REVIEW: 'X2: X-Men United'

I wasn't a big fan of the first "X-Men" movie. Don't get me wrong:

I didn't hate it but I just didn't get super-excited about it like many fans

seemed to. 

Although it had a good sense of humor and some nicely drawn characters, the

movie fell short of my post-Matrix expectations in the action areas. It was also

burdened with laying down a lot of track to get Joe-blow moviegoer acclimated

the Marvel mutant universe.

I just got done watching "X2: X-Men United" and let me tell you

this: If "X-Men" was about laying track "X2" is about

letting the train roll and, baby, it's a bullet-train.

"X2" assumes that the moviegoer saw the first one and understands

the mutant conflict. In fact, several references are made to the "Liberty

Island event." With all that in place the movie hits the ground running.

Rather it hits the ground, walls and ceiling running, scurrying (on all fours)

and bamf-ing from place to place as it introduces Nightcrawler in what Alan

Cumming refers to as his "opening a can of whoop-ass" scene.

It's a spectacular start to an action and F/X packed movie. It's darker,

grittier and more stylish than the first one. You want berserker rage? You got

it. The Nightcrawler opening? Spectacular. Magneto's jailbreak? Amazing. The

knockdown drag-out between Wolverine and Deathstrike? Hold on to your seats.

How many cool beats are there in "X2?" Too many for me to enumerate

here. With a dozen or so mutants in prominent roles you'd imagine that some

might get left by the wayside, but the storytellers behind "X2" do an

amazing job of letting each character unleash his or her special ability in a

unique way. Each character gets at least one chance to shine, if not more. Even

lesser characters like Colossus, Shadowcat and Siryn get a moment to show their


So is it all about action and special effects then? Not at all. 

"X2" has a tight storyline that takes the "sworn to protect a

world that hates and fears them" concept to the next level. Almost every

character has a nice little dramatic arc that advances from beginning to end.

As with the first movie, that acting is all-around good.

Hugh Jackman is back to his snarly best. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are

strong as the patriarchal leaders of the mutant cause. Famke Janssen and 

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos have more to do this time around.

Alan Cumming is terrific as Kurt Wagner, the innocent mutant caught in the

cross-fire of X2's plot. He infuses a sense of humor and charm in the character

that lets him win you over in spite of his freakish, devlish


Brian Cox has a great turn as William Stryker the rogue "military

scientist" who hates mutants. As the plot unfolds we learn, much like a

Marvel comic plot, that this character's history is firmly intertwined with that

of more than one of the X-Men.

There's a lot going on in "X2" but the movie is solid enough that

it should appeal to a broad audience. The only caveat would be that people who

haven't seen the first one might feel a little lost.

Long-time comic fans will especially enjoy the film on a level that the

uninitiated cannot. There are Easter eggs everywhere in this movie, with

references to favorite X-Men who didn't make the cut this time out. Fans

will want to keep their eyes peeled.

And there's one major sub-plot that all moviegoers will enjoy but will have

true fans instantly clamoring for "X-Men 3" faster than you can say, "Yoda, why didn't you tell me?"

Bryan Singer has said "X2" is the movie he should have made first,

but couldn't have made without "X-Men." To me "X2" is issue

#1 compared to "X-Men's" issue #0. Or, it's "The Empire Strikes

Back" to the first one's "Star Wars."

My only major quibble with "X2" is that the previews have already

shown too much. Don't watch another TV commercial or trailer for this movie. Don't watch

the making-of special. Don't even read this review. Just go see it.

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