Class was in session last weekend, but after a dismal box office showing, Professor Xavier’s Mutant Academy might close for good. Simon Kinberg’s “Dark Phoenix” fell far below expectations but nonetheless concluded the film saga until Disney decides to give the franchise another reimagining in the future. Before it departs from cultural consciousness, here is the second part of highlighting the best genre performances from the ensemble cast. This piece wraps up with the remaining underclassmen: Jessica Chastain as Vux, Tye Sheridan as Cyclops/Scott Summers, Alexandra Shipp as Storm, Evan Peters as Quicksilver/Peter Maximoff, and Kodi Smit-McPhee as Nightcrawler.
5Jessica Chastain as Murphy in “Interstellar” (2014)
With magnificent range, Jessica Chastain demonstrates that love and saving the world can mean one and the same. As adult Murphy, she follows her father’s clues across space and time to unravel the mystery of human survival. Yet, it’s in her emotional video transmission message to her father when we see all of what makes Chastain the one of a kind talent she is. Her eventual breakdown sends a shock wave of emotion, but its her unrelenting spirit that glistens even when hope seems lost. Chastain’s authentic portrayal of perseverance even when the heart is torn asunder transcends more than her lost father’s travels.
4Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts/Parzival in “Ready Player One” (2018)
Tye Sheridan plays Wade Watts, a destitute teen longing to escape the slums. His twofold performance includes playing the avatar Parzival, who partners up with Olivia Cooke’s Art3mis in the virtual reality game OASIS. There’s an everyman quality to Sheridan which allows the audience to easily plug into the video game adventure plot. Sheridan’s heroism comes from his unassuming nature, placing all focus on his mission to improve the livelihood of him and his family. Free of attitude or machismo flair, Sheridan is often taken for granted as an “Average Joe” lucky enough to fill a protagonist’s shoes. In reality, his relaxed benevolence selflessly gives the audience a chance to sit back and fully enmesh themselves in a universe whose conflict is larger than its central figure.
3Alexandra Shipp as Abby Suso in “Love, Simon” (2018)
In a single breakout role, Alexandra Shipp deconstructs the tried and trite “popular girl” trope of the high school subgenre. Showing empathy instead of vanity or aloofness, Shipp’s Abby doesn’t view a gay best friend as an accessory to her flock. When Simon (Nick Robinson) comes out to her, she responds with complete support and honesty, emphasizing the first thing every person coming out needs to hear: affirmation of love. No matter how bad it gets, at least Simon will always have Abby in his corner. Shipp is a marvel at both blossomings in a crowd and intimate dialogue exchanges.
2Evan Peters as Warren Lipka in “American Animals” (2018)
Because so much of the heist genre is centered on the operation, there often isn’t a lot of room for individual actors to shine. Evan Peters punts that assumption into the stratosphere. Peters illustrates the boiling pressures placed on a young adult to immediately make something lucrative of their lives. That means attending college and utilizing any and all benefits along the way. For Peters’ Warren Lipka, this means an athletic scholarship just to satisfy his parent’s expectations. Lipka’s speech to his athletic coach openly resisting this enforced prospective career path is one of the best monologue showcases in recent memory. Peters more than just incites empathetic audience rage, but his clumsy and fear-stricken handling of the eventual caper showed the humanity behind the criminal enterprise.
1Kodi Smit-McPhee as Owen in “Let Me In” (2010)
When filmgoers think of bullied children in cinema, Kodi Smit-McPhee’s Owen is one of the first that comes to mind. His lanky physique and jittery energy make him a prime target for abusive classmates. This vulnerability is underscored by Smit-McPhee exuding existential dread and despondent helplessness. However, the young actor proves that his feeble appearance doesn’t discredit his inner strength, brought to defensive light by child vampire protector, Abby (Chloe Grace Moretz). Smit-McPhee projects unnerved courage once Owen’s confidence rises, automatically overturning audience expectation of his capabilities.