Please feel free to comment on my review.
The Not-So United X-Men As Some Were Led to Believe
Here we come to the second ‘X-Men’ movie in the ‘X-Men’ film series by 20th Century Fox! 🙂
This ‘X-Men’ film was released in 2003. After the success of the first ‘X-Men’ movie in 2000, it’s no surprise that a sequel was in demand. So, director Bryan Singer was invited to come back to direct this second instalment of the film series. It’s a shame he didn’t direct all the ‘X-Men’ films, but still. 😐
I personally feel the ‘X-Men’ film series was at its strongest when it was the ‘X-Men’ film trilogy. Admittedly, it went downhill a bit once it came to ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’, but that’s something we’ll get to when we discuss that particular film as well as the prequel films that were made afterwards. 🙂
‘X-Men 2’ (also known as ‘X2’ as well as ‘X2: X-Men United’ in America) – (winces) Okay, this is something that really annoys me when it comes to talking about US-produced movies in particular. It’s so annoying when certain film titles in the US don’t match to what the films are called in the UK!
And yes, I know, I know. There are international and marketing reasons behind this. But I would like it if a certain film was called one title rather than a multitude of titles. It annoys me that the first ‘Avengers’ film is called ‘The Avengers’ in the USA whereas in the UK, it’s called ‘Avengers Assemble’.
It’s the same for the solo Alex Rider film called ‘Stormbreaker’ in the UK, whereas in the US, it’s called ‘Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker’. It’s also the same for ‘Peter Rabbit 2’ which is what it’s called in the UK whereas in the US, it’s called ‘Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway’. Can it be just one title?!
Also ‘X2’ and ‘X2: X-Men United’ are really silly-sounding titles. For one thing, unless you’ve seen the first ‘X-Men’ movie, you probably would be confused as to what the title ‘X2’ stands for. It could well mean ‘eXtra Movie 2’ or ‘X-Rated Movie 2’ or ‘Xylophone 2’. Why was it called ‘X2’ and not ‘X-Men 2’?
I’m just saying you could have called it ‘XM2’ to establish that this is the second ‘X-Men’ movie and it would have made things much better. Not a considerable lot better, but it’s on its way there. Another thing is that the subtitle ‘X-Men United’ is rather misleading when you watch the entire movie itself.
Yes, the X-Men team up with Magneto and Mystique for a bit, but by the end, the two villainous mutants are on their way doing dastardly things and abandoning the X-Men as they save Professor Xavier, some kids and the like. Also a really pivotal character dies by the end of the film (more later).
So it’s not really a film about the X-Men uniting with each other when a certain character gets killed off as well as certain mutants walking off and abandoning people after they’ve helped them. If I was put in overall charge, I probably would have called this ‘X-Men 2: The Next Stage’ if I felt so inclined.
(groans) Gosh, that was quite a long-winded rant, wasn’t it? (sighs) Anyway, ‘X-Men 2’ features the return of Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Bruce Davison and Anna Paquin. There are also some new faces in the film.
I saw this movie along with the 2-disc DVD set of ‘X-Men 1.5’ in a double pack in 2005. ‘X-Men 2’ was also released in a 2-disc DVD set. I enjoyed ‘X-Men 2’ when I first saw it. Mind you, I found it longer than the first film. The first ‘X-Men’ film is about 104 minutes whilst ‘X-Men 2’ is about 133 minutes.
I feel ‘X-Men 2’ is a rather underrated film to be featured in the ‘X-Men’ film series. Not that it’s regarded as a bad film. On the contrary, it was rated highly by critics and was well-received at the box office. But I wouldn’t say this film was overall excellent as it does suffer from quite a few things.
The second ‘X-Men’ film looks into the continuing struggle of acceptance and survival for the mutant community living in the world against the oppression by humans. But it also looks into the vengeance of a man called Colonel William Stryker, wishing for mutants to be wiped from existence.
In the film, Stryker leads an assault on Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted in order to build his version of Cerebro – Xavier’s mutant tracking computer. He wants to commit genocide and destroy every mutant on Earth in order to save humanity from them. Most of the mutants we know team up.
The X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants team up in order to stop Stryker and save the mutant race. Things turn sour when Magneto turns Stryker’s plan against him by having humanity be destroyed instead. Also Logan/Wolverine uncovers more about his past when he meets with Stryker.
There is a lot going on in this film and you have to keep track of every detail that’s happening and with every subplot involving characters we know already as well as with new characters being introduced. Mind you, I do think the film’s pacing is done well especially with Bryan Singer in charge.
