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X2: X-Men United

Director Bryan Singer's 2003 sequel to the original "X-Men" film.

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"Holy Sh*t!," says Wolverine: X2 is Stunning and Actually Intelligent

  • May 3, 2003
  • by
Rating:
+3
Pros: acting, characters, political, deep, special effects

Cons: Night Crawler, a bit confusing, maybe tried to do too much

The Bottom Line: I want to be the Bottom Line. It can morph into any form and even imitate the voice. The Bottom Line is hot.

I rarely go to see the same movie twice in the cinema. But, X2 was so phenomenal that I would see it again. In fact, I would have stayed in the theater and watched it again immediately.

While the first X-Men movie got bogged down with establishing characters and background for those of us who don't follow the comic (like me, so I appreciated that), the sequel cuts right into an action sequence involving an attack on the White House. People who are in the know realize that the perpetrator of this violence is Night Crawler (Alan Cumming), a "good guy" whose mind is being controlled by the violent faction of the mutant community.

In the first movie, the conflict was largely Magneto (Ian McKellen) and his followers vs. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his X-Men. Professor X is a Ghandi-like figure who stresses education and pacifism for mutants. At his "School for Gifted Youngsters" in Westchester County, NY,* he teaches mutants to control their powers. Magneto, on the other hand, survived the Holocaust but carries emotional scars and advocates a brutal revolution, killing all the humans. This premise can be interpreted to parallel the struggle for freedom by any number of marginalized groups in American society. A refreshing change from most action flicks that have been released in the past year or so, X-Men is not blatantly patriotic and makes interesting and relevant criticisms of American culture.

In X2 these two competing leaders, former friends, must reunite to fight the greater evil, a military scientist named William Stryker (Brian Cox), who is determined to exterminate all mutants. He has sent his mutant son Jason to Professor X's school in order to "cure him," but it has been a failure, and the boy ended up driving his mother to insanity through his gift of mind control. Stryker leads an attack on Professor X's school and attempts to kill all of the mutants. In order to stop him, the X-Men must join forces with their former foe, Magneto.

The failed attempt to "cure" the son of being a mutant relates to the underlying theme of homosexuality that runs throughout the X-Men films. There is even a coming out scene when Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) tells his family that he is a mutant. In the first film, there seemed to be a lot of sexual tension between Magneto and Professor X, but that premise is not as prominent in X2 as the two characters do not share very much screen time. Since many Americans fear those who are different, the government wants to institute mutant registration of these "freaks of nature" who could be a danger to the rest of society.

As in the first film, there is a good deal of interpersonal drama among Wolverine, Dr. Jean Grey, Cyclops, Iceman, and Rogue. The director seems to imply some type of romance between Storm and Night Crawler, which feels a bit superfluous and contrived. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who is breathtaking despite his modern day A Flock of Seagulls hairdo, still carries a flame for Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) although she has married Cyclops (James Marsden). Cyclops is so hot that if he takes off his sunglasses, his eyes can burn holes through buildings. Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Iceman are an item, but Rogue is still in love with Wolverine. Unfortunately, Rogue and Iceman still haven't figured out a way for them to touch without her stealing his powers and injuring him. Talk about sexual frustration!

The plot in X2 is more complex than in the first movie, and I felt a bit lost at times. Wolverine travels to Canada to try to discover his past; Night Crawler escapes to Boston**; and Professor X travels all over the place from Westchester to Magneto's plastic prison, to Stryker's underground lair. All these moves, although they are cool since the heroes use a futuristic jet, are kind of confusing, especially with the similarities in the layouts of the various headquarters.

There are also two layers of "bad guys," which made it difficult to figure out whom to root for. However, this ambiguity makes the film more intriguing and less clich├ęd than most. For once, the viewer has a certain degree of sympathy for almost every character on screen. However, I thought the filmmakers should have done more to establish the president's politics. We never hear him take a definitive stance on "the mutant problem," so it's hard to know whose side to take when Night Crawler invades the Oval Office.

The acting is excellent, especially the classic performances of Patrick Stewart (who looks just like my grandfather, incidentally), Hugh Jackman, and Ian McKellen. McKellen shines as the endearingly witty villain who outsmarts his opponents, makes impossible escapes and pokes fun at other people's hairstyles.

Halle Berry was disappointingly weak as Storm, but at least Storm is allowed to use her powers more in X2 than she did in the first one. Thankfully, she completely drops the dubious fake British accent that she used in the first half of the previous film. In terms of Night Crawler, I was confused as to the history of his character. We are supposed to sympathize with him since he is a devout Catholic with a devil's tail, but I find it difficult to take Alan Cumming seriously because he's generally so goofy. Also, his fake German accent was aggravating.

