on May 8, 2003
The defining characteristic of "X2: X-Men United" is the approval bestowed upon it by fans of the origin comic books; whereas the original "X-Men" movie was seen as truncated and flat in parts, the sequel delivers the goods fans craved: a full half-hour more action, and a dazzling opening sequence that features a mutant attack on the U.S. President. The mutant is a newcomer: Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) a German circus runaway with blue skin that can bounce and teleport at alarming speeds. Director Bryan Singer watched his first "X-Men" effort start with a slow burn of introducing the setup and character; "X2" had the "geeks" bouncing out of their seats.
What follows is a superhero movie on par with "Spider-Man" and the best parts of the "Superman" and "Batman" series. "X2" is a too busy and farfetched, but it keeps twisting, and it features a great villain in Col. Styker (Brian Cox) a military scientist bent on erasing the mutants from the Earth. In theme and approach, "X2" is similar to the second and best installment of the "Star Trek" series, "Wrath of Khan" -- "X2" features a large sacrifice from a major character, and serves as a launching pad for future installments. Just about anything could happen in "X3," and that's a testament to how well this movie is structured. Every important mutant is still on the playing field.
After the Nightcrawler attack -- a spectacular, dizzying assault through the hallways of the White House right to the president's desk -- "X2" sends its characters in various directions. Stryker, who has the president's ear, convinces the chief that the mysterious mutant school run by wheelchair-bound Xavier (Patrick Stewart) could be behind the attack. The real source is a nifty twist, but Stryker nonetheless storms the school while Xavier is away visiting his imprisoned enemy/friend Magneto (Ian McKellen).
Though human, Stryker is as formidable as either Xavier or Magneto -- he has methods of coercing mutants, putting him in position to rid the world of them through Cerebro, a special tracking machine only Xavier can use; how Stryker tricks Xavier into using it is one of the movie's best secrets. Because Stryker means to destroy the mutants for good; Magneto sets aside his grudge match with Xavier to save both their hides, hence the title.
Stryker also holds the key to the identity of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), the steel-knuckled, mutton-chopped tough man of the mutant school. "X2" has a full plate of characters, but Jackman's the star; Wolverine does most of the fighting, and serves as a romantic possibility for X-woman Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), a telekinetic with growing strength and X-girl Rogue (Anna Paquin), whose powers were coveted in the original movie, but not worth much this time.
Also onboard is Storm (Halle Berry) who finds and connects with a confused Nightcrawler, and bad-girl Mystique (Rebecca Romejn-Stamos) whose shape-shifting gifts bust Magneto out of prison and hack into Stryker's computer for his master plan.
Singer strains to offer every mutant decent screen time, which spreads "X2" a little too thin in the middle; one mutant that figured prominently in the first movie, Cyclops (James Marsden), mostly tags along in the sequel. Despite the generosity, Cox and Jackman return the forefront again and again as Stryker and Wolverine size each other up. Cox, actually, has played a similar role once before in the terrible Keanu Reeves vehicle "Chain Reaction;" what seemed cartoonish about his military monster in that movie works just about perfect here. Jackman has a look about him that fits the part, and he's surprisingly funny to boot -- the throwaway lines of David Hayter's script are one of "X2's" prime pleasures.
There aren't as many action sequences as you'd expect -- the canvas is so big, a good part of the movie is spent just leaving and arriving -- and none match the opening Nightcrawler attack, but there is enough for a fight junkie to appreciate. And though there's a bit of social commentary mixed into the movie's fabric, "X2" is nothing less than a fantasy. There's a climax, so to speak, beyond the climax, and then another climax beyond that, which is annoying, but it sets the table for a major transformation of Jean's character. Singer obviously has his options wide open for the third installment, which will presumably pit good and bad mutants against one another again. "X2" ends with Magneto having gained a precious new weapon for round three.
