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TSM Movie Review: X2, May 2, 2003
Guest_TSMAdmin_*
post Jun 19 2003, 04:10 PM
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X2 (aka X-MEN UNITED)

Starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and Ian McKellen
Written by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris
Directed by Bryan Singer
Released by 20th Century Fox, Rated PG-13; 125 minutes


A sharp, entertaining action movie for the summer film season, X2 still falls victim to its own internal inconsistencies and plot absurdities often enough to prevent it from being great.

Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) continues searching for his past, while renegade mutant Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) takes the mutant fight directly to the White House. This leads to the President endorsing the plans of the mutant hater du jour, Colonel Stryker (Brian Cox), who conducts a military assault on Xavier’s School for Gifted Children.

Logan manages to get most of the children to safety and flees to Boston with the relevant mutant teens: Rogue (Anna Paquin), Bobby Drake/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and John Allerdyce/Pyro (Aaron Stanford). Also in the Northeast, Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) are trying to locate Nightcrawler and bring him into the fold. Bobby Drake confronts his parents with the fact that he’s really a mutant, which strikes as a teen’s coming-out declaration, right down to his mother’s question of. “have you ever tried not being a mutant?” This definitively sets the theme of acceptance that runs throughout the rest of the movie.

It turns out that Stryker is building a second Cerebro, the supercomputer that Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) uses to locate mutants. Apparently, the Professor can kill every mutant on earth by simply concentrating hard enough while connected to Cerebro, so he is abducted for just that purpose. Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) have to work with the X-Men – at least on the surface – to make sure that mutants are not eradicated by Stryker’s plan.

With a plot even more incredulous than the first movie, X2 stretches the bounds of believability, even for comic-book science fantasy. The fact that Professor X can wipe out all mutants (or humans) with naught but a deep thought while connected to a supercomputer seems like something invented just to further the plot. The audience has to suspend disbelief to buy into the story at all, but anything has its limits. X2’s plot didn’t exceed my limits, but it came dangerously close to bumping up against them.

The other problem I had with the movie is the appallingly inconsistent nature of the mutants’ powers. They can control the weather, stop time for certain people, teleport from place to place and things like that... but they can’t start a jet? They have no idea how to stop a dam that’s about to burst? (Hey, Storm and Iceman: why not go out and freeze the water?) The sacrifice at the end of the movie seems like a reverse deus ex machina: this time, the god went back into the box because even he thought the ending was silly, never mind the fact that death is just a temporary inconvenience in the comics universe. There is a nice bit of foreshadowing, though, involving one of the more popular story arcs in the history of the X-Men comics. Let’s just say it involves a mythological bird and our favorite beautiful, red-headed mutant doctor, and leave it at that. Fans of the comics – for whom the foreshadowing was obviously intended; I heard a lot of questions about it after the screening – will certainly appreciate it, and fans of the franchise will appreciate the ready-made sequel possibilities.

Quibbles aside, the writing on X2 was sharper than its predecessor. The first movie didn’t feel like an X-Men movie at all; with the rushed-over backstory and problems of introducing an ensemble cast, it felt like a random mutant adventure flick. This time, we know the principal players, and we learn more about them as the movie unfolds. Minor characters in the first move see their roles grow, and new introductions to the team (like Nightcrawler) are handled well. The message of acceptance was a more overt this time (with Stryker’s raid on the X-Mansion being the violence we should avoid), but the framework of the movie was more solid, also, so it wasn’t cumbersome.

Despite faults that leave it around the same level as its predecessor, X2 is an entertaining way to spend two hours. The important characters are likable (even Magneto and Mystique, to a point), the action sequences are well done, and the dialog is far superior to the first movie. X2 kicks off the summer movie season with a bang, and it should have a long, profitable theatrical run, giving everyone plenty of time to catch it. 7/10


Dr. Tom
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