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X-MEN 2, 2003
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X-MEN 2 MOVIE POSTER
X-MEN 2
Movie Review
Directed by Bryan Singer
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Jenson, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming
Review by Andrew Kosarko



SYNOPSIS:

At the White House, a would-be assassin--the acrobatic, teleporting blue mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming)--menaces the president. Meanwhile, in the Canadian Rockies, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) searches for answers to his mysterious past at the top-secret facility where he received his metallic skeleton and claws. Back at Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters, Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) instruct students Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and Pyro (Aaron Stanford), while Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Cyclops (James Marsden) pay a visit to the imprisoned Magneto (Ian McKellen). However, Magneto has a secret weapon in the shape-shifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). Soon allies and enemies alike will unite to defeat the hate-filled military scientist William Stryker (Brian Cox), who wants to rid the world of mutants. When Stryker launches a ruthless two-pronged attack that leaves the school under siege and Xavier and Cyclops captured, Wolverine and the remaining X-Men must spring to action to save their friends and prevent all-out genocide.

REVIEW:

Before there was The Dark Knight, before their was Spider-man 2, there was X-2: X-men United. It seems as though direct sequels to the newer superhero franchises have the best incarnation of story and character. Although in my opinion, Blade 2 was the first film to accomplish this task, X2 is well known as being the one that stood out. The film was and still is one of the best superhero films of all times. Unlike the previous X-men movie, this film doesn’t harp on the gay/mutant parallel as much and focuses more on character development and a plot. While there is a social commentary again with the military trying to control the mutants, it’s one that’s easier to swallow. The best aspect of this film is the tragedy aspect. There’s an old motto that I go by when I write myself. I once watched a documentary on the Star Wars films entitled “Empire of Dreams.” In it,

Lawrence Kasden remarks about The Empire Strikes Back, by saying “That’s when you launch into the second act where everything goes to hell.” Allow me to once again redirect to another film quote in the first Spider-man from The Green Goblin, “The one thing they love the most, is to see a hero fail. Fall. Die trying.” These views and remarks hold true for the second incarnation of the respective franchises and X2 is a prime example of the hell that a group of superheroes must go through. The film once again sets the bar for balancing an ensemble cast while maintaining a solid plot, a theme, and a little bit of message. So let’s get into it…

The Story:

There’s so many things going on in this film, and they all are separate paths leading to the same destination. What’s great is the structure of these stories allowing focus on individual characters and their relationships, advancing their stories and the plot. The best part is, when you hit a lull in one story, you cut to a high point in another. It’s fantastic way to keep the action and interest up throughout such a heavily cast movie and keep the audience intrigued with different situations. Besides, if we had all the characters together, with their combined powers…..the movie would suck. ---Justice League writers, eh hem….make note.

Acting:

Hugh Jackman – Even stronger than last time. Wolverine is the backbone of the entire film. If there is a scene with him in it, I’m immediately interested and captivated. The character is kept mysterious as well as edgy. You never know what he’ll do in any given situation.

Brian Cox – really is the main villain in the film. Well, of course he is. Anyway, there’s a lot of confrontation between him and Magneto and Professor X, but his true enemy is Wolverine. Everything that happens in the film is building to a confrontation between the two. Cox is an amazing actor and I was disappointed to lose his character at the end of the film as he was by far the best “human bad guy” the films have seen.Patrick Stewart – really has little to do in the film other than be the pawn of a little girl via mind control. I really don’t understand why all other forms of mind control don’t work for Professor X but a little girl with different eye colors can talk him to committing mass genocide. Ian McKellen – Does have a lot to do in this film, and as always, never fails to disappoint. Magneto is once again on his quest for mutant superiority and this time reveals a more manipulative and backstabbing persona as opposed to an outright sinister take. This characterization is by far more interesting in my opinion.

Shawn Ashmore / Aaron Standford /Anna Paquin – Ice Man, Pyro and Rogue are very well developed in this film and the actors do a great job utilizing the time they have. The fundamentals of being of the Brotherhood or the X-men are explored and you can easily see why would choose one side over the other. Alan Cummings – Does a fantastic job as Nightcrawler in the film, but as you can tell from interviews and special features on the film, was none too happy with the amount of make up and prosthetics he had to wear. It’s sad too, because it was well performed and a great character. But in the end, I can understand why they didn’t have him back in the next film.

Famke Jenson / Halle Berry – Jean Grey and Storm are well developed in this film. Jean is on her descent the entire time and Storm actually has a point and a personality this go around. Granted, there’s not much to do with Storm, but she was well contrasted with Nightcrawler in several moments in the film that gave her character a new depth. Props to Halle for doing a good job and making them memorable.

Directing:

Bryan Singer does his best in this film. He was able to juggle a great story with several character arcs and kept every scene interesting and purposeful.

Cinematography:

Here we go again – I am just a sucker for the camera work in Marvel movies. Symbolism, the use of color, the framing and blocking. The whole nine yards is always something special and this film really set the bar in my humble opinion.

Production Design:

Just great. And like the last film, the costumes are once again well done. It’s kept realistic, but somehow theirs a stylistic touch that you can’t quite put your finger on that keeps it fantastical. Which is the way it should be, subtle.

Editing:

Alright, now I’ve been waiting for this section of my review because I cannot stress enough the literal translation of this next sentence. The opening scene in the White House is BREATHTAKING. If you did not see the film in theaters, then go save up $1000, buy a projector and get the biggest room of your house before you see this movie. It’s simply amazing how great the opening scene is. I can remember being in shock watching this sequence. Watching these kinds of movies on a daily basis really desensitizes me from them and this sequence is the only one I can remember that I was frozen solid watching. It’s….just amazing. Watching it on a smaller screen will not do it justice. Simply put, the editing of this scene is what makes it so wonderful and it continued on throughout the film.

Score:

Operatic. Epic. Yet there still isn’t a great “Oh yeah! Here come the X-men!” feel to it. As if to say, if there were a teaser trailer with a black screen playing this music, I’m pretty sure no one would know who the movie was for. Special Effects:

The opening sequence….again. Sets the bar for the “wow” factor. Alongside that the special effects are really strong in relation with the production design and the visual effects are somewhat stylized and you can tell most of them are CGI, but it doesn’t “take you out” of the story. But it doesn’t always take your breath away either.

In closing:

If you hate superhero movies or action movies or movies in general. I don’t care. Watch this movie’s opening sequence on a giant screen and tell me it’s not amazing. And I’ll tell you that you have no taste at all. That or you must have been a fighter pilot or something truly amazing to not be captivated by that. The film is well acted, written, and directed and edited and shot. What more could you really ask for? It’s the second chapter in this X-men trilogy to date and is of course the tragic one. If you’re not a little choked up by the time the ending has come around and the sacrifices have been made, then check your pulse. You might be a robot.

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