike with tremendous concussive force, liquefying or outright disintegrating targets at his highest levels of power. He can even concentrate the sound waves to enable himself to fly.
Cassidy belongs to a noble line of Irishmen that dates back before recorded history. Born into a happy home where as a youngster he dreamed of heroic acts, he discovered his mutant abilities as a teen but concealed them at first, fearing for his own safety. He frequently clashed with his mutant cousin Black Tom, and the two had a longtime feud over a local girl who Sean ended up marrying. After a career in law enforcement with Interpol, Sean teamed with the X-Men to take on the rising mutant subversive organization Factor Three and, following their defeat, joining the team full time. In First Class, Cassidy will be one of the younger team members, but in comic book lore he’s actually of the same age as Charles Xavier and became a close confidante of the leader.
Played by: Alex Gonzalez
First Comic Book Appearance: Uncanny X-Men #210 (1986)
Mutant Abilities: Riptide can spin his body at incredible speeds, creating a vacuous suction that draws in nearby objects and allows him to throw objects at equally powerful velocities; chief amongst them calcified “daggers” which he grows from his own body.
Another villain who has clashed with the X-Men on numerous occasions, in the comics Riptide is a member of the mutant collective the Marauders who serve Mr. Sinister. In the film, he’s one of Sebastian Shaw’s henchmen and in all likelihood a low-ranking member of the Hellfire Club.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
G.I. Joe is a top-secret multi-national special forces unit comprised of highly-trained physically attractive military personnel from around the world. Equipped with the latest in superawesome vehicles and weaponry and guided by the tough but fair General Hawk they take on the baddest of the bad guys the kind of terrorists that scoff at conventional organizations. As the General himself so aptly states “When all else fails we don’t.”
That credo is put to the test however when a shadowy terrorist group armed with even awesomer vehicles and weaponry like crazy-ass laser guns and computer-guided zombie troopers infiltrates the Joes’ compound and makes off with a cache of four WMDs each of which is capable of leveling an entire city. Do the men and women of G.I. Joe have what it takes to defeat these menacing new adversaries before they mount their next devastating attack?
WHO’S IN IT?
It takes an elite group of actors to play an elite group of soldiers and the cast of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is stocked with an abundance of Hollywood’s most talented performers all adorned in various types of leather fetish apparel. White Chicks star Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord a flight specialist who can pilot any type of airplane even enemy crafts that respond only to voice commands uttered in Celtic. Channing Tatum star of Step Up and Step Up 2: The Streets plays his best pal Duke a badass infantryman who knows no fear. Preeminent ginger chick Rachel Nichols showcases her fiery crimson locks as Scarlett a shrewd intel expert whose stoic exterior hides a growing attraction to Ripcord. Barking out the orders as General Hawk is Enemy Mine star Dennis Quaid.
On the side of the bad guys is the Baroness played by Factory Girl star Sienna Miller in a push-up bra dirty librarian glasses and a raven-colored dye job. She’s the point woman for McMullen a shady Scottish weapons magnate played by Christopher Eccleston. But McMullen is no ordinary shady Scottish weapons magnate; he’s covertly amassed a huge terrorist empire headquartered beneath the polar ice caps. It’s there that “The Doctor ” a horribly disfigured mad scientist played by (500) Days of Summer star Joseph Gordon-Levitt concocts all sorts of diabolical new weapons and gadgets to unleash on the innocent.
Oh and there are ninjas too. Good guy Snake Eyes played by Ray Park wears sleek black body armor while the evil Storm Shadow played by Byung-hun Lee runs around in a updated version of Elvis Presley’s classic all-white jumpsuit.
Loaded with scene after scene of high-tech action-movie eye candy G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra assaults the senses with such a relentless barrage of over-the-top stunts eye-popping visual effects and stylized fight sequences that only the most coldly cynical of viewers will be able to resist submitting to its visceral charms.
As with most sugary indulgences the sweet dizzying high is followed almost immediately by a painful crash. Feelings of guilt and shame start to simmer as you kick yourself for yielding to such soulless gluttony. The next morning you awake with a throbbing headache and a heart filled with regret. The following day a doctor informs you that you have adult-onset diabetes. So in a nutshell G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the cinematic equivalent of adult-onset diabetes.
The scene where they have the big fight with all the advanced weapons and a whole bunch of stuff blows up. Oh wait that’s EVERY scene.
For the bulk of his performance Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s face is obscured by a bulky breathing apparatus and his voice is altered to sound like the computerized movie trailer's narrator. Which makes one wonder why they bothered to hire a name actor for the role in the first place.
Hostel: Part II picks up where the first Hostel left off—and then Paxton (Jay Hernandez) wakes up. It’s the last nightmare he’ll ever (be able to) have. Cut to Rome where three American girls—wealthy Beth (Lauren German) sex-craving Whitney (Bijou Phillips) and naïve awkward Lorna (Heather Matarazzo)—have completed their art class after painting a nude model (Vera Jordanova) and are off to Prague via train. While en route they bump into that same nude model who convinces them to change their plans and come with her to an exclusive hot-springs spa in Slovakia. And so their fates are sealed. Once they check in at their hostel with the bellboy who might as well be Satan’s little helper the bidding begins. All around the world the well-to-do-but-not-well-meaning vie for a chance at torturing and savagely murdering these fresh American college gals. And the winners are: Stuart (Roger Bart) and Todd (Richard Burgi) two Americans with WAY too much money on their hands. Thus begins the torturing—of the audience. There is an underrated skill in being able to act scared to death for your life—and in Hostel II’s case whatever prop cutlery was used to poke at the victims’ bodies probably made acting spontaneously easier. Most of the cast however tends to overdo it here. The lone exception is German (A Walk to Remember) making this by far her biggest acting splash to date as the heroine…type. She more so than the others is forced to emote rather than just shriek and she shows ability that reaches beyond horror movies. Phillips (Bully) and Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse) meanwhile though disparate character-wise both over-act: Matarazzo especially tries too hard to be gawky even if it makes for a starker contrast when her character is well you know. And grossly—pun intended—miscast is Desperate Housewives actor Bart who--no matter the volume and amount of F-bombs he drops--isn’t game for the uber-depravity that writer-director Eli Roth was going for. In fact the foreign unknowns outperform their American counterparts quite a bit in this sequel. First thing’s first: If Hostel II managed to snag an R rating then hardcore porn should be rated G! Now on to writer-director Eli Roth. To his credit the horror god possesses a mind sicker than any other contemporary filmmaker including returning exec-producer/endorser Quentin Tarantino but that doesn’t mean he knows how to tell a story. There's not a whole that goes on between the jaw-dropping scenes of torture the audience has come to half-see which begs the question: Would Hostel II be anything at all if not for said sadism? In addition a lack of true story brings to light another potential flaw in the Roth system—he doesn’t frighten us so much as disturb. But therein lies the good as well. If you like to be disturbed in a strictly I’d-never-do-this-but-maybe-it-happens-somewhere kind of way Roth is most certainly your man. Of course if you like to be disturbed by a film in any way Roth is most certainly your man. He’s got a wild and prolific imagination and when he turns it on the resulting images are unlike anything you’ve ever seen or want to see again—impossible to look at or away from. If only he could expend it on the stuff surrounding the imagery.