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X2: X-Men United (2003)

PG-13 · 134 minutes

Directed by Bryan Singer
Written by Michael Dougherty, Daniel Harris, David Hayter

 · Hugh Jackman
 · Patrick Stewart
 · Ian McKellan

Review by Thom Stricklin

I've referenced the quote before, and lord knows I will again. Said Randy in Scream 2, "A sequel, by definition alone, is an inferior film." Of course, there are a few masterful and noted exceptions: The Empire Strikes Back, Godfather II, T2: Judgement Day.

Add X-Men 2 to the list.




The screenwriters deserve the first pat on the back.  One of the major complaints of the first film concerned the writing.  As soon as the movie had begun, it seemed, the end credits were rolling.  Characters were left undeveloped, and very little occured in terms of conflict.  X2 merits no such complaints.  I'm actually quite amazed how much they were able to fit into the second film.  Storm, Nightcrawler, Iceman, Col. Stryker...  Virtually every major character, and many secondary characters, get a chance to show off--not just their powers, but just as importantly, who they are.  Even the characters who were featured prominently in the first film--Logan, Jean, Cyclops, Xavier, Magneto--are all developed significantly further in this film, be it by big action scenes or single, well-crafted lines of dialogue.

The most delicious dialogue, by the way, comes from Magneto (Ian McKellan).  Thanks to both the writing and McKellan's delivery, we're provided with a whole slew of eloquent quips and observations that showcase just how brilliant yet cynical his character is.  In contrast, there are no groaners like Storm's "lightning" joke from the first film.  Oddly, the only complaint I have about the dialogue is the delivery of a single line by Hugh Jackman, as he and the X-kids escape in Cyclops' Mazda.  "I don't remember," Logan replies when asked about Stryker.  Something in the tone of his voice sounded a little out of character, perhaps over the top.  But don't get me wrong... Wolverine has been my single favorite comic character since junior high, so for this to be my only complaint speaks volumes.  As with all the major players in this film, Hugh Jackman nailed the performance.  (Speaking of good performances, James Marsden turned in a surprising one--perhaps the film's best--in a key scene.  Just wait & see. =D )

Concerning plot, I hesitate to say too much at risk of spoiling the film. My one disappointment is in the vehicle Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) uses to wage his war on mutants.  Just as in the first film, the primary threat is--gasp!--a diabolical machine that threatens millions of lives.  It's not terrible, but a rather cliché and anticlimatic.  Other than that, X2 accomplishes what all good sequels must: push the characters to grow and evolve, no pun intended.  Some fans, some members of the crew, and even Bryan Singer himself have likened this film to The Empire Strikes Back, and it's a fair comparison.  More fitting, I feel, is comparing it to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  The character development, the plot, even the villanous threat is more alike, and it's pleasant.  No surprise, either, considering Bryan Singer is a huge Trekkie.

Cinematography and set design were some of the original X-Men's strongest points, but even those are vastly superior in the sequel.  Some of the sets, particularly the military base, are breathtaking in their amount of detail. Camera shots were both unique and quite fitting for the comic-book genre, like Road to Perdition and Unbreakable, leaving us with some memorable visuals.




Buy the big tub, because there's lots of popcorn.  While not losing any of its intelligence or maturity, X-Men 2 kicks the action up several notches.  The raid on the X-Mansion was intense...  Along with some cool moves from Colossus, Kitty Pryde, and some of the other X-kids, we get to see Logan slip into a mild berserker rage.  In fact, though there's no gore, I'm amazed they didn't pull any punches concerning violence.  As is said in the film itself, there are casualties.

Another scene this is true for is Magneto's prison break.  This might actually be my favorite action scene, just because it shows how brutal the man can be when he wants to.  Of course, another strong contender for the top action scene is the fight between Wolverine and Deathstrike.  Did I mention something about brutal? Ouch! They teach each other what a pin cushion feels like! Don't get me wrong; I'm not a glutton for gratuitous violence.  Quite the contrary, I'm relieved to see some of these characters get tough and brutal when they should, when it is necessary and something those characters would do.

There's so much I could say about the action, especially the visual effects.  Dogfights, storms, bamf attacks, a closer look at Cerebro...  This film offers tons more eye candy than the first, and it's all pretty flawless--no generic white glowing orbs.

Is there any fault to the entertainment value of this film? If I can find any criticism, it might be that they actually do too much in this film, cram too much story, characters, and action into a two-hour film.  But I'm not going to make that complaint. Those that would should first consider the alternatives: lose some of the content, all of which is valuable, or make the film longer and risk inducing boredom through the running time alone.



I'm quite happy with X-Men 2, just as it is.  I only have two gripes.  I'm afraid the first film might become unwatchable in comparison, and I'm annoyed that I must wait nine more days to see X2 a second time.

If you liked X-Men, Spider-Man, or Daredevil, or are a fan of the genre waiting for something better to come along...  See this movie! Make no mistake: this may very well be the "event film" of 2003, even if it isn't marketed as such.

914 Words · Published: 23 April 2003

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