For what it does, "X2" does it very well. Singer is clearly serious about not letting the franchise descend into camp as "Batman" and "Superman" eventually did -- there are dumb moments, but they're quickly forgotten. It improves on the original and improves the chances of the series at the same time.
on May 9, 2003
The X-Men are back, with 2003's first blockbuster X2 directed by Bryan Singer. What's more it is bigger (some $50million), better, darker, longer, more action-packed and generally more exciting, with a substantial increase in the sexual tension.
In this highly enjoyable sequel, the warring parties from the first instalment are forced into a partnership of necessity to battle against an army scientist, Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox), who is determined to wipe all mutant life. To this end, in an excellent opening sequence, he coerces a teleporting mutant by the name of Nightcrawler into an attempt on the President's life with the purpose of turning both the public and the oval office against mutant kind.
All the favourite X-people from the first instalment including Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen), Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Storm (Halle Berry), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), Cyclops (James Marsden) and Famke Janssen (as Dr Jean Grey). In addition they are joined by three very noteable additions, Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), Pyro (Aaron Stamford) and Yuriko Oyama (Kelly Hu). Although Sabretooth and Toad are missing in action from the first movie they're not exactly missed (because lets face it they aren't the most exciting X-characters anyway)!
One of the things I most enjoyed about X2 is how much more there was than the first movie. More action, more humour, more X-Men (and X-children) a longer running time, and in particular, more Halle Berry, more Rebecca Romijn-Stamos and Famke Janssen, looking even more glamorous, more alluring and displaying more X-powers (as Dr Jean Grey) than she did in the first movie.
That said, the film is still dominated by two actors; Brian Cox (one of Scotland's finest actors) who makes an excellent villain as Colonel Stryker and Australian actor Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. For it is their personal conflict and previous history that encapsulates the battle between good and evil that is at the heart of this sequel. However, they are ably supported by all the previously mentioned cast members and the addition of the excellent character Nightcrawler, played by another Scotsman, Alan Cumming.
Kudos must also go to scriptwriters Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris and Director Bryan Singer, who was much criticised for the lack of action in the opening movie of this very profitable franchise. Dougherty and Harris have injected some subtle humour mainly absent from X-Men and Singer (with help from Editors John Ottman & Elliot Graham) has done well to seamlessly cram it all into 130 minutes, whilst still managing to keep to his promise of a darker sequel. Although critics may argue that much of the intelligence and thought-provoking elements from the first movie are much diluted X2 is still one of the finest comic book movie to date and exactly what X-fans were looking for in a sequel. Not only does X2 pave the way for a summer of superheroes, with The Matrix Reloaded and The Hulk imminent, but it also sets us up for the inevitable X3, although this is going to be hard to top.
on October 25, 2003
Hey, pardon my pun, but it's so refreshing to see a comic book movie that doesn't feel like solely a comic book movie that could never happen even in a parallel dimension that looked like a comic book. I mean, yes, Daredevil and Batman and all the rest were fun and all, but they never had the "look" that made you say, "by God, they've done it, I'm looking at life anew!" Well, with X-2, they've done it, my friends...
The first X-Men film was a necessary sacrificial lamb. With so many characters, good and bad, and each character having all their own ongoing multiple storylines and backgrounds and yadda yadda yadda, the first flick chopped all the excess fat and brought the comic book to life in a very realistic and engrossing world...However, it did have its flaws as well as a flat climax that felt like merely a prologue for future X-Films rather than a memorable first entry (though still better than most comic book tripe nevertheless).
X-2 one-ups all of that, though...Everyone from the first is back for more and even some newbies hitch a ride. Nightcrawler has been made into a gem of a character by Alan Cumming. The opening sequence with him involved in an assassination attempt is awesome and unrelenting. Pyro was always a silly "goofy-villain-with-bad-costume" in the X-books but he's much more compelling as an angst-ridden teen fighting temptation from the dark side of mutant powers, kind of like Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars Episode 2, but in this film it doesn't make you the moviegoer roll your eyes or consider suicide. There's a brief cameo from Colossus, another goodie mutie who will no doubt have a bigger and highly anticiapted role in the inevitable (and very welcome) X-3...
