X2: X-MEN UNITED
Review by Ed Nguyen
Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackson, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Rebecca
Romijn-Stamos, Alan Cumming, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Kelly Hu, James Marsden,
Director: Bryan Singer
Audio: English DTS or Dolby Surround Sound 5.1, Spanish or French 2-channel Surround
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Video: Color, anamorphic widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: 20th-Century Fox
Features: See below
Length: 134 minutes
Release Date: November 25, 2003
you really want to turn this into some kind of a war?"
year 2003 has been a fabulous one for movie adaptations of comic books.
First there was Daredevil, a violent, brooding but remarkably faithful rendition of
Marvel Comics' blind super-hero. There
was also The Hulk, a highly
anticipated but flawed film about Marvel's big, green behemoth; it substituted a
poor script and CGI effects for the pathos and humanity of the original
television show. Then, there was The
League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a divertingly entertaining if ultimately
empty and unoriginal film. But, the
crown for the most critically and commercially successful comic book adaptation
for 2003 belongs exclusively to one film - X2:
is, of course, the sequel to X-Men,
which arrived in theaters in 2000. Both
films are derived from the popular Uncanny
X-Men, a long-running Marvel comic book.
In the comic, a secret team of super-powered mutants, led by the
mysterious Professor X, is sworn to protect all of humanity, even those who
would fear or loathe them.
X-Men comic book was created in 1963,
with an original line-up of Cyclops, Marvel Girl (or Jean Grey), Beast, Angel,
and Iceman. A dozen years and
several reprint issues later, the X-Men were reincarnated, and the comic book,
now entitled The Uncanny X-Men,
featured a new lineup of Cyclops, Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Sunfire, and
Thunderbird (Professor X and Jean Grey remained as well).
This time, the line-up was composed with a more international flavor -
Colossus was Russian, Storm came from Africa (and was also the first major
female black super-heroine), Sunfire was Japanese, and Thunderbird was a Native
American. While some members of
this line-up eventually departed (or died), the modern line-up of the X-men was
and Nightcrawler, who both appear prominently in the film X2, did not actually join the X-Men in the comic books until much
later. In fact, Rogue was
originally a villainess under Mystique's mentorship, while Nightcrawler was the
son of you-know-who (hint: blue skin?). While
neither of these storylines is retained in the movies, X-Men fans will
undoubtedly have fun comparing the similarities or differences between the
movies and the comics.
any event, enough fans, old and new, embraced the first X-Men film to make it a solid success. X-Men was a
super-hero film unlike any other in the genre - it was the first major one about
a team of super-heroes rather than about an individual (let's just pretend the
unfortunate Corman Fantastic Four film
doesn't exist). Wolverine may the
most popular X-men character, both in the comics and in the films, but X-Men
and its sequel X2 afford all the X-men
a chance to display their powers as they cooperate to triumph over the bad guys.
re-unites X-Men's director Bryan
Singer with most of his cast from the first film.
Back once more in their on-going struggles for justice and equality are
Cyclops (James Marsden), a man with laser vision eyes, Jean Grey (Famke
Janssen), a developing telepath, Storm (Halle Berry), a woman able to control
the weather, Rogue (Anna Paquin), a young girl with the ability to steal other
mutants' abilities, and Wolverine (Hugh Jackson), a maverick with rapid
regenerative abilities and a skeleton encased in an indestructible metal alloy.
Guiding them again is Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a very powerful
but wheelchair-bound telepath. Remnants
of the previous film's antagonistic Brotherhood of Mutants are back as well -
Magneto (Ian McKellen), a powerful mutant with control over all metals, and
Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), an alluring and mysterious doppelganger.
This time around, the lines between good and bad are muddled, and the
alliances are altered; Professor Xavier's heroes may even find themselves
relying upon their former nemeses to defeat the true villains in this sequel.
picks up essentially where the first X-men
film concluded. There is little in
the way of exposition to re-orient audiences, so first-time watchers are
encouraged to watch X-men first. Just to quickly recap though, in the first film, our friendly
neighborhood super-heroes, based at Professor Xavier's School for Gifted
Children (in actuality a school for young mutants), discovered a newly devised
plan by Magneto that threatened to ignite the smoldering conflict between
mankind and mutantkind. The X-Men
eventually stopped Magneto, but not before a U.S. senator was killed and
secretly replaced by the shape-shifting Mystique. The first film ended with Wolverine, the X-Men's newest
recruit, journeying north to seek the truth about his unknown past.
