Continuing our run-through of the X-Men film series, today’s review is of X2, or X-Men 2, or X2: X-Men United. Whatever you want to call it. The second film in the X-Men franchise from 2003.
RELEASED: May 2nd 2003
DIRECTED BY: Bryan Singer
WRITTEN BY: Zak Penn, David Hayter, Dan Harris, Michael Dougherty & Bryan Singer
PRODUCED BY: Lauren Shuler Donner & Ralph Winter
MUSIC BY: John Ottman
STARRING: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijin-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Brian Cox, Kelly Hu & Alan Cumming
After the defeat of Magneto in the first movie, X2 returns audiences to Charles Xavier’s school for Gifted Youngsters, where the X-Men find themselves under attack by mysterious men with a link to Wolverine’s past. With race-tensions at an all-time high, the X-Men must stop Magneto and Col. William Stryker and their plans to wipe out humans and mutants, respectively.
It’s strange to think about now, but at this point in the X-Men franchise, the future still seemed promising. X-Men was an enjoyable film with an interesting visual style, if a bit lacking in character development. X2 greatly improves things on that front, and while central X-Men like James Marsden’s Cyclops still get the short end of the stick in that regard, other characters, like Wolverine, Magneto, Nightcrawler, Iceman and to lesser extents Storm, Jean Grey and Mystique, finally get their time to truly shine. You come to really appreciate these characters as characters beyond their abilities to display cool looking superpowers.
Magneto, for one, is particularly compelling, and I love the way that he and Mystique bring some sass and cattiness to their confrontations with the X-Men.
It seems this time round, director Bryan Singer chooses to take note of the fact that he has a great cast at his disposal, and even adds other acting powerhouses like Alan Cumming and Brian Cox, both of whom add new and interesting elements to the franchise.
Likewise, Singer and his writing team craft a stronger and (unlike later X-Men films) consistent narrative, that continues to hype up the coming war between humans and mutants. It continues to be a thoughtful look at race relations, while also being an exciting superhero thriller.
The action also takes great strides in this sequel. In the first film, a lot of the action was the default ‘one person hits another person, that person goes flying’ sort of superhero fighting that pervaded superhero films of this era. In X2 though, care has been put into the fight choreography, with excellent and highly memorable scenes baked into the film such as Nightcrawler’s assault on the White House, Wolverine facing off against Stryker’s soldiers in the X-Mansion, Mystique’s invasion of the Weapon X facility and of course the final showdown between Wolverine and (Lady) Deathstrike.
The score sees a similar rise in quality, introducing a great theme that perfectly compliments the movie, while also seemingly drawing cues from the fan-favourite cartoon from the nineties.
On all fronts, its clear that greater care has been put into making an X-Men movie than it had before (and arguably ever would again). The result is a great film that takes all the things that worked from its predecessor and builds upon them, resulting in an excellent sequel.
All-in-all, I give X2: