Director: Bryan Singer
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Aaron Stanford, Kelly Hu with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan
Plot: When the President is attacked by a rogue mutant, Colonel William Stryker (Cox) uses it as an excuse to launch a hate campaign on the mutant species.
The job of a sequel is to get bigger and better than the first movie, without losing that original charm. X2 manages to do that, and make it look easy.
The true talent of X2 was something I hadn’t noticed before, because up until a few flops, including other X-Men movies, I never realised how tough it was to make an ensemble piece. When dealing with so many cult characters like the X-Men, it is almost impossible to represent them all in a way that doesn’t drop a couple of characters, due to time constraints. While the first film struggled with the fact that it had a massive origin story to get through as well, here Singer is allowed to give almost everyone their time to shine. Sure, we could argue he doesn’t perfectly give everyone the limelight they deserve. While Nightcrawler opens the movie, with one of the most gripping introductions to a superhero movie yet, he kind of fades away into a Basil Exposition role. Singer also gives up trying to make Cyclops an interesting figure, because… well, Cyclops is the Robin of the Marvel universe. Singer does well considering however, making sure that our main focus is on everyone’s favourite mutant, Wolverine, but giving others time to shine. I enjoyed that Singer took certain moments to play around with everyone’s powers and what they could exactly do with them, in their day to day life. Iceman chills his soda before drinking, Professor X freezes time to control his students and Nightcrawler’s tail acts as a third arm. Little beats like this make these characters even easier to like.
However, Singer even manages to fit in the messages that he wants to, into his depiction of the X-Men universe. X2 will always be remembered for the terrific ‘coming out’ scene, where Bobby Drake tells his parents that he is the Iceman. He tackles a tough issue, especially way back in 2003, and does it, while putting a smile on the audience’s faces. Other messages that come across well are the monstrosity of humans. When the military forces storm Xavier’s mansion, the soldiers look far scarier than any ‘mutants’. The police are harshly brutal, shooting down an innocent in the head (luckily, this innocent has a habit of healing quickly and brandishing deadly, metal claws). Stryker is also purposefully a much harder person to relate to than Magneto. Magneto is a freedom fighter, clearly corrupted by a dark past. Stryker just wants to destroy a species he doesn’t understand. In ways, he is much scarier villain than the Brotherhood ever were.
The acting is remarkable as ever. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan wear this roles so comfortably, you could swear the original characters were made with the actors in mind. Newcomers to the franchise hold their own. Alan Cumming is far creepier than I thought Nightcrawler could be, giving us a slight idea of how humans get creeped out by the concept of mutants. He has a certain sympathy to his character however, and while he does get lost in the fast-paced narrative, I liked what they did with the character. Brian Cox has always been brilliant as the villain and I think the actor appreciates the fact he is allowed to take all of his little bad guy quirks and dial them right up to the maximum for this superhero movie. He struts around, chewing scenery and the audience loves every second of it. However, once again, the man that steals the show is Wolverine. He grounds the movie, so no matter how complicated the plot gets and no matter how many characters are crammed into this movie, we will always have Logan to turn to. Jackman plays him angry, violent and bad-ass, the lone wolf learning to work with the X-Men. There was a nice moment where Mystique is disguised as Wolverine, so Hugh Jackman adds the faintest touch of Mystique sass to the character, which comes across really well. He is one of the best actors of this generation and Wolverine is his piece de resistance.
Final Verdict: Bryan Singer might have Marvel studios to compete with, but if he keeps bringing out movies like this, then he will have no problem staying ahead of the superhero game.