X2 opens, the repercussions of
Magneto's attacks have resounded throughout the country.
A great deal of animosity has arisen over the bitter and fearful dispute
about the mutant dilemma. Events
quickly take a sinister turn for the worse when an unknown mutant makes an
assassination attempt upon the life of the President of the United States.
The President survives but consequently grants permission to the
vehemently anti-mutant William Stryker (Brian Cox) to initiate retaliatory
reveals his suspicions to the President that Professor Xavier's mysterious
school is a base of operations for mutants.
Much of Stryker's information comes directly from Magneto, alive and
imprisoned in a secret federal facility. More
ominously, Magneto has divulged his knowledge of the existence of Cerebro, a
huge machine used by Professor Xavier to enhance his own psychic abilities and
to keep track of all the mutants in the world.
This revelation proves to be an incredible opportunity for Stryker, for
it presents a means by which to control, or exterminate, all of mutantkind.
Xavier's school thus becomes a military target.
X-Men be may misunderstood and feared, but they are not actually malevolent.
Under Professor Xavier's guidance, they have always sought to find a
beneficial way for all of humanity to co-exist peacefully.
Stryker's assault, coming in the middle of the night, catches Xavier's
school essentially defenseless. Jean
Grey and Storm are away tracking down the enigmatic, would-be assassin, while
Professor Xavier and Cyclops have left to visit Magneto in his prison to
ascertain his role, if any, in the attack upon the President.
Only Wolverine, recently returned from his journeys, stands between the
multiples of soldiers who descend upon the school and the frightened children
under his ward. Suffice it to say
that a huge battle ensues, and the X-Men are scattered to the winds and captured
or pursued remorselessly. Eventually,
the X-Men will re-unite and attempt to discover the true motivation behind the
attack upon the President as well as the true mastermind behind that twisted
is a very worthy sequel to the original X-Men,
and everything is bigger and better than before.
The story moves along at a fast pace, giving audiences less emphasis on
lengthy exposition and more of the adrenaline rush they crave.
While I enjoyed the character development scenes of X-Men,
the super-heroism of X2 will please
many fans. Plus, everyone loves the
underdogs, and the X-Men are certainly that in this film.
action in X2 are more explosive and
more impressive than in X-Men.
All the X-men have dazzling fight sequences, with Nightcrawler's
introduction being a particularly spectacular sequence.
Wolverine fans will undoubtedly cheer during the climactic fight between
Wolverine and a deadly female assassin every bit his equal, while Mystique fans
can watch her challenge an entire unit of heavily armed soldiers.
X2 set designs are equally impressive,
from the X-academy to the new and improved X-Jet interiors to the finale's dank
and dark underground lair. Even
Bryan Singer, the director of both films, admits that X2
is much closer to his vision of an ideal X-Men film than was the original film.
the most part, the new casting in X2
is quite good. Alan Cumming is
great as the insecure yet almost cuddly Nightcrawler.
Kelly Hu, despite having no lines of dialogue, makes a strong impression
as Deathstrike, Wolverine's nemesis. Michael
Reid MacKay is also excellent in a dialogue-free and somewhat limiting role; I
won't reveal the nature of his character here (it's fairly clear in the film),
but his portrayal is very creepy and quite effective.
Aaron Stanford (previously seen in Tadpole)
plays the conflicted and rebellious John (a.k.a. Pyro), a young mutant still
searching for his true identity. He
is, as Magneto puts it, "a god among insects," and Stanford injects
into his characterization of Pyro a quiet sense of poignancy that suggest his
inner uncertainties and doubts. Pyro
is the X-Men's equivalence to Anakin Skywalker (but with much
better acting), and it will be quite interesting to see how this character
evolves in the next X-Men film.
all the cast members fare quite as well, though. James Marsden is sadly underutilized again, with his
character Cyclops getting relatively very little to do.