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos continues to impress as Mystique, the mutant who can morph into any form. I am so overcome with envy whenever I look at her! Unfortunately, Rogue's character is overlooked in X2, but, hopefully, she will be more integral to the next one.

X2, which is extraordinarily deep for an action movie, also includes some sharp humor, especially on the part of Wolverine and Magneto. One of my favorite parts is when Wolverine turns on the radio in the car he has just started with his claws and quickly turns it off because *NSYNC is playing. That particular boy-band won't stand the test of time, but the X-Men series, with its fantastic special effects, meaningful plot, intriguing characters, and brilliant acting, will (and should) continue for years to come. This movie introduces several young students who could play larger roles in the inevitable sequels.


______________
Footnotes
* My friends from Westchester would like me to point out that it is not, as the movie claims, "upstate," but is, in fact, a suburb of New York City.
** As they fly in their jet, the X-Men pick up a radio feed from Hanscom Air Force Base, which is about 5 miles from my house. However, Iceman's house is clearly not actually in Boston proper.




Recommended:
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More X2: X-Men United reviews
review by . December 12, 2010
Stephanie's Favourite Films: X2: X-Men United      I love comic book movies (well, most of them), and I thought i would show my love for them by reviewing my favourite installation of my favourite film series, X2: X-Men United. This is a great comic book film that benefits from many things, including it's great special effects, well-told story, and great ensemble cast. As much as I like the first one, this is definitely a step up, and in following, X-Men 3 was a big …
Quick Tip by . August 05, 2010
Takes a little too long to get where it's going and could use an edit as well as more screen time for some of it's characters but the story isn't bad and what is here is good.
review by . May 17, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
From the opening sequence, I knew this was going to be even better than the original X-Men. I loved the combination of Nightcrawler's attack on the White House with classical music. With Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, this film has all of the great acting and special effects of the first, plus new characters such as Inferno and Brian Cox as the mad scientist. Highly recommended.
review by . February 02, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
"X-2" picks up solidly where the original flick ended. Unlike most reviewers, I didn't think this film was any better than the first. I do believe that it is a good film in its own right. The first sequence, the attack on the White House, is by far the best sequence of the movie. Nightcrawler was one of my favorite X-men growing up. I also enjoyed the fact that they included his deep Catholic faith. The comic actually toyed with this character becoming a priest.   Overall, the action sequences …
review by . May 19, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Halle Berry, Rebecca Romaijn-Stamos and Kelly Hu are all in it     Cons: They don't get to do a whole lot     The Bottom Line: X-men. Still protecting us from evil mutants.     Whenever I think about a comic which got everything right, X-men immediately pops to mind. X-men is one of the better creations to come from the mind of comic legend Stan Lee, and there is no comic I could relate to better. X-men perfectly captures society’s …
review by . May 16, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: If you're into action and awesome effects, this one is for you!     Cons: Sometimes you wish you'd read the comics.     The Bottom Line: X2...let's just say it's too bad special effects weren't available a long time ago.     What can I say? This is a great movie with some of the best special effects I have ever seen - even better than the first one.      The movie starts up where the first left off, progressing …
review by . May 03, 2003
Pros: Some Great FX and Some funny moments     Cons: Plot holes, supporting characters and Patrick Stewart are not given enough to do.     The Bottom Line: A good summer diversion that with a little more attention could have been a classic.     The 2003 summer movie season is upon us with the release of X2 the highly anticipated follow up the 150 Million plus grossing “X-Men”. The film continues the story of a band of genetic mutants …
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X2: X-MEN UNITED, the remarkable sequel to X-MEN, picks up shortly after the first film's finale. At the White House, a would-be assassin--the acrobatic, teleporting blue mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming)--menaces the president. Meanwhile, in the Canadian Rockies, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) searches for answers to his mysterious past at the top-secret facility where he received his metallic skeleton and claws. Back at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) instruct students Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Pyro (Aaron Stanford), while Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Cyclops (James Marsden) pay a visit to the imprisoned Magneto (Ian McKellen). However, Magneto has a secret weapon in the shape-shifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). Soon allies and enemies alike will unite to defeat the hate-filled military scientist William Stryker (Brian Cox), who wants to rid the world of mutants. When Stryker launches a ruthless two-pronged atta...
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