‘X-Men: First Class’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated October 5th, 2011 at 4:42 pm,

X Men First Class Reviews X Men: First Class Review

Screen Rant’s Kofi Outlaw Reviews X-Men: First Class

X-Men: First Class has been a controversial film ever since it was first announced. Comic book purists said that the filmmakers were straying too far from the source material with their interpretation. Film purists said that the production was being rushed and the movie would suffer – while fans of summer blockbusters remained unaware (or unmoved) by all the missteps in the movie’s flawed marketing campaign.

Well, whether you’re a fan of the comics, the movies, or just summer blockbusters,  X-Men: First Class has something to offer you. After two poor entries (X-Men: The Last Stand and Wolverine) this franchise is getting a much-needed injection of life from director Matthew Vaughn and all the talent surrounding him.

…But that doesn’t make the film perfect.

The story is pretty simple at its core, but slightly convoluted in its execution: We start with the childhood years of Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr, the men who will become Professor X and Magneto, respectively. Charles is raised in a world of wealth and privilege; Erik, on the other hand, has a horrific childhood in the Nazi death camps (a scene that pays homage to Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie), where his control over magnetic forces attracts the eye of a Nazi scientist/evil mutant named Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), who pushes Erik to develop his power by way of trauma and pain.

Flash-forward to 1963 (an homage to the year the first X-Men comic book was released) and Charles (James McAvoy) and Erik (Michael Fassbender) are two young men on very different paths. Charles is now a prominent academic, while Erik is a haunted man, touring the world on a quest for revenge against Nazi war criminals and the mysterious Shaw. Meanwhile, the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union is intensifying, threatening to annihilate humanity in a nuclear holocaust – which is exactly what Sebastian Shaw and his cabal of evil mutants want. When CIA agent Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne) catches wind of Shaw’s plan, the CIA tasks Xavier to gather a team of mutants to battle Shaw and his henchmen, setting in motion a chain of events that will inevitably create the X-Men, as well as the lifelong rivalry between Charles and Erik.

X Men First Class Michael Fassbender James McAvoy X Men: First Class Review

Fassbender and McAvoy as Magneto and Prof. X in 'X-Men: First Class'

Matthew Vaughn moves this multifaceted story at a brisk, controlled pace. With a runtime of more than two hours there’s a lot that happens, but thankfully the time passes quickly. Most of the attention is focused on developing the characters of Charles and Erik, their friendship and eventual falling out, and this is the glue that holds the film together. McAvoy and Fassbender are excellent in their respective roles and have awesome chemistry together; the most moving and interesting scenes in the film belong to them alone. Despite complaints from comic book purists about the liberties this film takes with the source material, it manages to present both Xavier and Magneto as fresh and rich characters who are both worth exploring.

This reinterpretation not only makes First Class interesting as a movie, but in my opinion (as a longtime fan of the comics) improves upon these characters’ backstories in ways the comics never have. Seeing Xavier as a naive man – who has not yet learned the tact and ethics that go along with mind reading – makes for some interesting themes and humorous moments. Seeing Erik as a sort of twisted super-powered James Bond is thrilling, and Fassbender brings an intensity that makes this another breakout role for the quickly rising star. The two leading men don’t try to mimic the performances of Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen from Singer’s films – instead they make the roles their own.

However, while the Charles/Erik storyline is the main focus (and is worth the price of admission in and of itself), the title of this film would imply a story about a larger team coming together. This aspect of the film (the actual X-Men team) is not as developed or interesting, and some fans will have a major problem with that. We do meet a group of mutants in the film, but with the exception of the pivotal role of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), the rest of the mutants (good and bad) are mostly just there to fill out the action scenes – or in the case of  Emma Frost (January Jones), fill out some ridiculous outfits (which the film does manage to justify… sort of).

X Men First Class White Queen Sebastian Shaw X Men: First Class Review

Kevin Bacon and January Jones in 'X-Men: First Class'

For her part, Lawrence is great as Mystique, adding subtlety and depth to a character that was mostly eye candy in previous films. As with Charles and Erik, Vaughn manages to explore Mystique’s character in a way that is more interesting than either the films or comics have really presented her – even though we know where her arc will inevitably lead. The other performance of note is by Kevin Bacon, who makes Sebastian Shaw a charmingly menacing supervillain, without crossing over into campy or hammy territory.

