X2: X-Men United

Posted: May 31, 2017 in Comics, Movies
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I saw X2 while I was away at college. Walking out of the cinema me and my buddy turned to one another with the biggest grins. We’d just seen one of the best comic book movies to date in 2003. X2 does everything bigger and better than the first film. The plot is more ambitious, the action much more accomplished and the world is expanded with several new character introductions and expansion for those we already know. Bryan Singer, no doubt about it, knocked his X-Men sequel out of the park and it’s still to this day a fantastic X-Men movie.

The plot of X2 sees the government grow more fearful of mutants after the events of the first film. Col. Stryker (Brian Cox) , a black op’s like agent with ties to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Professor X (Patrick Stewart) uses that fear as an excuse to enforce his own deadly plan to get back at Professor X and mutantkind for his own personal reasons. Stryker sees mutants at best as tools to be used and at worse as deadly threats that must be wiped out. Meanwhile Magneto (Ian McKellen)remains in custody for his extremist actions from the first film but it isn’t long before he once more sets out to fight for the rights of mutants whatever the cost. The writers on X2 do a great job of carving out a strong narrative that not only has to serve many, many characters but expand the scope of the X-Men on screen and it’s a credit to them that they achieve it with X2.

Bryan Singer shows off way more confidence this time around. The opening of the movie features one of the genre’s most celebrated sequences that is still praised today as the teleporter Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) carries out an assassination attempt on the U.S. president. Stryker’s assault on the Xavier Institute is a total blast, you get to see Wolverine let loose, several fan fave mutant cameos  and a variety of cool displays of mutant abilities as the students and staff attempt to hold off the soldiers. One of the best parts of the whole film is a knock out brawl between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu), a character those familiar with the comics will know and their showdown is flat out brutal.  Composer John Ottman delivers a thumping score throughout the whole movie which is simply terrific.

As I said the roster of characters old and new is massive so forgive me for not mentioning everyone save to say all of the actors are great in their roles. Personally I loved that Mystique (Rebecca Romijin) got way more to do. Her character is used really well. Jackman, Stewart, Cox and Mckellen are fantastic as usual. Famke Janssen’s Jean Grey gets her own subplot throughout with major payoff at the end that comic fans will eat up. Nightcrawler and Deathstrike are good but it’s Aaron Stanford as fire manipulator Pyro who makes the biggest impression and his arc is very interesting. Sadly the always good James Marsden gets sent to the bench for most of the film and it’s a shame as he’s a good Cyclops but with a roster this large someone had to suffer.  Halle Berry’s Storm is also given a lot more to do this time out.

X2 has been cited as one of the best comic book movies of all time and I think it can still lay claim to that. It’s easy to forget in this MCU/DCEU age how hard it is to juggle ambition, scope and stakes while attempting to stay true to the source and while the X-Men movies may not always knock it out of the park they manage to do just that when the right care and attention is put into their making and that’s certainly the case with X2. The closing of the movie promised a thrilling third outing for Marvel’s mutants but sadly that would not exactly go as planned. That’s a tale best saved for another time though.

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