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X2: X-Men United

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

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Still Evolving

  • May 19, 2003
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 lack of tolerance toward anything different, on both the whole and individual levels. As a person with a birth defect and a follower of a misunderstood religion, I’ve experienced the recieving end of both. So I can safely tell you Professor X has it much tougher than you think. You have the people who don’t understand you and therefore walk around talking trash, but as much as you’d like to go out there and knock some heads, you can’t because it goes against everything your religion stands for, not to mention every moral fiber in your body. All you can really do is suck it up and denounce the actions of the few who are making you look bad.

The mutants in Stan Lee’s X-men have to put up with the prejudice of normal human beings and also a group of mutant terrorists who seem to think they’re superior. So the good guys are basically defending the very people who are bent on taking away their basic rights, or worse. It’s a great concept for a comic, and we all know what happens to comics with great concepts. Here comes the Hollywood machine, trying to bring this concept to the masses while at the same time robbing it of its dignity. Human tolerance, individual character exploration, mutant powers, and mutant against mutant war are a mighty lot to cram into a two-hour special effects festival. The movie would require at least another hour just to fully scratch the surface of the X-men universe. As it goes, however, director Bryan Singer was able to create a twisted combination in those concepts along the line and as a result, X-men escapes the machine with most of its dignity intact.

The backstory of the X-men has to do with an evolutionary leap made once every few hundred thousand millenia. Evolution is a slow process which takes millions of years, but every so often, evolution makes giant strides. The latest giant strides are creating humans who have certain special powers. These powers run the gamut from the traditional powers (flying, invisibility) to things like retractable claws, metal manipulation, teleportation and even the ability to manipulate time. Unfortunately, tolerance is not humanity’s strong point, and so the scared pricks running the country are divided between letting the mutants run wild and free and setting up a mutant registration act to make sure the people who can walk through walls don’t walk into any bank vaults. It’s kind of like the Arab “problem” which is “plaguing” the country today.

Into the freedom/registration debate comes two exceptionally powerful mutants. Professor Xavier (X) is a wheelchair-bound psychic master who can read minds and communicate with people using his mind, fire off painfull psychic blasts in self-defense, and even manipulate time to certain extent. He takes note of the need for understanding between humans and mutants and is therefore training a group of young mutants called the X-men to use their powers to help mankind. X’s former friend Magnus (Magneto) is a powerful metal-manipulator who tried very hard to adopt Professor X’s tolerance views at one time. But he took one too many shots from the anti-mutants and started his own little breakoff group, the Brotherhood of Mutants, which holds strictly mutants-are-superior beliefs and tries to eliminate or at least enslave the norms. Professor X’s group draws the more noble crowd, while the Brotherhood mostly consists of uncontrolable juvenile delinquents. The two groups are naturally mortal enemies and square off with each other from time to time.

The last X-men movie ended with Magneto sitting inside a metal-free prison, but since Magneto is an integral element of the X-men universe, he of course finds a very creative way out. Now he’s free to go around attempting to decimate the humans again. Or so you think. The big threat this time is another closed-minded Senator called Stryker. Professor X’s failure to “cure” Stryker’s son of the mutant “disease” has apparently left Stryker with a massive vendetta against mutants. The Senator from the first X-men movie was also a tough critic against mutants, but he came around in the end, although he didn’t live long enough to express his new views (Mystique, in his guise, has been expressing his new views for him). Even so, the first guy never walked around trying to slaughter mutants. But that’s exactly what Stryker has in mind. So for awhile, Magneto and his lackey Mystique form an unlikely alliance with the X-men to slap some sense into Stryker.

Since X2 is a sequel, we can naturally expect some cool new characters along with the returning favorites. “Cool” is quite the operative word in the case of Iceman, who breathes ice and freezes things with his touch. He really has no long-run impact on the plot, but he does hold the distinct positions of being Rogue’s boyfriend and the human tolerance victim plot element. The opposite end of the thermometer contains Pyro, whose attitude is as hot as his fire-manipulation (but not creation) power. Colossus isn’t part of the movie, but he does have a pretty cool cameo. Behind every man is a woman, and behind Stryker is a hottie known as Deathstrike, whose footlong fingernails are the cause of some of Wolverine’s pain in a big fight scene. But with maybe two lines, she’s not given much else to do aside from looking good. Nightcrawler finally gets to the big screen too, and he makes a good show out of it. The first scene in the movie shows him trailing from a White House tour group, teleporting his way to the oval office while taking out every Secret Service agent in his way, and trying to kill the President. Before comic fans cry defamation, rest assured that Nightcrawler’s real personality shows up soon after, his devout Roman Catholicism included.

The gang from the first X-men movie is mostly there (fans of Toad and Sabretooth will just have to do without). And it amazes me that the supposed leader of the X-men, Cyclops, has even less to do than he did in the first movie, even though he’s still competing with Wolverine for Jean Grey’s affections. Jean has a big scene all to herself, but she generally doesn’t do a whole lot either. Rogue, so prominently featured in the first movie, is reduced to a supporting role as little more than Iceman’s girlfriend. Wolverine is as big a player as he ever was (imagine the uproar from the comic fans if he wasn’t), but he really got soft this time. Storm lives up to her name in a big special effects scene. Magneto, Mystique and Professor X all have prominent roles, even though Professor X doesn’t do much more than stare blankly into space for most of the movie.