Some people will be disappointed that the actual X-Men team members are little more than stunt actors in this film, but the battle scenes with the mutants are impressive. As with Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn proves that he is a fantastic director when it comes to action sequences, and First Class arguably has the best high-flying superhero action this side of X2 or Spider-Man 2. Whereas Singer’s films tended to fetishize every moment of mutant power use, Vaughn implements the powers (and the special effects to create them) into the film so matter-of-factly that it makes suspension of disbelief almost effortless (though seeing a blue-furred Beast still doesn’t feel quite right).

The ’60s aesthetic and historical footage are also blended into the film well, at once honoring that era, while still feeling modern enough as not to seem like a period piece. There are some wonderful stylistic tricks Vaughn employs at different points (first-person POV, split-screen montages); however, now and again the film feels a little unbalanced or unpolished in its editing (likely due to the rushed production schedule), though average movie fans are not likely to notice these seams sticking out.

XMen First Class Magneto X Men: First Class Review

A more familiar and iconic Magneto in 'X-Men: First Class'

Like most origin or prequel films, the nature of the story inevitably results in a truncated ending. The climax of First Class must fit all the players into their predetermined places, and the speed with which these transitions occurred felt rushed, even though Vaughn does capture some powerful moments in the dissolving of Charles and Erik’s relationship. The rest of the characters (literally) stand aside and then take sides, which again shortchanges them in terms of development or interest.

Thankfully, the rich Xavier/Magneto dynamic, fantastic action, and a handful of fun Easter eggs are enough to keep comic fans, movie fans, and summer blockbuster enthusiasts all sufficiently entertained by the majority of what this film gets right. Matthew Vaughn and Co. have definitely given the X-Men franchise a bright new future, and hopefully in the next film the actual team dynamic will be the nexus, rather than a distant secondary focus.

If you want to see more of the film, check out the X-Men: First Class trailer below, and be sure to hop over to our X-Men: First Class Spoilers Discussion to talk about the film once you’ve seen it.

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Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. I’m still not sure about going to see it, although my friend Roly at work will no doubt rave over it and brag how many times he’s seen it…

  2. Hell, everyone needs to stop whining about this movie. Just go to a local Best Buy tomorrow and get the blu rays of the first three for $7.99 each. Take the promo code off the wrapper print some movie cash and take some friends to see First Class for free. Then, and only then, you can critique…

  3. I willl see the film tomorrow,I am looking forward to it .
    ASs for X3, I hope they use the sequel to give us a proper Juggernaut this time .
    He is a good match for Magneto and his connection to Charles makes him a natural choice IMO.

  4. I really enjoyed the film. I know that comics usually lose out in a transferring of mediums, and I also know that comics adapt throughout the years with the change of writers. While this movie isn’t the gold standard of comic book movies (I consider Iron Man the mecca), it is quite entertaining and a fun movie experience with action, humor, and surprise cameos. However, I have one lingering question. When Magneto is messing with that guy’s filling in his tooth, he mentions that it is metal and not gold. What’s the point of that dialogue? Is gold not a metal? I’m pretty sure that the periodic table of the elements states that gold is a metal, and Magneto’s power is the ability to control the magnetic properties of metals. Maybe the question I should ask is if gold has magnetic properties. Google here I come!

    • Only iron and some alloys with iron have magnetic properties. Gold does not have magnetic properties

  5. I’m going to see it at matinee prices.

  6. It was a good movie. Yeah, I can see where people can be critical of specific scenes, but it did a good job in explaining Xavier and Eric’s early relationship and set up some potentially good spinoffs (Magneto). Movie making is a business and if you are always true to the source material you will alienate a good portion of the audience. If you want to be true to the comic books then make your own movie.

  7. The movie was better than I thought after much of the negative hype. During the entire film the one who really stood out was Fassbender. He did an amazing job.

