X-Men 2: X-Men United (X2)
Reviewed by: John Ulmer
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X-Men 2: X-Men United (X2)
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Brian Cox, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Kelly Hu and Anna Paquin
MPAA Classification: PG-13 (strong comic violence, brief language, brief sexuality/nudity)
The film begins. We are shown a tour guide leading students and adults through the White House in Washington, DC. It seems normal enough. A security guard notices someone straying off the path and asks if he is lost. The man raises his head, and a tail flicks out from behind him. Before the security guard can do anything he is down on the ground, alerting all security in the area of a mutant attack.
The blue creature, known later as Nightcrawler, teleports past dozens of guards and kicks and whips them with his tail and fists. Finally the action dies down with the creature being shot (not killed), and we are left to catch our breaths. Reader, I'll tell you, it took me a few moments to catch mine.
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.
The film begins with an assassination attempt on the president's life, carried out by a teleporting mutant. This act upsets the entire world, and the president is about to begin the mutant-human war predicted by Xavier in the first film. In an effort to get to the bottom of the attack on the president's life, and prevent world-wide war, Xavier sends out Storm (Halle Berry) and Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to search for the teleporting mutant and discover the truth behind the assassination attempt.
Meanwhile, Logan "Wolverine" (Hugh Jackman) has returned to Xavier's mansion after searching for any signs of his past. He has found none. He is greeted by Rogue (Anna Paquin) and her new boyfriend Bobby "Iceman," who was briefly seen in the first film and is given a deeper character backdrop in this film.
But soon things start to turn for the worst as an attack on Xavier's mansion is led by Stryker (Brian Cox), the man behind the assassination attempt, who wants all mutants to be killed off. He kidnaps Charles Xavier, and reveals that he wishes for Charles to kill all mutants.
How? By focusing Xavier's psychic powers/telepathy on a particular group of people, Xavier can actually kill them. So Stryker plans to use his disowned mutant son (who also has psychic powers) to control Xavier's mind (sort of) and focus on all the mutants in the world, automatically killing them.
With this plot in motion, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) has little time to free Eric "Magneto," which results in a truly amazing escape sequence which I will not spoil for you.
Now, in an ironic moment, old enemies must fight together to bring down Stryker before his plan follows through. But the band of X-Men are far from solving their problems, as a new mutant, Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) may stand in their way of defeating Stryker. And Wolverine may also find the key to his past in this mess.
"X-Men 2," unlike other sequels, improves upon itself. Tragic sequels go to the dogs when the filmmakers are either too proud to try and surpass the original, or are too arrogant to even attempt it. "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.
John Ulmer, May 4th, 2003
Copyright, 2003, John Ulmer
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