This is odd, considering that Cyclops is supposedly the X-Men team
leader. Plus, the cameo appearance
of one of the X-Men characters (remember that huge metallic guy seen in the
film's trailer?) is a bit dubious. Doesn't
the fact that there is an enormous, half-naked man (who appears at least in his
mid-twenties and who could probably flatten Wolverine) running around at night
in a school for children seem...disturbing to anyone? Diehard fans of the X-Men comics will not be perturbed
because they know about this character's background, but the casual viewer might
find his heretofore unexplained and sudden appearance in the film to be
only really questionable casting choice, however, remains Halle Berry as Storm.
Aside from the obvious fact that her costume and hair are still all wrong
(a production decision, not Berry's fault), she continues to display a poor
grasp on her character. Is this the
same exotic Storm who in the comics was once worshipped in Africa as a goddess? Surely not. She's
American now and wears a bad wig. And,
does anyone remember Berry's cringe-inducing delivery of the line, "Do you
know what happens to a toad when it's struck by lightning?
The same thing that happens to everything else" from X-Men?
That line did not make much sense, and thanks to her flat delivery,
sounded fairly ridiculous. Well, X2
is basically more of the same. With
all due apologies to Halle Berry fans (yes, she's ultra-gorgeous and yes, she's
an Oscar winner), she is simply not the right actress for Storm.
has a few other minor flaws, too. The
few character development scenes present in the film are dull at best and do
little besides slow down the film. Scenes
revolving around the romantic conflict between Jean Grey and Wolverine or
Cyclops feel somewhat contrived and would have benefited from some creative
re-writing. Also, the film's
central theme of tolerance and co-existence is, at times, a little heavy-handed
in its delivery. It is not
difficult to note an allegorical reference in this theme to real-life conflicts
concerning race or homosexuality; the supplement disc even surprisingly suggests
a religious subtext to the film! However,
there is little subtlety in the way this message is communicated to audiences.
The film could have achieved a much greater emotional resonance on these
themes if it had trusted in the audience's intelligence and had tried a softer,
less blatant approach. There is a
scene in which a parent, confronted with the sudden revelation that her child is
different, asks, "honey, have you tried...not being a
mutant?" It is played for
laughs, but at least the sequence does provide an intimate view of how the
mutant dilemma is affecting the personal lives of our heroes.
Still, the scene has an air of superficiality to it and paints the mutant
dilemma in such broad-based, black-and-white strokes that it is hard to take
this supposedly domestic crisis in the film seriously.
film's dénouement also feel somewhat forced.
The dialogue is not entirely polished (Singer even admits in the
commentary track that he decided the outcome of the film very late in production
and re-wrote some of the dialogue on the actual day of shooting).
Being familiar with the comic book, I completely understand the rationale
behind the film's tragic finale, but I still feel it could have been presented
in a more satisfying manner. Anyway,
the finale does suggest a highly probable path for X2's
inevitable sequel (non-comic book readers may refer to the second commentary
track for hints).
the end, X2 is a summer film at heart,
so we really cannot expect too much from it, other than the usual thrills and
joyrides which this film more than adequately delivers.
If X2 isn't a fantastic film,
it is at least an extremely entertaining one, and that is ultimately all that a
blockbuster need aspire to be. Don't
get me wrong - I am a big fan of the first X-Men
film and really liked X2 a lot, too. Both films are among the best super-hero movies to date, and
any criticism I direct towards X-Men
or X2 is merely a former fanboy's
enthusiastic desire for the films to be as great as possible.
Fans of the comic book will discover a lot to love about X2,
and non-readers will also find this film to be two solid hours of action-packed
excitement. After years and years
of playing a distant second fiddle in the movies to DC comics' superheroes, the
Marvel heroes have finally arrived in a big way on the silver screen, and the
X-Men are leading the vanguard.
There are four unnamed X-men who make cameo appearances in the film.
Can you find them? For a
hint, glance over the cast list in the closing credits.
is presented in a widescreen anamorphic format, at a 2.40:1 aspect ratio.
It looks gorgeous. The colors are vivid, from the lushness of the outdoor
scenes, to the solid black levels of the night scenes (such as the attack on the
school), to the sickly green hues of the villain's underground lair.
