X2: X-Men United

Get comfortable for this 133 minute opus that’s very faithful to the characters based on the comic book series and the first film directing by the returning Brian Singer.

Rebecca Romijn Stamos again stands out as Mystique, not only for her physical presence (notice the camera orientation of her in the background during an exterior sequence in the woods), but for her functional role where she gets the opportunity to make an appearance in her own skin which adds an entertaining, but predictable, element for the audience while giving her a break from her long and unique costume process. Mystique gets to mess with peoples’ minds to enhance the action in the plot, but Professor Charles Xavier’s ability to mess with minds takes a much heavier impact and provides the main plotline in the film’s second half. Patrick Stewart returns as the Professor along with Halle Berry as Storm and Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Gray.

The most aggressive characters, Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, and Magneto, played by Ian McKellen, appropriately provide most of the violence in this installment. The competing affections for Jean between Wolverine and Cyclops/Scott Summers, played by James Marsden, runs parallel to Rogue’s budding romance with Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman, played by Shawn Ashmore in a greatly expanded role. Wolverine and Bobby get to hash out their relationship frustrations in a nice interior kitchen scene inside the school, while the plot provides a new vision for Jean, but Rogue only gets a simple romantic challenge.

New film series characters Nightcrawler, Alan Cumming, and Lady Deathstrike/Yuriko Oyama, played by Kelly Hu, provide some important action. Cumming gets the better role as the mostly silent Hu is only showcased in a fight sequence. Pyro, played by Aaron Stanford, gets next largest expanded role of an academy student whose path has great potential in future installment if his development and management goes beyond the short talk in the plane shown in this film. Shadowcat, Beast, Siryn, Artie/Leech, Colossus and Gambit make noticeable, but mostly quick appearances wetting the audience’s appetite for more of their appearances in future film installments.

The story works and blends the numerous characters together well, but more creativity would’ve helped in the slower areas. At times the plot slows to show you the massive sets (notice Wolverine’s first scenes where the set wasn’t very realistic) reminding you that you’re watching a film, not an ideal tactic for a film with sci-fi escapism elements. Also, audiences have seen the president so many times; it’s not extraordinarily effective unless a superstar or the actual president is cast in the role. The plot gets a bit slow at times, especially during a detour in Boston – important to show what the students go through in their real lives, but the audience may look as bored as Wolverine does. Notice how Wolverine’s simple gadget discovery in Cyclops’ car gets him out of this slow sequence while moving the plot into more action.

You may want Wolverine’s storyline to have more closure or more visual records of his past. This reviewer though a flashback would’ve served an audience well, but a flashback of Wolverine’s past other than the painful transformation process he went through wouldn’t serve the purpose of the plot which is to show that every being can make the choice to be good and conquer evil. Everyone already knows bad things and bad people exist in the world, so Wolverine’s sordid past doesn’t need to be shown. Wolverine doesn’t remember his mistakes in the past, but makes the choice do good in his current life. X2 keeps the audience focused on the characters and how they develop their powers. The action speaks louder than words and works perfectly in the action film genre.

Lots of comic references and some small homages from the last installment, mostly for comic relief. Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for violence, sexuality and language.

Copyright © Michael Siebenaler

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