Sorry about the delay in my reviews of late- goddamn University work had to be done at some point. Oh – due to some e-mails, I’m dropping my overuse of quotation marks from film names and using the classier italics. To those who e-mailed, thanks and I’m “sorry”. Anyway- sequel time.

X2 (2003)

Before you start, yes that is the title. It’s not “X-Men 2” or anything, it’s X2. As baffling as the decision was to call the second outing for the X-Men the minimalist X2 at least we in the British Isles didn’t get the lame sounding US title of X2: X-Men United. It’s not only as corny as hell, but it seems like “X-Men United” could quite happily co-exist with “Spider-Man Rovers” and “Daredevil Hotspur” in some kind of Marvel football league- oh, and whilst we’re at it, that’s the proper football where you use your feet, instead of that jumped up, padded, sissy version of rugby where you primarily use your fucking hands. Enough with the international game bashing though, let’s actually look at the film now, shall we?

“Have you ever tried… not being a mutant?”

Following a mutant assassination attempt on the President, Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) initiates a war on mutants, specificially the superhero group, the X-Men. Now, they must join with their sworn enemy, Magneto (Ian McKellen), to survive; while Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) discovers that Stryker holds the key to his murky past. The plot’s great, taking now familiar characters into unfamiliar territory and advancing their stories, whilst at the same time introducng new characters to proceedings. Hats off to Bryan Singer, who seems more confident in his blockbuster director’s chair in this one and keeps everything running smoothly. The cast are great, with the exception of Halle Berry as Storm. Due to the fact that she had gone from merely Halle Berry in X-Men to “Oscar winning actress Halle Berry” in this one, her role as Storm is considerably beefed up, which is a shame because the cinematic Storm is actually quite a boring character. So we have a case of big actress, small role which didn’t sit well with me. The new additions are really good, with the jerk Pyro (Aaron Stanford), teleporting blue guy Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), female Wolverine (Wolverina?) Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) and William Stryker, a man so evil we actually feel sorry for Magneto in one surprisingly brutal scene.

You know what? X2 just works. The film starts strong and maintains that pace and quality. A highlight for me was the fantastically realised prison escape sequence. The tension (which will be lessened somewhat if you’re reading this and haven’t seen the film. Sorry about that.) beforehand starting when Magneto states that there’s something “different” about Mr. Laurio is pitch-perfect. Mad propz to McKellen too. I also loved the idea of Bobby ‘coming out’ to his parents about his mutation. The action quota is significantly bumped up for this installment and every sequence is exciting and awesome in equal measures. The X-Mansion raid is incredibly well done and (thanks to Wolverine’s claws) pretty damn vicious. The general tone has also been lightened, which is a welcome change as the first one is a bit of a downer.

I only really have one gripe with X2. The character of Cyclops, the supposed leader of the X-Men is pretty much ignored. I suppose this was inevitable due to the massive influx of new characters as well as the advancement of the old ones, but it strikes me as a shame as I rated James Marsden’s approach to the character. I’d have much preferred Storm to be sidelined rather that Cyclops, but nevermind. I suppose one could argue that he’s more of an altruistic, goody-two-shoes action figure than a decent character, but dammit- I liked him.

“You know all those dangerous mutants you hear about in the news? I’m the worst one.”

X2 builds on the solid foundations of the first and has fittingly evolved into a very slick superhero film. The films manages to introduce new mutants and characters, expand on most of the core group from the original whilst keeping them true to their roots, up the action significantly, keep a strong narrative focus AND remain damn entertaining throughout.It really is one of the best superhero films out there.

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