  8. A brilliant superhero movie and is it me or are the superhero films getting better at they are coming out Thor was good Xmen First class was really really good and Green lanteren looks amazing i guess we will have to wait and see but Xmen first class is a must see with some great lines that link with there older selfs

  9. I saw it last night and it was fantastic. It makes all the other x-men movies look like complete garbage. Easily the best movie of 2011. The story moves just like a comic book and the cold war vibe in the movie is outstanding. I was worried about the reviews saying the other characters dont get much screen time but for me it didnt hurt the movie at all. but yeah 5 stars 10/10 or what have you. GO SEE IT!!! it is a blast!

  10. Good movie,everyone in the theater seemed to enjoy it.3.5 out of 5.

  11. OK I will admit, if you asked me a few months ago I would not touch this movie with a ten foot pole but over the past month and a half I have been giving this a chance and I glad I did.

    To all the people who are angry over continuity, dont get mad, the only films its doesnt fit well with (BUT IT DOES FIT with X3, you just have to get over that it doesnt match the comics word for word but if they say the X3 isnt cannon like XO:W it wont matter) are X3 and XO:W.

    It had great characters but some need alot more work in the sequels. Fassbender and McAvoy stole the show. The cameo was awesome, easily one of the best cameos ever.

    Story was great even tho it was rushed at times.

    All in all, go see it. Its a great X-Men film, it works with Singer’s X-Men 1 and 2, it has great characters and story.

    • You mean “cameos”.

    • thanks for saying that man,havent seen it yet but i will watch it.i wont look forward to it being spot on.il watch as though i was just watching another xmen movie.

      • Welcome bud, hope I can help some other people out too.

        and Longshanks, I mean just Wolvie’s cameo, RMS cameo was alright but it wasnt as good as the other.

  12. The X-Men never really had a Marvel universe homeage,it kinda stayed in its own universe,and besides,even if this did do well,it would not beat Captain America.

    • @ Austin

      I wouldn’t be so sure about it not beating Captain America.

      So far,I can honestly say that X:FC is better than everything that Marvel has put out.

  13. 3.5 stars is exactly what I would rate the movie. Not great, but not that bad either.

  14. saw this last night it was awesome!!!!

  15. This movie was okay. Lots of unnecessary mutants. But the interactions of Charles and Erik (McAvoy and Fassbender) were astounding. I’d pay to see them again in these roles.

  16. Wish everyone would stop slagging off X-Men The Last Stand – This film was excellent – considering the Director jumped ship as it began – I’,m watching it on TV right now – and it’s got great action scenes – acting – and stays close to the 1st two movies – what more do some folk want from a superhero movie.
    As for the new X.Men movie – saw it the other day and enjoyed it very much – the new cast have made a good job of this too…go see – 4 out of 5 for me !

    • LOL, Braveheart there are a lot of people here on SR that would argue that X3 was “excellent” LOL. Hack Ratner ruined the whole movie.

      • I enjoyed X3,really loved it.

        • I have a love/hate relationship with X3. I admit it’s just awful in a lot of ways but I’ve seen it at least 20 times.

      • @Anthony – I’m assuming you are referring to visitors at SR and not the writers? Because I don’t know of anyone that works for SR who would consider X3 good – much less “excellent”.

        Paul Young

        • I never said that anyone here at SR loved the film Paul lol. Me, i cant understand why Ratner still works ion the business.Bravehearts post saying that the film was “excellent” was the first positive one that I have ever seen here, or any other high quality movie site. Me, I hated X3.

    • i agree with you,i didnt think x3 was all that bad.i honestly thought the action scenes were great,it captured the hole team fighting as a team which was mostly lost in the first 2(people can argue that if they want but go watch the first 2 and tell me there was an actual whole fight scene with any characters besides wolverine.)and rattner actually got two things that the fist movies were missing all in one shot.the danger room and a sentinel.the fact of the matter is people are never satisfied.when the fisrst x movie came out everyone was all over singers sack.same thing with the second one.then when people found out he was leaving people didnt even want to give the 3rd one a chance,people making poles about how the 3rd one would fail if singer wasnt on bord.and so no mater how good or bad the 3rd one would turn out, people still would have hated it all the same,completley ignoring what was done right in the third one.the truth is both morons took to many liberties with the source material that we love so much.but for some reason singer was aloud to get off while rattner is labeled the man who killed the franchise.and these same people who loved singers chopped up vision of xmen are now pretending they never liked him.and you people know who you are.(and if you know that im not talking about you then dont get offended.)i can put it on my life that i was never on bord,i feel the same way i always did.were they good movies… sure.were they true to its source material,no it was not.

