If you live your life right, go to church and say your prayers you come back as Rebecca Romijn-Stamos' makup artist. She is so hot as Mystique she melts the considerable snow around her. Can you imagine being a makeup artist and getting that assignment? I'd get my paycheck and feel so guilty I'd hand it back!
I'm digressing here... In case you haven't figured it out by now, I just saw X2: X-Men United! Judge me if you will but I thought that X2 was a great movie! As with the first X-Men I was surprised at the level of care that went into accuracy. No, it wasn't perfect, and they didn't go word for word from the original Chris Claremont scripts, but ten seconds of Bryan Singer comic book adaptation is worth ten hours of Joel Schumacher comic book adaptation. Singer has proven that a Superhero Movie with an Ensemble cast can work! Now, Bryan... how about making a DC movie? Please?
The action of this movie centers around a military scientist named Stryker (Brian Cox) who sets up a number of mutants in order to force the hand of the US Government to crack down on Mutants. Stryker has such a Mad-On for Muties in general that he's willing to make some ultimate sacrifices! Oh, he's nasty all right, and there's no question about where the good and evil lies around him. It's cut and dry!
A counter point to this is Magneto back again in the excellent guise of Sir Ian McKellen! As in the first film, the line between what is good and what is bad is blurred in the person of Magneto, not to mention that of his followers (reduced to the aforementioned Mystique... for now)! His presence in this sequel is anything but a retread. In actuality this allows for even more depth of character to be developed. Magneto is idealistic, flawed, and dangerous... but is he evil? You decide!
Events set into motion by Sryker force the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants (what's left of it) into a strange alliance, along with a newcomer (and former Stryker-stooge) known as Nightcrawler (played with wonderful accuracy and care by Alan Cumming). It's a completely uneasy alliance, however that serves its purpose every bit as long as it needs to and not a micro-second longer. The alliance also allows for Logan's (aka Wolverine [Hugh Jackman]) confession of his love for Jean Gray (Famke Janssen) in spite of her relationship with Scott Summers (aka Cyclops [James Marsden]). Who's she gonna choose? Oh puh-lease!
We end up at the "birthplace" of Wolverine (not to mention Yuriko aka Lady Deathstrike [Kelly Hu]). Here we discover that Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) super mutant tracking computer Cerebro is being duplicated by Stryker to act as a mass-extermination device for all mutants world wide (unless you have a handy anti-X helmet like Magneto does)!
Just like my first X-Men review I am hesitant to offer any spoilers, but I can say that the ending is really good, and action packed. Quite a lot is revealed, and it's done well, with accuracy (for the most part), and has an eye to the future. Yep! I lay you real dollars I know what's going to happen in X3! Once again, I won't ruin anything, but her initials are... DARK PHOENIX! Watch this space for the review of X3 when it comes out! You can email me when I'm wrong!
As probably every other reviewer has stated X2 is heavy on the action... even heavier than the first. This is a great thing as the story doesn't at all suffer for this presence. What this does is allow for a larger display of the "New Mutants" at the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters, as well as to allow for a lot more Matrix-influenced ass kicking. The fight scene between Deathstryke and Wolverine has to be seen to be truly appreciated.
Anyone can tell by now that I'm a bit of a Comic Book aficionado. So, naturally accuracy is a big deal to me. No, it's not the Bible, but it's so refreshing to note that some people recognize that the source material is so popular because it is so good, and doesn't need fixing if it isn't broken! It's much better to celebrate the attempt for accuracy than to nitpick this movie to death! To that note, Alan Cumming was fantastic as Kurt Wagner (aka Nightcrawler). I couldn't believe how much they left in about him. Specifically, it seems to be amazingly taboo to mention religion lately (unless its derisive) but Nightcrawler's devout Catholicism made it to the big screen entirely intact. Cummings' German accent was likewise dead-on! Praise for McKellen and Stewart and the dignity with which they portrayed their characters (never bowing to the camp) can never be enough! They were perfect!
Halle Berry was as Beautiful as ever, and did a great job as Storm! Will she be back for the next one? Probably not, so soak her up now! The first film was supposed to be the breakthrough for James Marsden, but I haven't seen him in anything... have you? Cyclops is good here... we just don't see him a whole lot! When we do, it's worth it! Which brings us back to Janssen's Jean Greay (formerly Marvel Girl)... after some initial trepidation we finally see her real power as possibly the most puissant telekinetic telepath on the planet. She shows us this with literally Earth-Shattering force! Jackman's Wolverine was as great as he was last time out! I'll say it again: the height issue bothered me. Seeing a character who is supposed to be 5' 2" towering over everyone is a little disconcerting, but that's easily ignored by his acting, his look, and ooooooooooooooh that hair! We finally get to see Logan's berserker side this go-round! Mystique (though here unrelated to Rogue) was an exciting attractive, and accurate continuation of the first movie. I love what she's wearing! We also get to see Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in her natural, un-made-up (albeit clothed... dammit) glory! The survival of so much of the source-material's back-story was more than appreciated. One thing this movie is not though is a direct retread, or a predictable bore. In fact, as accurate as it was, Singer wasn't afraid to experiment with new story elements without changing that which worked just fine to begin with!
Unfortunately this isn't absolutely perfect, and I have to do a little nitpicking here. Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore) whom many of us grew up with as Iceman in the 1980s on TV's Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (and in comics long before that) remains all wrong! His part has been expanded from the first film, but not for the better. Generally he feels like an addition specifically for the purpose of bringing in teen girls. A brief subplot about his confession to his parents that he is a Mutant fizzles as a goofy plot point that could have been handled much easier in another way. Ashmore isn't really such a bad actor... he just didn't have a hell of a lot to work with! Iceman is the same age as Cyclops and Jean in the source material. If they weren't going to use him properly, why not just make something else up? All of the greatness that Rogue (the ever watchable Anna Paquin) was set up for in the last movie is pretty well absent here. She's really not a disappointment, but she feels like a placeholder for the next film. She does share a funny, awkward moment with Magneto (who almost killed her in the last film). Pyro (Aaron Stanford) was a mixed bag as well. On one hand he didn't have the necessary-for-accuracy Australian accent, and he was another annoying Teen. On the other hand his powers were exactly right, and his eventual changing of teams was perfect. Perhaps X3 will have some great Pyro Moments! I hope so! It was great to see Colossus too... I hope there's more to see in the next film. Deathstrike deserves another chance. I can see the possibility of how she could return, and I pray she will. Her defeat echoed Elektra's in the Daredevil film! You'd think she'd be harder to beat! Before I close the nitpicking portion of this review I have to say that this film is much more accurate than the WB's animated X-Men: Evolution, which is still pretty decent.
Also in the not-so-great category, there was a lot of killing and a lot of letting people die in this film. To an extent this was not a bad thing, as this was a PG-13 film, and the circumstances required self-defense more often than not. Unfortunately there was also a lot of leaving people to die, which I can't get into. Bad guys are bad guys, but when someone is without defense, is their death really necessary? Maybe so! There were a few moments when it seemed obvious that a character could use his or her powers to get out of a jam, and they miss that chance once in awhile. You'll see what I'm talking about!
The bottom line is that this is a really great movie, and a whole lot of fun to watch. It's marginally better than the first, and compared to most Comic Book movies it's Country Amazing! I will say that you need to have seen the first to get much of this one... but why bother watching this one without seeing the first anyway? Three and one half stars for X2! I love this movie, and I will be first in line for the DVD! Well, I have to run now... I feel like my old X-Men versus the Micronauts Comics are calling me to prove myself to be a complete geek! Wish me luck for my safe return!