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X2 Special Coverage:
X2 Movie Review By Brendan Deneen
First off, I’m happy to report that the term “X-Men United” does not appear anywhere in or around X2. I’m no fan of these abbreviated titles (T2, ID4, etc.) but anything is better than the last-minute sub-title for X-Men 2 (in fact, they’re not even all that united… untied perhaps but more on that later).
SPOILER FREE REVIEW: This is an exciting, ass-kicking movie that treats all of its characters (except Cyclops) with respect. Each character’s background/personality from the first movie is built upon and there is an ease to the personal interaction that is a joy to watch. The action sequences are uniformly well-done and the plot is tight. The ending is shock-inducing and will please fans of the “All-New, All-Different” Uncanny era.
SPOILER-HEAVY REVIEW: The movie opens with a kick-ass action sequence involving a bamf-heavy Nightcrawler and the President of the United States. Rest easy: this is your Cockrum’s fuzzy elf, utilizing all of the requisite agility, tail-action and teleporting necessary to bring Kurt Wagner to life. My only beef is with Singer’s decision to give Kurt religious scarring, effectively hitting the audience over the head with the spiritual undertones (or overtones, as the case may be). In fact, I thought he was too religious; the lighthearted swashbuckling Nightcrawler I remember from those early Uncanny issues is only glimpsed now and again in the movie. I hope it’s something they expand on in X3: X-Men Hugging.
We segue to Wolverine’s story, which picks up pretty much exactly where it left off after X1. I have to say that Hugh Jackman continues to be the embodiment of Wolverine, with the exception of his height. If you can get around that fact, he simply IS the hirsute berserker personified. His continued search for the secrets to his past are absolutely true to the comic and are once again only hinted at, leaving us salivating for more.
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Wolvie makes his way back to the mansion and reunites with the rest of the X-People, which results in several nice moments with the exception of Cyclops, who is given short-shrift throughout the movie. He is given the “Robin” role in this movie and I think it’s a damn shame; it’s the only real problem I had with the film.
Professor Picard… er… Xavier splits the team up (always a good move with a cast this large), heading to Magneto’s prison with Cyclops while Storm and Jean Grey (a great combination) seek out Nightcrawler. Meanwhile, Wolverine plays babysitter, hanging out with Iceman (and a great moment with a Dr. Pepper… yes, a Dr. Pepper). Mystique is also busy at this point and she is one of the highlights of this film, being used to great effect, especially compared to her somewhat one-dimensional role in X1.
All hell breaks loose at this point: government ops attack the mansion and Wolvie goes ballistic; Professor X and Cyclops are attacked at the prison; and Jean Grey and Storm try to calm an understandably suspicious Nightcrawler. The scenes in the X-mansion are among the best in the film and it is amazing to see Colossus in action (though it’s not enough, damn it!). Back at the prison, Mystique brilliantly smuggles in some metal for her master (also one of the coolest visual scenes in the film… Magneto at his evil best).
From here on out, our mutants are on the run, outnumbered and outgunned. There’s a great trip to Bobby Drake’s familial home and Pyro breaks out as one of the best new characters in the film (played believably by the lead actor from Tadpole, Aaron Stanford). Magneto takes a special interest in the angst-ridden teenager (X-Men United?… I think not), which will undoubtedly play out in X3.
The action culminates at Stryker’s underground lair, where fights galore break out. Brian Cox is utterly amazing as Stryker and Kelly Hu is icy hot as Deathstrike. We see two of our beloved X-Men fighting each other, with eventually tragic results. This climactic sequence is incredibly well-executed, especially since it doesn’t end utilizing the clichéd “big bang” theory… there are a multitude of smaller denouements that conclude with one massive surprise that isn’t really all that surprising if you’re a long-time fan.
The epilogue is also a highlight, as the X-Men visit the President. It is a well-directed scene and the final shot fully sets up the next film.
All in all, X2 is a great movie (with the characterization of Cyclops the major exception, much to the movie’s detriment) that surpasses the original. I’d still put Spider-Man and Superman above it, but this movie is certainly going to give The Matrix Reloaded a run for its money this summer.