X2: X-Men United

 

USA, 2003. Rated PG-13. 124 minutes.

Cast: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davison, Anna Paquin, Aaron Stanford, Shawn Ashmore, Kelly Hu
Writer: Daniel P. Harris
Music: John Ottman
Cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel
Producers: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter
Director: Bryan Singer

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Grade: B+ Review by Frances Nicole Rogers

You know the trick where a carrot is dangled in front of a horse so it will walk forward? That's sorta like what X2 does to the audience: It gives its them a little so they'll want more. In other words, Fox has made the longest teaser trailer in the history of cinema. There's no point in placing a "TO BE CONTINUED" caption at the end of X2 or even announcing the creation of the sequel; the film does both a good fifteen minutes before the credits roll.

X2 leaves a trail of hints and unresolved subplots on the road to the imminent X3. There's a Great Big Mutant vs. Human War on the horizon, but you'd be lucky to see anything close to that in X2. For the temporary relief of summer action hunger X2 gives light action sequence appetizers that must've sounded cooler in concept than they were in execution. If you have the misfortune of seeing the trailer to The Matrix Reloaded before X2, chances are X2 will do little to prevent you from wishing that May 15th were tomorrow.

With so many characters, the subplots are in the multitudes, and are for the most part so unresolved that a sequel is the only apparent way to resolve them. Two of the more prominent ones involve a pair of mutant threesomes. The love triangle among Scott "Cyclops" Summers (James Marsden), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), and Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) includes an ambiguous event that cannot be discussed here without spoiling the movie; this subplot is the biggest indicator of an eventual sequel. Second, the three teenagers--Marie "Rogue" D'Ancanto (Anna Paquin), her boyfriend Bobby "Iceman" Drake (Shawn Ashmore), and his friend John "Pyro" Allerdyce (Aaron Stanford)--have powers perfectly matched for a fight Famke Janssen and Halle Berry fly the X-Men plane.(Pyro can manipulate fire, Iceman can freeze things, and Rogue, who can suck the life force out of anyone she touches and can certainly play peacemaker) that didn't happen in this movie, but bet your bottom dollar will happen in the next. Elsewhere, we've the Big Picture subplots--Wolverine's past and the mounting Human/Mutant tensions--that have yet to be resolved.

X2's score, composed by John Ottman, is one of the worst things about this movie. It's not intrusive, which is good, but it doesn't have a clear identity or even a theme worth remembering. The cringe-inducing piece written for the first scene suggests the score wants to imitate Howard Shore's latest operatic binge, but it soon drops that sound for something quieter and just as ineffective. When will people learn? The only way to score a superhero movie is to imitate Danny Elfman. I find it amusing that Ottman also edited this film, because the editing is also one of the film's weak spots. Several moments seem off and choppy, making the pacing of the film in general poor.

Despite the subplots, the uninspired action, the bad score, and the tedious 124-minute running time, X2 is superior to 2000's X-Men. Where X-Men was concerned more with exposition, X2 is concerned more with characters. Yes, there are more characters in this film than there are fingers on my hand, but the majority of them are fleshed out enough to keep the film rolling just on them alone. There are your Cyclopes and Jeans, who are no more than romantic balls of fluff, and your Bobbys, who might as well have been called "Mr. Cellophane." But then we have old characters like Wolverine (played to the T by Jackman), Mystique (with a bitter and seductive performance from Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), and Magneto (Ian McKellen, with dry wit and not a hint of Gandalf) who are still as fascinating as they were in the last film, if not more so.

X2 also gives us a couple of new characters who make the burden of excess characters worth bearing: Gen. William Stryker (Brian Cox), a homicidal and slimy character worth notice only because of Cox's performance, and German mutant Kurt "Nightcrawler" Wagner (Alan Cumming, in an outfit similar to that he wore in Spy Kids), who appears to be everyone's favorite new character. Indeed, there's much to love about this Nightcrawler chap, being the only person in the film who doesn't want to angst, and I in particular like his being such a devout Christian. You have to wonder, though, with the film using him as the butt of many jokes, if he ever stopped being a circus act in the eyes of the filmmakers. At least he gives Storm something to do other than look possessed.

Suffice it to say, X2 brings the summer movie season to a good start. With The Matrix sequels and The Return of the King waiting in the wings, a film is bound to upstage X2 sooner or later, but X2 does the best it can to entertain its audience while keeping them hooked enough to want to see the sequel. X3, here we come!

Review © May 2003 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images 2003 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.


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