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Bigger, Badder, SharperSpoilers for X-Men below
Bryan Singer’s X-Men was a rocky affair at best. While the film paid loving homage to several characters from the franchise’s history, it also moved too quickly and left many fans disappointed. Now, with a bigger budget and a better story, Singer has tried to bring the series back into the light with X2: X-Men United.
Picking up right where X-Men left off, X2 begins with Magneto (Ian McKellen) in a plastic cell under watch by the government, Wolverine wandering the Canadian wilds to find some hint about his murky past, and the rest of the X-Men resuming their lives as teachers at Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) school. Things seem relatively peaceful, until a teleporting mutant assaults the President right in the Oval Office. One of the President’s advisors, Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox), seizes the opportunity that the fresh wave of of anti-mutant sentiment has created and authorizes a strike on Xavier’s school. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), who had returned to the school just before the attack, helps most of the students escape, but Xavier is captured.
Meanwhile, Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), on assignment from Xavier to find the mutant who attacked the President, find themselves in a dilapidated church. There the mutant hides, but after questioning him, it seems he is not a violent anti-human mutant. Puzzled, the women take him into custody and set out to find the rest of the X-Men to help them expose the hidden conspiracy behind the attacks.
The first X-Men was an extremely quick watch that felt too small for it’s own good. If you blinked while watching it, you might have opened your eyes to the ending. X2, thankfully, is not so rushed. With a healthy two hour and fourteen minute running time there’s ample room to expand upon the storylines left over from the first film, while also exploring the new plots and subplots. Granted, towards the end of this film it becomes blatantly obvious that there will be a sequel, so some subplots get the cliffhanger treatment, but that’s forgivable as the film doesn’t leave you dissatisfied at it’s conclusion like the first. Bryan Singer gracefully brings life to the screenplay and manages to retain the slightly darker feel of the first film.
The principal cast that returns from the first movie shines brighter than ever. Hugh Jackman was one of the best parts about the first movie, and that hasn’t changed. If anything he ups the badass factor by 49 while simultaneously adding some depth to the character. His search for the truth about his past, which serves as one of the film’s primary subplots, gives everyone’s favorite clawed hero more to work with than just a couple of fight scenes, and by the end of the film he’s still going to be your favorite.
Naturally, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart are fantastic, but at this point, that’s like saying it’s going to rain in Scotland. One cast member that stood out in my mind though is Famke Janssen as Jean Grey. Her portrayal of the powerful psychic member of the X-Men who is suddenly unable to control her powers is worthy of note. Her interactions with Wolverine throughout the movie also add some much needed heart.
X2 is the X-Men movie we should have gotten with the first outing. A thoughtful, well paced, well acted actioner that will please fans and entertain non-nerds. If only we got this lucky with every superhero film.