The themes of tackling prejudice and racism from the first ‘X-Men’ film’ are carried forward pretty well in the second film. They’re also expanded upon, especially when Stryker’s family history gets revealed to Xavier once he’s his prisoner as well as us getting know Bobby Drake’s family members.
Because of the film’s complexities, there’s less of the team spirit between Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and Jean Grey like there was in the first film, especially when most of them spilt up from each other. It doesn’t help since one or two characters get less screen-time and another gets killed off by the end.
Patrick Stewart returns as Professor Charles Xavier in the film. I like Patrick’s performances in these ‘X-Men’ films, but I do feel he’s often a victim of fate. I know he’s meant to be like a Jeff Tracy-type of character from ‘Thunderbirds’ where he’s directing the X-Men on the certain missions they have.
But in this film, he gets captured by Stryker and is forced to be manipulated by his mutant son in order to enter a fake version of Cerebro so that Stryker’s plans to destroy mutant kind can succeed. Xavier does have the uncanny ability to freeze people’s minds like they’re being frozen in time or something.
Hugh Jackman returns as Logan/Wolverine in the film. I continue to enjoy Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine in these ‘X-Men’ films. It’s interesting how his character continues to suffer from amnesia, though he begins to remember things as they resurface once he’s meeting up with Stryker.
It’s nice how he reunites with Rogue whom he’s become more of a father figure to her. There’s a nice scene between him and Bobby as well as some nice scenes between him and Jean Grey. Wolverine does get to kill people with his metal claws; though starting up a car with one is stupid! 😀
Ian McKellen returns as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto in the film. At first, Magneto is held in a plastic prison following the events of the first film. But with Mystique’s help, he’s able to find a way out and escape. He continues being nasty as ever in an attempt to thwart humanity so that mutants can live.
It’s interesting how he first teams up with the X-Men, knowing about Stryker and what his plans are after being interrogated by him whilst in his plastic prison. For a while, Magneto could have been one of the goodies if he wasn’t cruel in changing things around to his advantage with Stryker’s plans.
Halle Berry returns as Ororo Munroe/Storm in the film. I can’t say Storm has had standout outings in these ‘X-Men’ films, bar the third film. But in the second film, she does have some nice dialogue to say and her character also forms a friendship with Nightcrawler that she and Jean Grey apprehend. 🙂
I like that scene between her and Nightcrawler where they discuss about anger and hatred and how that sometimes helps her to survive. Storm also gives Nightcrawler confidence in himself in order to save Xavier from the hellish Cerebro he’s in. She also uses her powers to free Xavier from his prison.
Famke Janssen returns as Jean Grey in the film. Jean does have some character growth, especially when her telepathic and telekinetic powers develop. This is demonstrated when she saves herself and the other X-Men on board the Blackbird from two heat-seeking missiles about to attack them. 🙂
However, Jean does have this sensation that something terrible is about to happen. It’s interesting that she still has strong feelings for Cyclops since they’re both a couple, but she also happens to be attracted to Wolverine. A shame her character’s not fully developed, but we’ll get to that eventually.
James Marsden returns as Scott Summers/Cyclops, the field leader of the X-Men in the film. Unfortunately, he gets less screen-time than we would like. For one thing, he’s taken prisoner by Stryker’s lot and becomes brainwashed once he’s attacking Jean Grey in Stryker’s underground base.
I would have liked it if Cyclops had a more active role in the film rather than be just shunted to one side for other characters to develop. There’s still rivalry between him and Logan although it’s not fully developed. Amazing Jean managed to break Cyclops out of his brainwashing once he attacked her. 🙂
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos returns as Mystique in the film. Bruce Davison also plays Mystique in the film, but that’s when she’s taking on Senator Kelly’s form in certain scenes of the film since the real Senator Kelly was killed off in the first ‘X-Men’ film. Mystique continues to remain loyal to Magneto.
It’s interesting she seduces a prison guard, posing as Rebecca Romijin-Stamos/Grace by drugging his drink and injecting him with metal in order to free Magneto from his plastic prison. She sexually tempts Logan for a bit…for some reason. Also, is there a connection between her and NIghtcrawler?
Brian Cox stars as William Stryker in the film. Ah, so Brian Cox got his accent for Sydney Newman in ‘An Adventure In Space and Time’ from playing Stryker in this film. 😀 It’s interesting how Stryker seems to know a lot about mutants from doing experiments on them, including on Logan/Wolverine.
