This weekend’s box office candy, X-Men: First Class, was, essentially, a fantastic film starring two phenomenally talented actors: Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy. This was undeniably their film and it almost didn’t matter who you cast around them. Almost. But men can’t act in a vacuum, so we got a perfectly delightful Kevin Bacon as the heavy and, filling out the good guy flight suits and bad guy fetish gear, an assortment of eye candy, both female and male. (Was Alex Summers a.k.a. Havok just sitting in solitary confinement, flexing, waiting to impress any guards that might pass by?) But lost in the shuffle of teenagers and Betty (yawn) Drapers were two supremely gifted character actors who were, well, utterly and bafflingly wasted.
I know as well as you do that the job of the character actor (especially the comedic ones) is to brighten the room when called upon and sort of fade away when not needed. But why cast the brilliant Oliver Platt to show up in an unnamed role (The Man In The Black Suit) deliver, oh, fifteen lines, and then promptly exit the film? I love me some Platt! Put Platt in the Situation Room! Watch him pull faces as the missile crisis gets ever more dire! Also what was with the odd casting of Jason Flemyng as “Azazel?” Here he is caked in a layer of red makeup and sporting a dime store Lucifer wig.
Are you sitting at your monitor right now scratching your non-crimson head and saying, “Jason Who?” Does it help if I tell you that Flemying ordinarily looks like this?
No? Okay, you probably know him best as Tom from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and likely saw him most recently as the road-tripping father in Hanna. The thing is, the guy is a great actor. The other thing is, Azazel was a great, fun part of X-Men. All “bamf,” flash, tail, drop, stab! You know what else? I’m moderately sure Azazel had zero lines. This is a role that could easily have been played by a stunt guy. (e.g. Ray Park as “Toad” except, you know, they gave Park lines). Hell they could have Winklevii’d Azazel with that guy who played Riptide and I wouldn’t have known the difference.
There are two possibilities as to why Flemyng was cast in such a nothing role. First of all, X-Men: First Class director Matthew Vaughn obviously loves Flemyng and has given him roles in all of his projects (Layer Cake, Stardust, Kick-Ass). Secondly (and this is what I’m hoping for), “Azazel” may be headed for an expanded role (with lines!) in the next film given that he and the gorgeous blue shape-shifter Mystique have a…is it spoilers if I talk about… Let’s just say, do you remember Alan Cumming’s “Nightcrawler” from X2? Well he was blue AND went “bamf.” Chew on that.
Anyway, my point is, I hate going into a film as a movie nerd excited to see some of my favorite (if lesser-known) actors only to watch them utterly wasted. Here are a few more instances in recent memory that annoyed the hell out of me starting, of course, with good ol’ Nightcrawler himself.
Alan Cumming in Burlesque: There was a lot to hate about Burlesque. A lot. But I particularly hated the fact that they cast Tony Award-winning actor, dancer and singer Alan Cumming in a film about stage performers and only let him on stage ONCE to provide the background to some over-wrought emotional garbage. Basically he was window-dressing. Scenery. Meanwhile we were subjected to Aguilera shimmying and bellowing out number after number. Honorable mention in this film goes to the tragic waste of Kristen Bell who is also a talented stage-performer and LIP-SYNCHED her number. Her one number.
Olivia Thirlby in No Strings Attached: A tried and true way to waste a talented actress is to cast her as the “best friend” in a romantic comedy. Though, of course, there is nothing remotely romantic or comedic about No Strings Attached. C’mon, Thirlby, it’s not like you NEED to let yourself be upstaged by Miss Academy Award-Winning Portman, there. In fact, I think supporting actress Kat Dennings stole Thor right out from under Portman’s toe shoes.
Stanley Tucci in Maid In Manhattan: Speaking of “the best friend” role, Tucci has done it countless times. (My favorite being The Devil Wears Prada). He usually manages to polish up even the dullest material (*ahem* Burlesque), but nothing could shine in this film. This film even wasted Ralph Fiennes. Fiennes can make a NAZI charismatic. Dreadful.
Sam Rockwell in Iron Man 2: Sam Rockwell plays a REALLY good bad guy. We’ve seen him do it time and time again with a spring in his step and twinkle in his eye. But what was going on in Iron Man 2? Am I the only one who hated this film? Hated everyone in it? Even hated my beloved Don Cheadle? Waste waste waste.
Judy Greer In 27 Dresses: Judy Greer is the queen of the aforementioned “Best Friend” role and she usually does it with such a dry, detached delivery that I end up caring more about her then the purported lead. Ah, but in a Heigl vehicle, no one gets away clean.
There are many, many more incidences and I won’t bore you with my continued outrage but I will ask you this. How is it that talented males such as Jason Flemyng and Oliver Platt are relegated to the background while we are made to suffer the one-two wooden punch of January Jones and Jennifer Lawrence? (Oh yeah, I said Jennifer Lawrence. Uh oh, Hunger Games.) Oh, I see.
Joanna Robinson really did enjoy the h*ll out of X-Men: First Class but only because of McAvoy and Fassbender.