It’s Hugh Jackman week on the I Hate Critics podcast and with that in mind and in honor of his new movie Pan, here’s my review of X2: X-Men United.
The first of 2003’s many blockbusters is here. The sequel to the 2000 cash machine, X Men, X-Men United once again has Professor Xavier’s clan of mutants attempting to prevent a human-mutant war. The twist however in X2 finds our hero’s on the same side as archenemy Magneto against an evil army general with a double secret agenda. The familiar story combines with spectacular effects for an enjoyable popcorn entertainment.
The film opens with a sensational effects scene involving a new mutant called Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) and an attack on the White House. Using his mutant ability to turn to smoke and float through walls, Nightcrawler evades the secret service and attacks the President. Through luck, the President’s life is saved, but now the tentative peace between humans and mutants that started at the end of the first film is over.
Despite the efforts of Mystique (Rebecca Romijn Stamos who is not bad when she’s not saddled with too much dialogue) disguised as the late Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison), an army General named Stryker (Brian Cox) convinces the President that a strike against mutants is necessary. His target, Xavier’s School for the Gifted, AKA the X-Men compound.
In the meantime, Professor Xavier has begun searching for Nightcrawler to uncover why he attacked the President. Xavier dispatches Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) to find Nightcrawler, while he and Cyclops visit archenemy Magneto (Ian Mckellen) to determine his involvement. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returns to the school just in time to take charge of the students while everyone is gone. Of course this is when Stryker and his army attack, forcing Wolverine to empty the school and go on the run.
With Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford), Wolverine heads for safety in the home of Iceman’s parents. In one of the films most talked about scenes, Iceman “comes out” to his parents about being a mutant. It’s not long though before the cops show and they are on the run again.
Once reunited with Storm and Jean, they find that the Professor and Cyclops are missing and they are being hunted by military jets as they escape in the X jet. After taking a hit the jet nearly crashes, they are saved at the last minute by the unlikely savior, the now free Magneto. With the mutual enemy of General Stryker, they must team with Magneto and Mystique to free Xavier and stop Stryker from launching the war against mutants.
Summer blockbusters aren’t about great storytelling, they are about special effects and sly humor and X2 delivers both. Not only is there the awesome White House attack sequence, but also the jet fight with Storm attempting to lose the military jets in a series of tornado’s that she creates.
Most of the film’s humor comes, surprisingly from Wolverine in subtle commentary on his surroundings. Thrown in to babysitter mode while the rest of the crew is hunting for Nightcrawler, Wolverine has some fun interaction with the students before the military attacks. Then as witness to Iceman’s coming out, Wolverine’s annoyance of his conventional surroundings are very funny. Jackman’s gruffness is perfectly in tune with his humor.
The effects are strong, but suffer in comparison to the Matrix trailer that precedes it. The Matrix trailer was so good I missed the first couple minutes of X2, still reveling in Reloaded. That is not to say I wasn’t impressed by X2 but it is made to look conventional by comparison.
The performances in X2 aren’t much to be remembered. Halle Berry’s Storm gets more screentime this second time around but not much insight is made into the character. Jackman as Wolverine gets the most screentime and is undoubtedly the star but the more Wolverine is on the screen the less impressive he becomes. In comparison with Jean and Storm, Wolverine’s powers, his adamantium claws and superhuman healing ability seem small. You know when it comes to the major save the world stuff it will be Storm or Jean doing the saving with Wolverine as a spectator.
Director Brian Singer does an efficient job of balancing his large cast and huge effects scenes, and while the story isn’t all that impressive it’s all very well choreographed and follows a certain logic. To balance all of this big budget stuff and make a film that is semi-coherent is a feat all on it’s own. It’s an entertaining popcorn film that effectively sets the stage for the next sequel. It’s no Spiderman, Batman or Superman, but it’s still pretty good.
Sean gives this Movie 7 out of 10 stars –