I’ve mentioned the whole tolerance thing. Tolerance for people with these powers has been explored before. Spider-Man’s Jonas Jameson has a problem with Spidey, no matter what Spidey does. And the original Batman was a foe to the cops, not a friend, if only due to the fact that he was a vigilante. But tolerance is explored more realistically in X-men than in anything else. Some people want to hug the mutants, some want to hang them. The issue is addressed in one scene where Wolverine, Iceman, Pyro and Rogue all hide out in Iceman’s parents’ house. His folks don’t yet know of their son’s mutation, and they don’t take it lightly when he breaks the big news. Although mom and dad reassure him with that hollow “You’re our son, and we’ll always love you” promise, mom also displays her hypocrisy when she asks him, with a tongue-in-cheek grin, if he’s tried NOT being a mutant. When he leaves the house, you can feel his pain while his parents stand there protectively holding his brother. Even with all the action scenes in the movie, this will be the one that stays with you. Well, it stayed with me at least, even though no one ever asked me if I’ve ever tried NOT having a deformed arm (no) or if I’ve ever tried NOT being a Muslim.

Don’t walk into the theater expecting the amount of character development you would get from the comics. The movie is less than two hours long, and that’s time enough to only partially develop two characters. Our spotlight characters are Wolverine and, to a lesser extent, Nightcrawler. And Nightcrawler’s development is limited to a few things he mentions every so often. We learn his real name, that he’s a Roman Catholic who’s even gone as far as to carve religious symbols into his body, and he’s a former circus trapeze artist. Wolverine’s development goes much further, thanks in part to the plot, which tends to drag a bit of his past along for the ride.

Honestly, though, only elitists and diehard comic fans would care THAT much about the underdeveloped characters. If you’re that interested in the backgrounds of the characters, read the comics (or watch the shows, like I did). Bryan Singer’s object with X2 was to create an entertaining extravoganza filled with mutants fighting it out with their powers. In this, he succeeds admirably. The movie focuses mainly on the action, without even going as far as adding any suspense. Every mutant uses his or her power, and so situations that would cause suspense with regular action heroes are easily escaped by the mutants. If any coaches whose teams are filled with the letter I are reading this, this is a good movie to show them how to work as a team.

My big complaint about X2 is the fine cast which gets wasted with the characters they play. The only two actors who get to ham it up are Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Sir Ian McKellan as Magneto. The most criminal wastes involve Oscar winners Anna Paquin and Halle Berry. Paquin’s lack of meat as Rogue can be slightly forgiven because she had such a big role in the original X-men. Berry’s non-role as Storm is inexcusable. She competes for attention in every scene she’s in, and often loses. Even in her big tornado scene, her character loses out to the special effects. Rebecca Romaijn-Stamos has the figure to play Mystique, but most of her dialogue comes while she’s morphed. As actual Mystique, she gets maybe five lines of dialogue. Yet she still gets more dialogue than the underrated and underused Kelly Hu, who gets about two lines as Deathstrike. I understand Hu has her detractors, but anyone who remembers Martial Law, her short-lived TV series with Samo Hung, knows she’s a perfectly capable actress. Patrick Stewart, who seems to have finally left Captain Jean-Luc Picard behind him, is fine as Professor X but spends the second half of the movie doing little more than staring into space. Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey mostly shares Halle Berry’s problem. All the other actors, whose names escape me, are fine but mostly underused. Except for the portrayers of Iceman, Nightcrawler, and Pyro, all of whom got apt screen time.

Then there’s another problem. This is the second X-men movie and my favorite villain, Juggernaut, STILL hasn’t made his appearance. But I’ll overlook that little screwup, because the end leaves the doors for a sequel wide open. In fact, another X-men seems inevitable right now. But he better be in the next film. And how about a Sentinel or two, huh?

If you’re not the most diehrad fan of the comics, it’s time to hit the theaters with a bathtub full of popcorn, because the first great popcorn movie has arrived. Just sit back, let the messages take a backseat, and let your brain go numb. Dream up your own cool X-men powers (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I had some). Maybe it’s not The Matrix Reloaded, but what is? Besides, if you’re still in school or just out and have your brain shut off for the summer, it just doesn’t seem like the right time to see something that requires thinking. So X-men will fit the bill for now.

The Matrix still has me, though. After I see it, I’ll try to review it... (Exits through a nearby phone line)


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November 14, 2010
awesome review!!
More X2: X-Men United reviews
review by . May 02, 2011
Like I said in my review of Spiderman 2, comic book movies often have no problems when it comes to their sequels. In fact, the majority of comic-book movie sequels surpass the qualiy of their predecessors, this one included. This film took upon the huge task of surpassing the first film and it did just that, taking everything that made the first film great and capitalizing on it, giving the viewers more of what they like. It also takes on the herculean task (like the first film did) of being thoughtful …
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 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 …
review by . May 03, 2003
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. …
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Ranked #19
Hi! I'm here in part to plug my writing and let everyone know that I'm trying to take my work commercial.      Now, what about me? Well, obviously I like to write. I'm … more
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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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