He drugs mutants to control them as well as interrogate them, especially when he wants to get his hands on Cerebro from Xavier’s mansion. Stryker has a grudge against Xavier since his son happens to be a mutant who’s gone the wrong way. His interaction with Logan was quite fascinating to see. 🙂
Alan Cumming stars as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, a mutant who made an assassination attempt on the President of the United States under Stryker’s control earlier in the film. It turns out Kurt Wagner is a kindly German mutant with a strong Catholic faith. I liked this aspect to Nightcrawler’s character.
For me, Alan Cumming previously played Fegan Floop in the ‘Spy Kids’ films. He was also in ‘The Airzone Solution’ and was in the ‘Doctor Who’ episode ‘The Witchfinders’ with Jodie Whittaker. I like Alan Cumming’s performance as Nightcrawler, especially when playing him with a German accent. 🙂
Anna Paquin returns as Rogue in the film. I like how slightly confident she gets to be in this film, especially when joining Logan, Bobby and Pyro in the escape from the X-Mansion. Rogue has formed a new relationship with her boyfriend Bobby, but is unable to get really close and intimate with him.
At the film’s beginning, I like how Rogue welcomes Logan back to the X-Mansion after he went away to investigate Alkai Lake in Alberta for a bit. She’s good in stopping Pyro from causing a lot of devastation with his fiery powers and she manages to fly the Blackbird for a bit to save her fellow mutants. 🙂
Joining Rogue is Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake…also known as Ice Man. He was in the first ‘X-Men’ film. I like how his character is developed a bit more in the second film, especially in his relationship with Rogue and how he struggles to connect with his family who seem unaware he’s really a mutant.
There’s also Aaron Stanford as John Allerdyce…also known as Pyro, who is a friend of Bobby and Rogue’s that has an anti-social problem. He has the ability to control but not create fire. There’s a scene Pyro has with Magneto and this will ultimately lead to where his loyalties lie in this film series.
Kelly Hu stars as Yuriko Oyama…also known Deathstrike, a female mutant who has abilities similar to Logan/Wolverine in that she has a healing ability and wields long adamantium fingernails. She works for and is under the control of Stryker. She has a very intense fight scene with Wolverine in the film.
The film also features Daniel Cudmore as Peter Raputin/Colossus, a mutant who has the ability to turn his body into metal. He has a reduced role in the film in helping the mutant kids escape from Xavier’s mansion when it’s under attack. Thankfully he gets saved for a larger role in the third film. 🙂
The cast also includes Michael Reid MacKay as Jason 143, Stryker’s mutant son who creates illusions to trick Xavier into destroying the mutants and then the humans. There’s also Cotter Smith as the US President McKenna. There are also cameo appearances of Kitty Pryde and Jubilee in the second film.
Mind you, Kitty Pride was played by Sumela Kay in the first film whereas here, she’s played by Katie Stuart. Jubliee was played by Katrina Florece in the first film whereas here, she’s played by Kea Wong. There is also a small cameo appearance of Dr. Hank McCoy where he’s played by Steve Bacic.
The casting for these characters isn’t reflected in the actors who played in them in later films such as ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’. In fact, Colossus was originally played by Donald MacKinnon in the first film whereas Pyro was originally played by Alexander Burton. Very odd, these ‘X-Men’ casting choices. 😐
Once again, Bryan Singer directs the action sequences of this film pretty well and he balances both the drama and action well. Had Bryan Singer been in overall charge of all the ‘X-Men’ films from start to finish, maybe this film series would have been consistent. Sadly this didn’t turn out to be the case.
The locations and set designs for the action sequences in the film are pretty good, especially for Magneto’s plastic prison and the Alkali Lake underground bunker scenes. The tension and the build-up towards the scene’s climax, especially when the Alkali Lake dam began to burst, was also pretty effective in the film.
The visual effects and the stunt chorography for the fight scenes are equally good. My Dad remarked how many stunt people there were when we checked out the end credits for the film. I agree. The stunt work seems to be very effective, especially with the amount of people working in that area. 😀
The film concludes on a rather sad note. In order to get away from the rushing water erupting from the dam, Jean Grey sneaks off the Blackbird/X-Jet,; holds back the water and raises the jet above it, self-sacrificing herself in the process. Everyone including Wolverine and Cyclops is very upset by this.
Whilst it’s a sad way for Jean Grey to exit out of ‘X-Men 2’, I can’t help but echo the words of the Fifth Doctor from ‘Warriors of the Deep’.
THE FIFTH DOCTOR: “There should have been another way!”
