X2: X-MEN UNITED (2003) 

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Hugh Jackman
Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen
Halle Berry
Famke Janssen
Brian Cox
James Marsden
Rebecca Romijn
Anna Paquin
Alan Cumming
Shawn Ashmore
Kelly Hu

Bryan Singer



Time: 93 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Sci-Fi/Action/Drama

What can I say, but bravo! With this film, Singer manages to capture one of Hollywood's most illusive prizes – a sequel equal to the original. Firmly in control of this universe, he widens the scope and cranks up the peril our favorite team of mutants finds themselves in. X2 adds more of the comic's classic characters, while building on the growing animosity and fear between humans and mutants. The original film introduces the audience to this unique world, the second brings us home, into the hearts and minds of these very unique individuals and the danger that is knocking down their door. By combining bits and pieces from the decades of X-MEN stories, Singer creates his own mythology that fuses the mood, characters and core of the comic into something familiar, yet fresh and new.

With the exception of Wolverine, not much depth is added to the other major characters, which is why both versions failed to receive 4 stars from me. Perhaps because I know them so well from years of reading, I'm expecting too much. Time restrictions require that some element has to be sacrificed to keep the plot moving and unfortunately character development always receives the bum share. While the action certainly grabs your attention, it's hard to feel truly connected to people who are little more than the powers they exhibit. I know, I know, the last thing anyone wants to see is Wolverine and Cyclops sitting around talking about their feelings, but this lack of knowledge strips the film of a full emotional connection. Believe me, I cared what happened to our heroes, I just wanted to care more.

At the opening of the film, we are introduced to one of my favorite characters, Nightcrawler (Cumming), as he attempts to murder the President of the United States. His powers gives him the perfect way to infiltrate the security surrounding the Oval Office and provide an exciting visual showpiece to start the film. The assassination attempt stirs up feelings of fear from the human population and gives Colonel Stryker (Cox) the opening he needs to convince the President how grave a danger the mutants pose to the survival of mankind.

"It is an historical fact, sharing has never been humanity's defining attribute."

With the unwitting help of his prisoner Magneto (McKellan), Stryker devices a master plan to wipe out all of mutantkind. By pressuring the President, he gains permission to attack Professor Xavier's School of Gifted Youngsters on the premise that the children and staff be detained for questioning. What the president fails to realize is that Stryker's ultimate mission is one of acquiring knowledge of Cerebro – a machine that connects its' user to every being on the planet – and the immense telepathic power of Professor X (Stewart). Wolverine makes a valiant stand during the attack, but chooses to save Rogue (Paquin), Iceman (Ashmore) and Pyro (Stanford) from capture, and thus fails to stop Stryker from retrieving his prize.

Meanwhile, Storm (Berry) and Dr. Jean Grey (Janssen) are on a mission of their own to catch the illusive hit man who began this whole mess. While reluctant at first, Nightcrawler becomes quite glad to make their acquaintance. He has never met any other mutants and has no idea why he tried to kill the President, the whole event being a total blur. When the gang eventually reunites, it become clear that the plot against them is larger than mere mutant registration. Forced to partner with their old foes Magneto and Mystique (Romijn-Stamos), they come to realization that Stryker is not trying to control mutants, but to eliminate them from the face of the Earth once and for all. The final battle forges new bonds, tests old friendships, uncovers dark secrets, reveals new mysteries and ultimately requires sacrifices the X-Men weren't prepared to make.

Most of all, the ending hints at several new storylines that will possibly be explored in the next film. And believe me, if they can swing the schedules of the lead actors, there will be a third. While it wouldn't be the same without the full cast, especially Jackman and Stewart, there are many avenues this franchise can take. The comic book plot lines didn't always include everybody, which allowed each of the characters to have their day in the sun, so to speak. In any case, this sequel should keep audiences satisfied for quite some time, while whetting the appetite for more. While the pacing isn't as in-your-face as the first film, there's still plenty of mayhem to please most action fans. The art direction and special effects are just as brilliant as in the first with Nightcrawler's teleporting at the top of the list of way-cool effects wizardry. The makeup transforming Cumming and Romijn-Stamos into the creepy blue creatures they are deserves every award out there. While the acting amongst the X-Kids (Paquin, Ashmore and Stanford) is hit and miss, the leads give everything they've got to their characters and make them unforgettable. Even Ms. Romijn-Stamos. Singer and company set a high standard for the other upcoming summer blockbusters to attempt to equal. Only time will tell if they make the grade.

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