    • XM3 was a poorly contrived attempt to resolve everything and create some action along the way for minimal cost. Biggest glaring plot hole was; WHY, if Magneto could uproot the Golden Gate Bridge didn’t he simply dump it on the facility? I’m pretty sure 500 THOUSAND tons of bridge would have done the job with no need to frivolously risk all of Magnetos troops.

      • I wouldn’t say the cost was minimal, X-3 has the biggest budget out of all three original movies. Another question about the scene in San Francisco is how the hell did all those mutants get to the bridge in the first place ? If the US government was looking for Magneto and his flunkies how did nobody see all those people (some clearly not human). Did they rent a bus ?

        Fact is the whole series are just popcorn movies that probably shouldn’t be read into very deeply. Much of it makes no sense and never will.

        • Another excellent point. I would probably explain it by saying Magneto created a sphere large enough to transport everyone and flew them all there. :)

          And by minimal cost I was referring to the fact it would have cost a hell of a lot more to do Dark Phoenix correctly. Plus we know that the original script was going to make the movie much bigger and run a lot longer. It was hacked up due to budgeting constraints.

  17. Thank you, Braveheart. I’ve been saying that for years now. Each man his own. The way X3 is put down here you’d think it was a matter of fact and not of opinion… Anyway, the assessment on X: 1st Class sounds quite encouraging-just as I thought it would. The 60s concept was unique. Will definitely go see.

  18. from the moment i heard of this.. i knew it had potential.. as the trailers and tv spots would come out.. i knew that the hype would be worth it.. and that night that i attended the midnight premiere i was more than pleased.. i think that magneto carried the movie much like the joker did the dark knight.. the acting of both fassbender and macavoy were great in my opinion and portrayed both characters well. and whatever issues the movie had.. eventually were fixed.. for example.. darwin.. he was killed.. then angel.. not as much camera time as expected which was only a good thing. and january jones was kind of a sleeper in my opinion except for the fact that she had a great wardrobe.. wink wink. another person i enjoyed was kevin bacon.. my goodness. i didnt think he´d do so good as a villain.. as far as the other x men.. havok was alright.. they had an idiot for banshee and beast was pretty cool. of course i had my likes and my dislikes.. the way the story was going was really good in my opinion especially with how you see how mystique slowly starts leaning towards erik and how erik himself becomes the villain we all love.. what i didnt like.. is how they ignored events from past x flicks.. not that it matters to me.. but to others im sure it does.. like how cyclops was young in wolverine but looked about the same age in his little cameo. what.. does he have that aging gene that mystique has as well.. i dont think so.. the events from wolverine had happend about 15 years prior to the events of the first x men flick. then.. in x men 3.. charles was already bald and was walking as well as he was still friends with erik. but i can see how that can easily be played off. then havok.. he´s cyclops younger brother so wtf. but overall..then the last fight scene where shaw died.. that was completely weak. i still loved the movie though and would love to see how else they can expand in the x men universe now that they finally have a great picture out.. cant wait to hear about any upcoming sequals. so far superhero movies are good .. cant wait to see how lantern and cap do.

    • magneto killed shaw the way he did because if he pushed the coin any faster into shaws head, then shaw would have absorbed the kinetic energy and use that energy to heal and protect himself from the attack.
      for everyone else they did do a lot of things that contradict the comics and other movies, but they just cant be thought about. this was possibly the best movie that marvel has put out, idk why people are bashing it so much

      • i understand the coin concept.. i was just hoping for a little more overall for the last scene.. when you see a movie of this type.. you want the ending to be one that goes out with a bang.. action wise. because story wise.. i didn’t mind it.. i loved when magneto turned.. it was well put together considering many factors such as the rushed production. and i do agree with the people bashing it.. as a realist that i am.. i’ve already learned to accept that no comic hero movie will ever be completely accurate or even close. and even though this was far from it.. it was still greatly depicted. i loved it..
        oh.. and marvel didn’t make this 😉 i think you meant to put its the best marvel character movie made.. (believe me there’s a difference) just compare iron man 1 & 2, hulk and thor to this movie.. you can easily see what marvel studios puts out compared to fox.