All the other charaters from the original are even better here and it's hard to give all of them equal playing time in such a movie, but in the end everyone knows the real title of these movies: "Wolverine and his Amazing Friends." Got it? Get used to it. Hugh Jackman as Wolvie is so good that it should be illegal to play a comic character that well. Absolutely criminal. Quick, someone call the acting police and give Michael Jai White a copy of X1 and X2, tell him that's how to play a badass. Then laugh at him for ruining "Spawn" anyway.
Needless to say, the plot is a foregone conclusion here and it's all just an excuse to -gasp- develop the characters. What? A popcorn movie with unobtrusive character development? Yep, that's X-2 alright; and it's all a hell of a lot of fun...
Consider the first X-Men film a plot progressing set up, because from the first opening scene in X2 your thrown head first into one of, if not the, best comic to film adaptions of all time, and one of the few times a sequel out do's the original. Almost all of the first film's entire ensemble cast returns: Patrick Stewart (Professor X), Hugh Jackman (ever perfect as Wolverine), Ian McKellan (Magneto), Halle Berry (Storm), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Cyclops), Anna Paquin (Rogue), and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique) are all back. Also, the film goes more in depth with Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) and introduces us to beloved characters Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming who turns out to be nearly perfect in the role) and Colossus. The storyline finds the X-Men months after the events in the first film, under siege by General Stryker (Brian Cox) who has his own agenda for mutant kind. Eventually the X-Men must team up with Magneto to stop him, and this is where the film shines. Director Brian Singer was critiqued quite a bit when it was said that the first film wasn't action packed enough; well, he made up for it here as X2 is action packed from beginning to end and the film pushes the limits of it's PG-13 rating. The performances are great, and while Jackman is his usually terrific self as Wolverine, he isn't the focus this time around and we get to see Berry more developed as Storm, Romijn-Stamos gets more screen time as well, and Janssen is better now as Jean Grey than anyone could have ever thought before. The special effects are nothing short of incredible; from Wolvie popping his claws to Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) popping hers, to Colossus' body turning to steel to Pyro's fire spewing shootout with the cops you will be in awe of the special effects wizardry. The only complaint here is that with the exception up towards the end of the film is once again Cyclops is a criminally underused character. Marsden is a good actor and Cyclops is a very interesting character and it is a shame he has gone so underused. All in all, X2 is much better than I could have ever hoped it to be, and this is undoubtadly one of the finest comic to film adaptions of all time.
on May 25, 2007
When taking into account all the comic book movies that have hit the theater recently this may sound like a bold statement, but really it's not. This may be a large grossing sub-genre but it isn't really that many movies we're talking about. With X2 though, I'm inclined to go even further and say it's one of the best sci-fi action films of all time...seriously. In terms of strictly comic book movies, it's simply either this or Batman Begins. I say X2 wins even in that comparison, but I'm certainly willing to accept the opposite view.
The film opens with a brilliant introduction to a crucial character, the German teleporter Nightcrawler who looks like a little blue demon but possesses an intense devotion to Catholicism, and his introduction does not serve to assist in painting him as a hero. More of an anti-hero I guess. I don't want to ruin it for those who haven't actually seen it but X2 opens with one of the more memorable action sequences of recent date and the film contains three more specific sequences that are just as good. Magneto's inevitable escape from his plastic prison is one of them.
One of the other memorable scenes sets up the real storyline for X2 quite nicely and introduces us to other mutant heroes in the process. William Stryker, an inventive military man, is motivated by his personal experience with mutant-kind to actually organize an assault on Charles Xavier's school for mutants. He wishes to gain access to the mutant tracking device called Cerebro and destroy all of them. His teams' assault is truely great action-filmmaking. The X-Men and Magneto, with his loosely forming band of mutants who agree with his politics on how to respond to humanity, find a common enemy in Stryker. The relationship established between Charles and Magneto in the first film is really important here as younger mutants develop and choose sides. I have to say, if I were in their predicament I may certainly be swayed by Magneto's extremism. The character developement here for supporting roles is important to note. Mystique and Pyro are really great villains here with massive emotion behind their actions and it's never over-stated, but it enhances the meaning and consequences to action sequences so well.
