Published on May 5th, 2003 | by Erich Becker0
Review: X2: X-Men United
Comic book movies are a rather quirky device in Hollywood, because no matter how bad the adaptation is, and no matter how awful the acting, plot, direction, etc. are studios will still make millions of dollars from the die hard fans who have waited decades to see their favorite superheroes on screen for the first time. Enter the curiously named X2: X-Men United as it debuts hot off the heals of Spider-Man’s record breaking opening and following the mediocre showing of Ben Affleck’s dark, yet lacking, Daredevil.
Director Bryan Singer should have a statue at Marvel Studios for what he has done with this series. Bringing the comic book to life with such attention to detail should be inspiring for any director looking to make hordes of fan-boys happy. Singer’s direction is a shinning point burns just a bit brighter than the stellar performances by Hugh Jackman as Wolverine and Alan Cumming’s amazingly accurate depiction of Nightcrawler. Singer may have had a leg up on older directors who might of found it hard to go back to a comic book and learn about these characters enough not to be disemboweled by fans after the first screening. Where X-Men set up the stage, X2 brings down the house.
X2 skips all of the mandatory introduction of characters and gets right into the action. After a similar opening title sequence to the first movie, we are thrust right into nearly two hours of violent mutant fighting that had everyone on the edge of their seats and clapping each time Wolverine skewered a soldier with his claws. The movie opens with Nightcrawler attacking the President in the oval office of the White House. Through some amazing special effects the stunt and motion capturing work comes to life with a familiar “BAMF!”
X2 is actually an adaptation of the X-Men graphic novel “God Loves, Man Kills” which was re-released earlier this year in preparation of the movie’s debut. The story focuses on William Stryker (Brian Cox) a military veteran who calls upon the President to authorize an infiltration into Professor Charles Xavier’s School for the Gifted. Here one of the film’s best action sequences takes place as Wolverine battles dozens of commandos who take orders from the very man who could hold the key to his past. Although the attack on the school is not Stryker’s motive, he wants cerebro, or pieces of it, for a master plan to wipe out every last mutant on the face of the planet.
As mentioned before Alan Cumming and Hugh Jackman’s performances are amazing, they take the characters of Nightcrawler and Wolverine, respectably, to new heights as the drawings come to life with indiscriminate accuracy. The entire cast from X-Men is back to reprise their roles, for the most part. Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) are served up more screen time than in the first movie while Rogue (Anna Paquin), a staple in the first film, is reduced to somewhat of a bit character role. Storm appears on screen with a new wig and minus the annoying accent from the first film, no doubt in part of Halle Berry’s new found ego at the hands of the Academy. Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen), although key to the story, plays a smaller role than the first film while Mystique’s (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) screen time is nearly doubled. Cyclops (James Marsden) and Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) are also sent to the back while the story mainly focuses on Wolverine’s quest to learn about his past and Jean Grey’s (Famke Janssen) internal struggle with her increasing power. Several other X-Men make cameo appearances. Colossus, Kitty Pryde, and a few others I won’t mention liven things up a bit and set up a number of characters to appear in a shoe-in sequel.
With such an large cast you may think it would be confusing to keep track of them all but for fans of the series you should have no trouble. Although with so many characters and such a wide range of specific powers the script does pigeon hole some of the action sequences to take advantage of a specific mutant’s powers. “We have six kids stuck in a hole and we don’t have a key, who can teleport them to safety?” Stuff like that proceeds through most of the film but it hardly detracts from anything because you want to see these characters use their powers. The film also suffers from a somewhat lack of plot, but you aren’t going to see this for a deep emotional triumph over adversity, you are seeing it to watch mutants with kick-ass powers kick some ass, and you get what you paid for.
X2 is based on the X-Men comic book, but takes a much more violent and darker role along the lines of Daredevil as opposed to Sony’s Spider-Man. Several reports even indicated the film carried an R rating through the first couple of cuts until a few scenes were shortened.
Regardless of your quips on the lack of plot or convenient devices that further that paper-thin plot X2 serves just what you want to see. Lots of cool mutants that you grew up with, on the big screen, and killer special effects realistic enough to make you believe your graphic novel has taken a new home. I know a sequel is in the cards, I just hope it is sooner rather than later, three years is a long time to see a certain character “reborn.”