After the success of X-Men, a sequel was inevitable. The biggest complaint about the first film is that it felt like a huge trailer. Luckily this means that the sequel doesn’t need to spend its time explaining the origins of the X Men or setting up the stage – it can launch straight into what the fans wanted in the first place – mutants letting it rip with their super powers. There are a few spoilers in the next few paragraphs but nothing that isn’t revealed in the trailers.
Set about a month or so after the first film, X-Men 2 opens with a superbly staged attack on the Whitehouse by new mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cummings). This incident unfortunately has repercussions as the President authorises General William Stryker’s (Brian Cox) request for a ‘special’ mission.
Meanwhile, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) decides to take a proactive stance on the Nightcrawler attack and sends Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) to find the mysterious would-be assassin.
While the two ladies go off to find Nightcrawler, Xavier and Cyclops (James Marsden) pay a visit to imprisoned villain Magneto (Ian McKellen), leaving Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) watching over the mutant academy. The Professor suspects that Magneto might have some knowledge on the attack.
It turns out that the mission that Stryker was seeking permission for was to take over the Xavier’s School and with a large group of Special Forces soldiers succeeds. Wolverine and a few others escape and manage to locate Jean Grey, Storm and their latest mutant associate.
Things unfortunately take a turn for the worse when not only do Professor Xavier and Cyclops get captured by Stryker, but Magneto manages to escape and reunited with his side-kick, blue morphing mutant Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos).
Can the handful of mutants rescue their comrades-in-arms from Stryker? Will Magneto aid or hinder their attempts? And why does mutant hating Stryker have mysterious companions? And what is his connection to Wolverine’s past?
X-Men 2 has the great advantage of feeling like its still part of the first film; a continuation rather than an entirely ‘new’ film. It cuts right to the chase, no need for setting up characters as the first film takes care of all that. Director Brian Singer is obviously a huge fan of the comics and has added many little tit-bits that will appease comic book fans. There are plenty of mutant cameos who look like they might become fuller roles in future films, such as Colossus and Pyro.
The characters have much more depth to them this time round with the love triangle between Jean Grey, Cyclops and Wolverine becoming more involved for example. Almost all the mutants have deeper and more personal issues. Some have very little screen time, such as Cyclops who mysteriously disappears for most of the film, but it does allow more time for Storm and Nightcrawler. Speaking of Nightcrawler; the effects of the attack on the Whitehouse are excellent with his teleporting abilities in full effect.
Performances for most of the cast are like slipping into comfortable shoes which have been already broken into nicely. Some of the cast are wasted like the mostly absent Cyclops and Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) who spends most of the film looking sexy – which is nice. It’s nice to see a raft of UK talent heading the performances though - Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Alan Cummings and Brian Cox.
Both Stewart and McKellen excel as always and bring a touch of class. Their relationship is more like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King at times – one is for seeking a peaceful resolve with humans and the other says kill them before they kill you. Ok that’s a bit literal but you get the theory!
Alan Cummings is especially good as Nightcrawler and it’s good to see that the film retains the deep religious air and background about him from the comics. It seems that even mutants have faith.
Action sequences are much better this time round and there is even a decent body count! It’s especially good to see that Wolverine finally manages to go into his famed berserker mode which was very much absent from the first film. After all what’s the use of having such cool weapons and not getting to use them fully?
Another film in the series has been set up for nicely as people and mutants align themselves either for or against each other. With so many mutants still waiting in the wings, even if the same cast doesn’t return there are others ready to take their places. It would be cool to see Pyro and Iceman go head to head for example. The X-Men franchise is definitely here to stay and it remains to see if that other Marvel franchise, The Hulk, can compete.
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