The other incredible action scene is when Bobby Drake's family calls the cops on him and his new mutant friends. There are enough under-stated layers in this scene and the characters; Wolverine, Rogue, Bobby and Pyro, are still consistent. The police show up and Pyro reveals his wrath. I always get excited for that scene even though I know he's wrong in his reaction. I mentioned four action sequences but the fun doesn't end there. Lady Deathstryke, who has been brainwashed by Stryker, and Wolverine have a great fight scene. Other scenes during the climax are just as impressive and all the while we are given enough tid-bits of so many characters that we still manage to care and even get a bit surprised near the end. It's a shame this wasn't pulled off in the third film.
X2 is unique in the sense that the plot is secondary and the film's primary operative is to develop the characters for more climactic stories. I think the screenplay succeeds in this sense but overall the screenplay (written by voice actor David Hayter) is not one of the film's strengths and can require a more robust imagination to really appreciate. Overall though, within the context of a complete trilogy, X2 is nearly perfect.
It's rule of thumb sequels rarely equal the original. Even when they do, the fans are general a bit jaded, knowing what to expect on the second go around, so even if it is as good, it's not as fresh. Expectations can really hurt a film. Everyone is so excited they often expect MORE, and so are let down no matter how good the film is. So going in, sequels have a hard road. When one is as good it's rare; when it's BETTER that is unbelievable. WEll, believe it - X 2 is even better.
The characters are set, so this film gives the chance to explore them a little deeper. Glad to say the whole cast is back. Super fun to see Gandolf being a bad guy! Ian McKellan is back as Magneto the mutant who sees the destruction of mankind as the only way for the mutants to survive. Patrick Stewart is Professor Charles Xavier, the kindly mentor who has a safe haven for mutants and works for their betterment for all. Back also are Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine; Halle Berry magnificent as Storm; Famke Janssen as Jean Grey and Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly . Also, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mystique, Magneto's new sidekick, Brian Cox (the first Hannibal Lector) as Striker, his mutant killer Yuriko Oyama is played well by Kelly Hu and super addition is Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler. The whole cast does a wonderful job.
When we last saw Magneto, he'd been imprisoned within a plastic jail, since any metal can be reformed and used by him. Everyone was happy at the school run by Xavier, while Logan was off trying to figure out his past. The Senator was now a mutant.
After the Nightcrawler attacks the president in a protest for Mutant's rights, Striker is able to pressure the president into a campaign against Xavier's School, playing right into Magneto's plans. Short order, Mystique has Magneto free, but Xavier has been taken by Strike who is trying to manipulate him into killing all the mutants. Thus in a switch, the good mutants must work with Magneto to free Xavier.
It's lightning pace, wonderful effects, great fight scenes and stronger character development. It's just an outstanding action flick that leaves you hungry for X 3!!
on October 23, 2002
X-Men 2 is based on a X-Men graphic novel called, "God Loves, Man Kills". Considered one of the best stories ever told in the X-Men universe! In X2, the main baddie is a man named Gen. William Striker who leads an assault against the X-Men... at the school! Joining Striker will be Yuriko Oyama, aka Lady Deathstrike, Mystique and other mutant baddies along with Striker's own forces. In the movie, Gen. Striker holds the keys to Wolverine's past in which he is so desperately seeking. X2's final major battle takes place at the abanded military base at Alkali Lakes which Professor X told Wolverine about in the first movie. Mutant cameos include Gambit, Colossus and many, many more. Unfortunately, Beast's cameo has been cut and there will be no Danger Room scene or Sentinel action. But this movie sounds action packed, unlike the first one, and will be the "Empire Strikes Back" of this franchise.
on March 12, 2004
First off, for those of you who don't know, the background of the films is this: there are two major races on earth - humans and mutants. Humans are us, basically. Mutants are folks who are born with a x-factor in their genes which gives them superhuman powers - reading minds, turning things to ice, healing, creating storms, etc. Due to the mutants' exceptional powers, humans tend to be afraid of them. Not all mutants are bad, but those that are are nearly unstoppable, and that is incredibly frightening for American and others who are used to safety and security.
