Nightcrawler is in da house!
X2: X-Men United
Review written by: Alex Sandell
Nightcrawler nuts ... your day is here! When I wrote my review for the original X-Men, I received about fifty emails from angry comic book fans that didn't think any X-Men movie without the beloved blue X-Man deserved a glowing critique. From the look of things, returning director Bryan Singer received similar messages from upset followers of the pointy tailed mutant.
Singer starts X2 off with Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) in full action mode. Circumventing White House security, the rabid crawler is in a mad dash to confront the leader of the free world. The scene is a successful effort at topping the nearly superlative opening minutes of the original movie, which featured Magneto's childhood origins in Nazi Germany. Nightcrawler's welcome presence in the beginning of X2 is merely a start to a bigger and bolder film than the first. Singer, along with the numerous writers behind the movie (David Hayter, Michael Dougherty, Daniel P. Harris, Zak Penn) has addressed almost all of the major "fanboy" complaints regarding X-Men 1.
Singer was upset that nearly 45 minutes of the original film was cut (and only partially restored in the X-Men 1.5 DVD). The smaller moments were removed, taking away a large amount of precious character development. X2 is at least 20 minutes longer than its predecessor. Rather than using the bonus time for additional explosions and dipshit one-liners, Bryan Singer concentrated on developing his precious characters.
Singer gives lesser mutants such as Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) noteworthy roles in the movie. While Iceman is Professor Xavier's (Patric Stewart) man, Pyro has a temper fiery enough to match his power, and could easily fall under Magneto's (Ian McKellen) rancorous spell. This side story would have inevitably been chopped from the original X-Men. Thank Heaven the creative talent behind X2 had more editorial clout than they did when the first film was created and released.
Most of the major players from the original X-Men have also received "upgrades." Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) has an even larger part than he did the first time around. The story of his past life is meticulously developed further in this second film. Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) is much more pivotal to the plot of X2 than she was in its predecessor. At least one of the main choices that the good doctor's forced to make is enough to cause even a casual comic book reader to shed a tear. Storm (Halle Berry) remains the lousiest of the core group of heroes. To Berry's credit, she does soften the hideous accent she used in the first film, while avoiding one-liners about toads.
20 extra minutes is a start, but still doesn't allow the filmmakers enough time to give the proper treatment to every X-Man featured in the film. With as many characters as there are in X2, some are bound to be whittled down. Anna Paquin brings the same sense of sweetness and naiveté to Rogue that she did in the first film, but instead of becoming a more developed heroine, she devolves into something closer to a wallflower. Cyclops (James Marsden) is featured in the movie about as often as the various X-Men shown in tantalizing "X-cameos." Most startling, Professor Xavier and Magneto both sacrifice a few minutes of their time on the screen to create breathing room for characters we barely met in the last movie.
Magneto lost a lot of his treasured henchmen the first time around, but thankfully he still has the sexy Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) to help him fight his righteous battles. Mystique's role is imperative to Magneto's dark side of the mutant war. The semi-nude shape-shifter is given additional screen time and the movie's most memorable "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" moment. Oh, and she's super hot looking in that cobalt blue body paint. Mmm ... cobaaalt bluuuuue body paaaint ... *drool*.
You would think the X-Men would have no problem knocking out a couple of misguided mutants, but the heroes have been distracted by General William Stryker, his ominous sidekick, Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) and his unwitting mutant son Jason (Michael Reid MacKay). General Stryker is using his son's mutant powers to hold Xavier's brain hostage, in hopes of bringing about an end to the mutant race. Lady Deathstrike is there to block anyone that gets in the general's way. If you want to be cynical; she's really just there as an excuse for another action figure and a fight scene with Wolverine. Her role is similar to Mystique's in the first, with even less motivation or background.
General Stryker's absolute intolerance toward mutants makes it difficult to decide between Xavier and Magneto's methods of dealing with "inferior" humanity. Peace is always a nice thing, and hopefully possible, but the prejudice going on against mutants in this film, from the President on down, is staggering. X2 emphasizes the bias that certain humans have against mutants and draws many parallels to the real world in the process.
Do the mutants represent homosexuals in the society we currently live in? Do they represent middle-eastern citizens of the United States, wrongfully detained and deported? The questions raised in X2 are much more than any "tent pole" movie has had the nerve to ask in many a moon. The film is as challenging as it is exhilarating.
X2 is that rare film with "something for everybody." If you go in for the special effects and action, you'll get more than any single individual is worthy of. With exception made for one misguided CG attempt, the look of the movie is visually astounding. The reported 200-million dollar budget is all up there on the screen for you to feast your eyes on. If you go in for reasons beyond the FX, you will get a plot worthy of about half of the art house films out there.
As a self-proclaimed comic book geek, I feel comfortable and confident in saying that this movie gets the job done right. No film based on the medium has even approached this level of accuracy. The only way that X2 could bring the audience closer to the comic book experience would be to slap it in a pair of form-fitting spandex. This is the perfect summer film! Did I mention that Nightcrawler is in it?
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Text ©(Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].