The print is also in pristine condition without a scratch or dust speck
in sight. The transfer is mildly
soft but is otherwise impeccable without any glaring traces of compression
artifacts, aliasing, or color bleeding.
sports a wonderfully dynamic 5.1 DTS track as well as a fine 5.1 Dolby Digital
Surround track. Both are equally
superb. There are plenty of
explosives, shots, and loud sound effects to give the .1 sub-woofer channel a
solid work-out. Sound is spread out
evenly to create a truly immersive listening experience, and dialogue is always
crisp and clear.
non-English speakers, French and Spanish tracks are also available, albeit in
During the X-Jet dogfight sequence, that definitely is
a woman's voice you hear ordering the X-Jet to descend. X2 is actually the
first American film to portray a female jet fighter pilot (or two, if you count
Storm, who pilots the X-Jet).
Fox has given X2 a hero's treatment.
The movie arrives as a 2-disc DVD set.
The first disc contains the movie as well as two commentary tracks, while
the second disc holds the bulk of the extra features, mostly featurettes that
range from five to fifteen minutes in length.
These featurettes are also further divided into several arbitrary
categories (pre-production, production, post-production, etc.).
I recommend that people look over the foldout inside the DVD case to see
the complete list of features. The
foldout's list is arranged differently than on the DVD but will give you a
general idea of what is offered. Some
of these extras are merely filler material, but there are enough worthwhile
extras to make any X-Men fan happy.
disc one, the first commentary is provided by director Bryan Singer and his
cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel. They
are obviously good friends and have a great rapport.
A word of caution, though - do not take everything Singer and Sigel say
at face value (as such, when Singer casually comments that the third X-Men film
will be a musical featuring an X-line dance).
There are also some references to bloopers for the DVD, although I did
not find an obvious blooper reel anywhere on either disc in this release.
The second commentary is by producers Lauren Donner and Ralph Winter as
well as screenwriters Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter.
second disc starts with The Secret Origin
of the X-Men, a discussion about the early history of the X-Men comic book.
Only the first X-Men movie is
mentioned in this 15-minute featurette, so perhaps this extra is out of place on
the X2 disc, but it is here,
nonetheless. Creator Stan Lee and
fan favorite writer Chris Claremont are present to offer some words of
super-hero wisdom. It may surprise
people to learn that the early X-Men comics were not initially very popular and
at one point were even canceled. The
series survived in reprints until its rebirth in the mid-1970's. Since then, the X-Men comics and graphic novels have been
among the best sellers in the Marvel catalog.
Coincidentally, pristine original copies of the early X-Men comics are
now worth hundreds of dollars.
Comics published a comic book about the Nightcrawler character at the time of X2's
release in the theaters. The next
featurette, Nightcrawler Reborn, offers a summary of that comic book as well as
a look at various artists' rendition of Nightcrawler. The comic book follows the movie continuity, not the comic
continuity, and so provides relevant background information about the events
leading up to Nightcrawler's attack on the President in X2.
Attack is a
multi-angled look at the opening sequence for the film.
You can choose to view this sequence either as the computer cinematics
version, as a rough cut with unfinished special effects, or as a side-by-side
comparison between these choices and the completed film sequence.
Strangely, the Nightcrawler Stunt Rehearsal, offered elsewhere on the disc,
essentially repeats the cinematics version again.
in the Details
is a 18-minute tour of the largest sets for X2.
On-hand is production designer Guy Dyas, who guides us through the Xavier
school set, the Cerebro set, the underground lair, the museum, Magneto's plastic
prison, Nightcrawler's hideout (a real church), the White House, and finally the
X-Jet. All in all, there are a lot
of interesting sights here, although the extremely soft focus of the video image
makes this featurette occasionally difficult to watch.
Coincidentally, a few of the other featurettes also suffer from this
fuzzy picture quality, too.