While the first movie deals with "the good mutants" (led by Xavier) versus "the bad mutants" (led by Magneto), the second movie puts a real twist on this. Here, one human (Stryker) acts as a mastermind to rid the world of mutants. Thus, the great mutant minds now need to work together to stop his efforts.
The reasons why I enjoyed this film are pretty similar to why I enjoyed the first film.
1. The man Xavier(played masterfully by Patrick Stewart)embodies every ideal we hope for in fellow man. Though wrongly persecuted, he uses his incredible powers & understanding for good rather than revenge.
2. The relationship betweem Xavier and Magneto (played equally masterfully by Ian McKellen). This complex friendship and opposition of equals is fascinating...and rare in epic films. Magneto is everything that Xavier is except that he is shrewder than Xavier and believes the solution to their troubles lay in wiping out humans.
3. The fact that the whole set-up is laced with social commentary. Most of these themes are overt and are predictable - anti-war, tolerance, the impact of evolution. Generally, I despise preachy messages. However, here you can understand why the humans are afraid of the mutants, but you also see the vulnerability of the mutants.
4. I thought Nightcrawler's character development added some spiritual depth to the film. He quotes from the Bible and speaks of angels and sin...all the while looking like a little devil with his black tail. This adds the involvement of the heavenlies into a situation that is beyond our control.
5. The action, the cast of characters, the cinematography were all great. There are some flaws with the logic of the plot, but it wasn't too critical to me.
As for performance analysis of the stars, how much they stuck to the comic books, and plot flaws, I will leave that to more able reviewers than myself. But, as a regular ol' movie watcher, I very much enjoyed the journey to this world the 2nd time round. And I do hope they make another movie...but only if they can keep up this quality.
on November 4, 2003
I cannot stand these movies now a days where substance is sacrificed for special effects,computer generated animation, silly 1970's chop socky fighting, and glitsy camera tricks that seems to be the norm for movies coming out today. Gladly X2 surprised me. This is by far the best action movie I've seen in a long time. The characterization is wonderful and never corny (almost) and the fight sequence especially with wolverine and deathstrike is excellent.
on June 2, 2003
[...]P>It sure looks as if "X2" is on the right track for a sequel, and if anything, it seems better. The budget is obviously bigger as we see the truly amazing special effects in the beginning of the film, and though the action never quite again reaches its high-point as in the beginning, it sets the film up for other non-stop action sequences, just like the James Bond movies are known for doing.
But that's not all "X-Men 2," or "X2" as the posters abbreviate, is all about. It has an important human element that adds to the pure, non-stop, full-blooded action-spectaculars throughout the film. The cast is bigger, the budget is bigger, the story is bigger, and the action is plentiful. Teenagers will enjoy the action side, and adults will probably enjoy the human side to the story. It seamlessly combines both these two elements/techniques even more than the original film did. I didn't expect to enjoy this film more than the first, but I must say I did.
It reunites the old cast for a continuation of the struggle for mutants and humans to live together in the same world.
[...] "X-Men" was an excellent comic-book adaptation, in more ways than one, and "X-Men 2" is only better. It contains more action than "Spider-Man" and its human factor is even more active than it was in the original, which is ironic, since the original was praised for having both action and human attributes.
The cast is first-class, but the real scene-stealer, just like in the original, is Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. The Aussie actor disguises his accent with a rough American one, just like British chap Bob Hoskins did in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?". If the filmmakers want a new James Bond after Pierce Brosnan, they need look no farther, because though he may not look the part in this film, Jackman can look very suave and proper (see "Kate and Leopold"), and is my top choice for the next Bond.
Comic book films are usually hit-or-miss. They're never in between. "X-Men" was an unexpected hit, but more than that, a good unexpected hit. It wasn't all hype. It was smart, action-packed and hat a great character side to it. Like I said before, "X-Men 2" improves upon all this and is the rare sequel that is better than its predecessor.
I expect "X-Men 2" to break some box office records, and unlike other films, I can honestly say that it deserves it.