Film Review

X2: X-Men United (Revisited)

Director: Bryan Singer

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen

With the release of X-Men: First Class this summer, I decided to go ahead and re-watch what is generally thought of as the strongest film in the X-Men franchise, the second installment of the series. For some reason, whoever was in charge of the title decided that X2 was a good idea. Anyways, this is the last of the films that Bryan Singer directed. He thought it was a better idea to move on from the X-Men franchise to recreate Superman with Brandon Routh (Good call Mr. Singer).

I would have preferred Singer would have stayed on and finished off the X-Men trilogy, because, based on how good this second film is, I feel that there was a steady improvement that was developing with Singer behind the helm. The first X-Men struggled to find a sort of balance between a film that was about civil rights for mutants and an action film (the action wasn’t great in the first film at all). X2 found that balance, as it maintained the world that Singer created, as well as becoming more of something one would want from a comic book movie (By the way, just to comment quickly on the 3rd film, The Last Stand, it completely went off the hinges with Brett Ratner, creator of such masterpieces as Rush Hour and Money Talks, directing. What a mess that was).

Now let’s get to describing the actual film we’re talking about here. X2 starts off right about where it was in the first film, as the United States is trying to figure out how they want to treat mutants. The very well-done opening scene involves the introduction of a new character to the series, Kurt Wagner (better known as Nightcrawler to the comic book fans), who has the power of teleportation and is played by Alan Cumming. Kurt decides to take a little tour of the White House and, using his gift of teleportation, makes an attempt on the President’s life. It’s really quite cool how he fights the secret service in this opening scene, teleporting at a rapid pace to injure multiple people very quickly.

Quite naturally, this attempt spreads fear throughout the human race of mutants. So, in an effort to start a war with the mutants, William Stryker (Brian Cox) convinces the President after the attack that it’s a good idea to contain the “mutant problem.” Stryker develops plans to invade Professor Xavier’s school full of mutants. His full plan comes into view as the film progresses, but basically he wants to kill every mutant in existence (yeah, he’s kind of a d-bag). And it’s up to the X-men to stop him, and as the title implies, there will be some uniting!

Yes, I am mocking the main plot line of the film a little bit, but the evil plans that are made by the villains in the first two films weren’t really the interesting thing about the movies. The real interesting part of these films is the parallel Singer draws with mutant rights and either the civil rights/gay rights movement. The civil rights side can be seen clearly in a conversation between Nightcrawler and Storm (Halle Berry) and the gay rights parallels with the Mystique character (Rebecca Romijn) as Nightcrawler asks her why she just doesn’t make herself look normal all the time (she’s a shapeshifter) and she replies, “because we shouldn’t have to.” Singer quite strongly pushes the equal rights message fairly heavily in both of his X-Men films. As I touched on before, though, I think he found a better balance in X2 by making it an acceptable summer blockbuster, while still being able to put his signature on it.

* The world created by Singer clearly relates more to the gay rights movement. I think that reflects the views of the director, as he is indeed openly gay. 

Okay, so I’m almost 700 words into this post and I haven’t even mentioned probably the most interesting and popular character in the series, which is odd because Wolverine is pretty much the central character in this film. Wolverine continues his quest to try to remember his origins and how the heck he got those metal claws. By the way, I’m not going to spend any time telling you what these characters’ powers are because if you’re reading this you clearly have internet access and can look it up if you want. Wolverine’s journey to remember his past ties in nicely in this film, as the Stryker character is the one who is basically responsible for creating Wolverine. Hugh Jackman does a really great job with this character once again. I think this is Hugh Jackman’s best role (which he clearly decided to milk as much as he could out of by signing on to the craptastic Wolverine origins movie he did).

** If you watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine, it pretty much violates the whole premise of this film as in that movie Stryker is the one who creates a special team of mutants and in X2 he wants to destroy all mutants. That would have been fine if they wouldn’t have tried to make the origins movie so tied into it’s predecessors. 

Oh yeah, where’s Magneto in all of this? Well, this is kind of where the united part of the title comes into play. Magneto starts off in the plastic jail he was in at the end of the 1st film and he is being drugged by Stryker in order to obtain information about Professor Xavier’s school. Long story short, Magneto escapes and unites with the other X-Men to help prevent a war, which Magneto already believes is happening anyway.

This film is definitely the best of the entries of the first four X-Men films, but it really truly made me appreciate the quality of X-Men: First Class. The two performers in that film really stand out (James McAvoy & Michael Fassbender)  and make First Class a really good summer flick. After re-evaluating X2 I’d have to say that it’s now the second best X-Men film out there, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 

*** I think the strength of First Class is really that it decided to focus on two characters and put a bunch of people to the back burner a bit. These early entries tried to include too many characters and you can tell that there just wasn’t enough screen time for everyone. 

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3 thoughts on “X2: X-Men United (Revisited)

  1. I almost agree with you. They’re both close, but I think this film edges out First Class for one reason: silly powers. One of my biggest problems with superhero movies is when a character has an outlandish ability. If it can’t be explained in under five words, it’s not going to translate well to the screen.

    Additionally, First Class went out of the way to include a scene that showed the new students bragging about their powers and giving each other nicknames. Cute and funny, but it kind of slowed the film’s pace.

    Plus, the Nightcrawler scene in the White House is one of the coolest scenes in the history of all action movies.

  2. I agree with you on the young mutants in First Class. That scene where they were all gathered around each other creating nicknames was definitely the weakest in the film (and of course any of the scenes involving January Jones). It would have worked much better if they would have gone straight into the attack on that base and allow the action sequence to reveal some of the powers of the group.

    Why I think First Class works a little better than X2 (by just a tiny bit) is pretty much how many characters are truly involved in the story. I think the film did a good job of minimizing some of the characters and really focusing on the two main characters (with pretty good support from Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon). Bryan Singer seemed to try to create an in depth story for each and every character, which is pretty much impossible to do as well as he actually did.

    The silly power comment is probably true. I assume Angel is the character you’re thinking of most there. I had problems with a character who had butterfly wings and, oh by the way, she spits what looked like fireballs (I hear the actual character spits acid). However, I think the X-Men universe should provide some silliness every once in awhile. I mean after all, there was a kid in X2 who had a lizard tongue for some reason.

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