    • What didn’t you like about Banshee? He was one of my favorite minor characters.

  19. Or you’d think that a lot of people saw x3 and didnt like it. Just because a SMALL percentage of people did like it, or even thought it was “excellent”, doesn’t mean the majority of people who didnt like it should stop expressing their opinion.

  20. Great review, Mr. Outlaw, and I appreciate the optimism that you offer. However, I think I will wait for the dvd. I would also offer to Fox studios the following comment. The X-men is The X-men. The X-men is not second fiddle to Wolverine, nor is The X-men all about Prof. X and Magneto, who have both had their chance for their characters to be developed and explored. Mystique, while certainly a prominent character in X-men comics, does not deserve to be elevated in status beyond Cyclops, Storm, and the others. I will keep my money until Fox or Marvel does a movie about THE X-MEN. And are there any writers anywhere on the planet, comic, film, or otherwise who can write an X-men story WITHOUT the damned mutant hysteria storyline?

    • totally agree with you man.

      • Thanx dude.

  21. Nothing wrong with anyone expressing their opinion on X3, happyman, just the finality in which it is conveyed. I fear many have concluded that X3 was a terrible movie based on bandwagon effect. Our friend, Jennifer, hates the movie (in an earlier comment refers to it as BS) but later admits that she has watched it about 20 times! From that I deduce that she likes the movie but hates it for not sticking to the mythos? I fear that might be the way XFC may be viewed in the future unless we clearly appreciate the difference between the two and our divergent views of the word ‘adaptation’.

    • Actually claude Jen and I have talked about it.

      Your assesment is understandable but not exactly right. Jen genuinly believes X3 is a bad film. It has little to do with how well it stuck to the comics and more to do with poor writing and directing. She however still enjoys it and watches it because it’s X-men. She basically said she will watch anything X-men over and over.

      • To Claude: Daniel is correct. I am an admitted X-Men junkie and will watch/read anything in that world but I still know how to distinguish between a good film and a bad one. X3 is a guilty pleasure.

        I am able to separate the comic stories from what they do in a film for the most part. Sometimes I still get mad over certain things (like Emma Silverfox) but the reason I don’t like X3 is poor writing and directing. There are some parts in that film I love but overall it is mediocre.

    • Thanx for your comment, Claude. I confess you make a very valid point. First let me engage in a little self defense. Braveheart SEEMS to be saying in his comment that ( for no other reason but ) because he personally likes x3, everyone who doesnt should stop expressing their opinion. I’ve reread his comment and thats all I can get from it. Your supporting comment offers the justification of people expressing their opinions as facts. If you have found that to be the norm, I’m sorry man. I have not. On to confession time. I too, have the x3 dvd, and I watch it from time to time. I dont claim Jennifers love\hate situation, but I do enjoy watching my favorite superhero team on screen, even if the movie is far from perfect. If, when I finally watch xfc on disc, I think they’ve laid a really good foundation for a 6th movie, then I will pay to see xmen6 in the theatres. Thanx man.

  22. Broad, flat, and really kind of silly rather than fun, the movie doesn’t give us any characters to care about (Fassbinder’s Magneto is easily the most gutsy and appealing), and so engages us superficially while leaving us feeling emotionally unsatisfied and maybe even cheated. Bacon’s villain seems mostly phoned in and is altogether too James Bond-ish (with his luxury submarine whose interior matches his jumpsuit. One almost wonders where Mr. Bigglesworth is), and the rest of the X-men seem to have been chosen at random and are given only the barest fleshing-out. I’m all for willing suspension of disbelief, but here the “mutant” shtick is used as a magic wand to explain anything and everything, and some of their “talents” seem either silly (fiery spitballs) or mildly disgusting (Beast’s feet, Angel’s too-insectlike wings, which make you want to cover your head and reach for the swatter.) The mutant-as-persecuted-minority theme is hauled out again but without any conviction, and you really want to tell them to just get over it already.

    I think it says a lot about the movie that the biggest audience reaction was for Hugh Jackman’s 5 second cameo as a drunken Wolverine, sitting at a bar and telling Xavier and Magneto to f*ck off.

  23. I just seen the new X-Men and i thought it was fantastic, it had a
    great storyline besides great action!!

  24. I thought First Class was absolutely brilliant. The fact that it doesn’t stick to the comics doesn’t bother me at all, all the Marvel films at the momment don’t stick to the comics either.

    I was also pretty surprised that the word F*ck was used in a 12A certificate film (not that it bothered me, I just wasn’t expecting it.)
    Banshee was a real highlight for me. I’ve never really read any X-men stories with him in and I always thought he looked kinda crappy, but the way they did him in First Class was great.

    It kinda took the best bits of the first two films and incorporated what they felt would work. I really enjoyed it.

    • They are able to use one curse word in a PG-13 film and they used it well here. Banshee rules. I’ve read the comics with him in them and while they changed certain aspects (he’s supposed to be Irish and later has a romance with Moira MacTaggert which I doubt will happen in the later films) they cast the perfect person for the character.

  25. I like that this was the weakest X-Men opening of any of the X-Men movies. Nice.

    • @Dante
      that’s a pretty sad attitude.

      Especially when First clas was such an excellent film. Easily the best of the franchise. The only main reason I see for it not performing as well as X2, X3 was because X3 earned the most despite being awful. Audiences remembered that and expected it to be worse.

      They are missing out on a great comic book film, even if Marvel hasn’t been in control. Even Marvel has dropped the ball. Iron man 2 wasn’t very good, but did well because people have to pay to see a film before they realise it’s bad.

    • You can thank X3 and Wolverine for the box office numbers. Even though the opening numbers weren’t great it still beat out every other film released this weekend by tons.

  26. Finally saw it. McAvoy, Fassbender, and Lawrence were all fantastic, but the movie overall for me fell short of either of the first two fills. Frankly, I’d put it up there with X3, only slightly better.

    It was a bit heavy on the humor IMO which made for an uneven tone and took away from some fo the really moving scenes.

  27. Just saw First Class today. It was really good and I enjoyed it immensily without having to strain myself to do so and while I think it at least deservs four stars your review was spot on Kofi :).

  28. Sorry to comment on one of your posts once again happyman but if you take another look at the old Xmen comics and cartoons,you’d see that Xmen did indeed seem to play second fiddle to Wolverine (due to his popularity and marketability). He usually saved the day, was the last man standing, and had the spotlight in many stories. Almost every Xmen comic had to have him gracing the cover with clenched teeth and glistening claws. He sold comics. He did the most cross-overs in Marvel at one time. I guess that’s were Singer got his inspiration from. Probably the reason he had Magneto accuse Wolvie sarcastically in both X1 and 2 of always thinking ‘its all about him’.
    That aside, XFC is about the origin of the Xmen: Magneto/Prof X. started it all. It is thus fitting that we start the tale with them, don’t you think? It’s not about second fiddle..it’s about a good story. X3 is a good example of how difficult it is to get every mutant a decent shot in a 2hr movie.

    • I was actually introduced to comics and the X-Men in general by Frank Miller and Chris Claremont’s four part mini-series about Wolverine. I got into the main comic and all the back issues from that point on and while Wolverine ended up being a break-out solo star the comic still gave everyone equal time.

      It’s also interesting to note that both Xavier and Magneto were not in the comic for long periods of time which lead to other members of the team to step up so to speak and made other villains more of a focal point in stories.

      The natural instinct of Marvel to stick Wolverine (and anyone else who was popular at the time) is just a side-effect of a character being a money maker. Movie studios think in those terms and make their money on short term investments so the rush to cash in who anyone who they think is popular will cause them to take allot of short-cuts with character development.

    • Once again Claude, touche. You do make a valid point. I remember in the mid to late eighties Wolverines popoularity eclipsing everyone else’s, and he certainly sold comics. But if you go back far enough, the xmen was once a superhero team, who fought super villains, and didnt spend a lot of time wrestling with mutant hysteria. And the comics certainly gave Cyclops more respect than the movies did, wouldnt you agree to that? Cyke was(and still is I think) the leader of the xmen. In the movies hes dead after three films. And dont apologize for disagreeeing with me. We seem to be able to do that without starting childish rant\fights with each other. Lately it seems like that puts us in the minority.:) But we shouldnt blame everybody for being passionate about their favorite characters. Will you be commenting on G.L.?