For one thing, Storm could have used the elements to send the water from crashing into them whilst they’re in the jet. Bobby/Iceman could have also used his ice powers to freeze the water coming into them. Jean Grey could have also used her telepathic powers inside the jet rather than going outside.
Heck, you could have used all three of Storm, Bobby/Iceman and Jean Grey in the jet using their powers to get away from the oncoming flood. Then you could justify Jean Grey being in that photo with the other X-Men whilst they are at the White House meeting up with US President McKenna. 🙂
There! I’ve saved the Dark Phoenix plotline from being used in ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’! Mind you, this may have come from Bryan Singer being a ‘Star Trek’ fan. You see, in case you hadn’t noticed, the ending of ‘X-Men 2’ mirrors the ending of ‘Star Trek II’. And this isn’t just with Jean Grey’s death.
Remember when Spock narrated Kirk’s “Space: the Final Frontier” speech at the end of ‘Star Trek II’? Well, Jean Grey does the same thing with narrating Xavier’s opening speech from the first ‘X-Men’ film where he said, “Mutation: it is the key to our evolution!” Both film endings are very similar here.
Now, I don’t want to disrespect how Jean Grey self-sacrificed herself in that moment at the film’s end, but Spock’s death in ‘Star Trek II’ is better. This is especially when we’ve been getting to know Spock in the ‘Star Trek’ TV show, whereas here, we’ve only known Jean for about two ‘X-Men’ films.
It’s the same with Superman getting killed off at the end of ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ as we haven’t been allowed to get to know him and appreciate his self-sacrifice since he’s only been in two films. And as I’ve illustrated, Jean Grey’s self-sacrifice doesn’t seem to be that pretty effective.
If the writing was well-thought-out and if we had more ‘X-Men’ films with this particular cast as opposed to seeing them in mostly this trilogy, then we could appreciate the sacrifice Jean made in say a fifth or sixth movie. Jean’s self-sacrifice here doesn’t seem that earned as it feels rather forced.
If Jean self-sacrificed herself to save humanity from being eradicated by Stryker or Magneto, rather than saving a jet from being torn apart by a flood, then maybe I’d appreciate the sacrifice more. Maybe I could see why Jean went to these lengths in an impossible situation for the many to survive.
SPOCK: “The needs of the many …outweigh…”
KIRK: “…the needs of the few.”
SPOCK: “Or the one.”
And I hate to keep pressing this issue, but Bryan Singer apparently cameoed in the film ‘Star Trek: Nemesis’ where…get this, Data self-sacrificed himself and got blown up. And I hate to break this to people, but even Data stayed dead instead of being brought back to life like Spock and Jean were. 😐
Even Season 1 of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ made sure that Data stayed dead, despite the division fans have about that show. I know I’ve been going on about this for too long, but the point I’m trying to make is that Jean Grey’s self-sacrifice felt unnecessary since she could’ve carried on in some future ‘X-Men’ films. 😐
On the 2-disc DVD release of ‘X-Men 2’, the DVD special features are as follows. On Disc 1, there are two audio commentaries, including a commentary with director Bryan Singer and director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel; and a commentary with producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter and screenwriters Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter.
On Disc 2, there’s ‘The Secret Origin of X-Men’ featurette; the ‘Nightcrawler Reborn’ featurette; a Nightcrawler attack multi-angle study; ‘Evolution in the Details – Designing X2’; ‘United Colors of X’, a Wolverine/Deathstrike fight rehearsal; ‘The Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men’ documentary; the ‘Introducing the Incredible Nightcrawler!’ featurette; ‘Nightcrawler Timelapse’; ‘FX2 – Visual Effects’; ‘Requiem for the Mutants: The Score of X2’; ‘X2’ global webcast highlights; 11 deleted and extended scenes; and galleries including characters, locations and sets, mutant X-rays, Nightcrawler circus posters, on-camera graphics and ‘The Unseen X2’. There are also trailers for the film and DVD-Rom weblinks.
‘X-Men 2’ is an enjoyable second instalment in the ‘X-Men’ film series. It is quite underrated, especially in terms of complexities of plot and characters. With that said, I find the film well-balanced in terms of action and drama. I did enjoy watching it throughout when revisiting it on DVD.
I feel though the film’s ending could have been handled better, especially with Jean Grey’s self-sacrifice. It would have saved a number of inconsistencies about to happen in the following ‘X-Men’ films. Hopefully things won’t be too severe by the time we reach the third film, right? (Pause) Hmm!
‘X-Men 2’ rating – 7/10
|Go back to||Go next to|
|Return to X-Men|