X2: X-Men United
Starring:
Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen
Directed By:
Bryan Singer
Grade
A

On the success of the original X-Men movie, director Bryan Singer has made a sequel that ends up being even better in that it manages to pull a lot of resources to fully realize a well-established universe. But rather than watering down the story for those uninitiated to the extensive storyline that is the X-Men comicbook, Singer gives a hearty tale that focuses itself on pleasing the fans and letting the rest play catch-up. This is the kind of film that one goes to see with someone who has read the comics, so that someone can catch you up on all the fan-service crammed into the 2+ hours of film.

The story begins with a mutant attack on the President, which provides an opportunity for William Stryker to attack the Xavier Institute, home of the X-Men and the mutant students who are there to learn how to cope with their abilities. While Storm (Berry) and Jean Grey (Janssen) are off hunting down the mutant that attacked the President and Professor X (Stewart) and Cyclops (Marsden) are visiting Magneto (McKellen) in his prison, Wolverine (Jackman) is left alone to defend the house and children from the military force. Events unfold in which the X-Men, including the freakish newcomer Nightcrawler (Cumming), must rescue Professor X from Stryker, who plans to use the telepath to reach out and kill the mutant populace. While the story itself may not be win any Oscar awards, it does manage to capture the feel of the comics very well. Singer and crew should be commended on realizing a comic on film.

X2 is jam-packed with action. Rather than spending lots of time on building up the relationship of the characters, which was fortunately established in the first film, you're given the heart of the story right away. That's not to say that character development is skimped on. In fact, there's a number of moments where each of the major characters are given a change to evolve and show their own character and the reasons behind their actions. A lot of the cast just shows a charm that begs you to care for them. The relationships are established and fleshed out so well that when trauma happens to the "family", you can't help but feel effected by it.

Special effects are vastly improved in this sequel. Not to say the original film has poor effects, but this time around, the film isn't pulling punches to hide deficiencies in the special effects. While the characters still feel human and their abilities do have a sense of reality to them, the overall quality of the effects gives more power to the extraordinary aspect of the characters. Throw in some great make-up work (both Nightcrawler and Mystique look amazing), excellent set-work and some fine costuming, and you have a complete package that really complements the characters and story well.

I really commend Singer and cast for continuing to develop these characters in the film, so much so that you actually feel sympathy for them at times. Jackman is wonderful as the rough and conflicted Wolverine, a man whose own past escapes him. He rises to the occasion when his newfound "family" comes under attack. Wolverine continues his forbidden passion for Jean Grey, who is struggling with her own powers that seem to be wavering out of her own control. Halle Berry gets more quality character time while being teamed up with Nightcrawler, a sharp pairing that works well to flesh out both characters. The younger mutants, including Rogue (Paquin) and Iceman's (Ashmore) relationship, are given some depth in their screen time and really emphasize the underlying themes of prejudice and good versus evil.

Probably the strongest aspect of the film are the awesomely scripted action sequences. From the first time you meet Nightcrawler to the fight sequence with Wolverine in the mansion, X2 delivers for action buffs. Also, it's nice to see that no punches were pulled with Wolverine. He uses his claws and violent temperament to really do some damage, rather than chickening out on the violence factor and just punching people in the head for good measure.

X2: X-Men United is the kind of action sequel that will do wonders for comic books in film. With a strong cast of characters executed well and a story that delivers both character and action-wise, fans of the first movie and comics will leave very pleased with the flick. The film feels like seeing old friends once again and comic fans will love all the names and faces dropped in for good measure. (Heck seeing Colossus in film form was worth it for me). Here's hoping that Singer can top this with X3.

- - Kinderfeld

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