Colors of X
offers designer Louise Mingebach an opportunity to talk about the costumes in
the film. She comes across as
cheerful, if slightly bubble-headed, but her enthusiasm for the film certainly
cannot be denied. I only wish this
featurette had included more conceptual drawings or even costume tests as well.
a cool rehearsal featurette, check out the Wolverine/Deathstrike
Fight Rehearsal. This is
exactly as it sounds and even uses many of the same camera angles as in the
final version. It is fun to see
Hugh Jackson and Kelly Hu out of costume while they beat each other up.
Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men: the Ultimate Making-Of Documentary, at one hour in length, is the longest
feature on the second disc. It
offers a little of everything, from interviews with Bryan Singer and his writers
(it is amazing how young and high-school age these folks look!), to
behind-the-scenes glances at some of the stunts, to words of whimsy from most of
the principal actors. Halle Berry
does not appear in this documentary (or anywhere else on this disc, really)
except in sporadic, non-interview clips, while James Marsden and Kelly Hu are
both quite funny and chat away more than they do in the entire film! Be sure to watch until the end of this documentary to see a
funny outtake that answers the question of "will there be a third X-Men
we have Introducing the Incredible
Nightcrawler, a character study into the mystery of this blue mutant.
It offers a history of Nightcrawler from the perspective of the comic
books and then shows amusing clips of Alan Cumming practicing his moves in
shows up again in Nightcrawler Time-Lapse,
a quick overview that reveals, in a few minutes, the hours-long makeup ordeal by
which Alan Cumming was transformed into the impish Nightcrawler.
It is very praise-worthy to see the amount of torture an actor will go
through for the sake of his art. Now,
can we optimistically hope for a Mystique Time-Lapse on the next X-disc?
the technically-oriented, there is FX2,
a 25-minute feature on the various special effects in the film.
We'll get to see how many of the mutant powers (Cyclops' laser vision,
Nightcrawler's teleportation, etc.) were created for the film.
Plus, there is a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the X-Jet
dogfight sequence. This feature
concludes with impressive footage of the dam-breaking sequence.
is an opportunity for the film's composer, John Ottman, to talk about the music
of X2. He discusses
various themes for the movie, and we also get to watch the orchestra rehearsing
or performing. This downside of
this featurette is again a soft picture quality that makes it somewhat difficult
is a series of short interview clips conducted live by video over the internet
with Singer, his producers, and many of the main actors.
The most entertaining clip shows Hugh Jackson's embarrassed response to a
question about a practical joke played on him during a vulnerable moment of
filming. Both commentary tracks
mention the joke, so I will not give it away here, but it's a hoot (especially
for the ladies)!
up are the Deleted Scenes, of which
there are eleven in total. Half of
these scenes are merely extended versions (by a few seconds) of scenes already
in the film. The small changes may
not be immediately obvious, although Singer does discuss some of the small
differences in his commentary track. The
remaining scenes are true deleted scenes which expand upon existing sequences
from X2 (the children at the museum,
the camp site, the escape from the underground lair, etc.). Most are incidental scenes which add nothing to the film, but
they are still interesting to watch.
we come to a truly enormous stills gallery, containing well over 600 entries.
It is divided into six separate sections - characters design (42 stills),
locations and sets (315!), mutant x-rays (47), Nightcrawler circus posters (8),
on-camera graphics (190), and the unseen X2 (54).
For a great laugh, check out one of the posters in Ronny's room to learn
how to identify a mutant; you'll find this in the on-camera graphics section.
It's hilarious! The unseen X2 section offers a tantalizing look at some
concepts that did not make it into the final film, including an unused X-Men
character (Angel), the school's Danger Room training facility, and a Sentinel,
one of the powerful X-villains. Perhaps
these concepts will appear in a future film.
Coincidentally, some of the mutant x-rays show the Angel character, so
check them out carefully, too!
there is the trailers section. It
contains three trailers, a public announcement, and a link to the Marvel
website. The first trailer is
essentially an early teaser without any actual film footage.
The second trailer is more exciting and is accompanied by music from
Holst's "The Planets Suite" (appropriately enough, "Mars");
I highly recommend this great symphonic piece to everyone!
The last trailer is the more conventional one which played in theaters
and introduced many of the lead mutants by name.
The public announcement is an anti-drug message about the dangers of
marijuana. Lastly, the Marvel
website offers three free comics to potentially interested readers.