X2: X-Men United
Review and Media by Stu

X2: X-Men United
Original Release Date - May 2nd 2003

Hated and distrust brew between human and mutantkind. An unprovoked mutant attack on The President gives General William Stryker his long awaited opportunity to wage all out war against mutants. A war that would only leave one race victories.

The X-Men must unite with their old adversary Mageneto to prevent a devastating confrontation that could destroy everyone on the planet.

Credits
Story By: Zak Penn, David Hayter & Bryan Singer
Screenplay By: Dan Harris, David Hayter & Michael Dougherty
Directed By: Bryan Synger
Music By: John Ottman
Starring: Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier, Hugh Jackman as Wolverine/Logan, Ian McKellen as Magneto/Eric Lensherr, Halle Berry as Storm, James Marsden as Cyclops/Scott Summers, Brian Cox as Stryker, Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, Shawn Ashmore as Iceman/Bobby Drake and Anna Paquin as Rouge

Review: Proving that not all summer blockbusters are mindless flicks, X2: X-Men United was released in the summer of 2003 and became that year’s number one box office hit. The film is very much a sequel to the original, only this time, it was given more time to be The X-Men film we all wanted to see, with a budget to back it.

The film continues to set up the conflict between mutants and humans, but rather than continue with a new mutant threat, Synger and co wisely decided to move inward and have the villain of the piece be human. General Stryker added a great dimension to the film and made the threat seem so much more real, rather than simply having another mutant with a cool new power appear. In retrospect, this film simply did everyone right that the original “sort of” did. It improved upon every aspect, script, direction, musical score, pacing and effects, everyone involved seemed to be having so much more energy into their work. It moves the series along, but continues to be fun and adventurous throughout and to top it off, they gave The X-Men new, sleeker costumes which look so much better than they did in the original.

The pacing is still slightly problematic, and the final often doesn’t feel like the ending to the rest of the film you’ve just sat through, but in all honestly, it doesn’t matter. The film doesn’t feel unfinished like the original, but still manages to set up a story for the sequel. God willing, Ratner won’t screw it up, because this is a fine franchise, and the original 2 movies have bags of potential which deserve follow ups.

The opening scene is especially impressive. Whilst there are a small number of mutants I’d rather have seen introduced than Nightcrawler, he gets a fine portrayal here, and an opening action sequence that practically tops every action scenes in the original added together. The fights were a lot better this time around; they seemed to finally add that oomph that was missing in the original. A lot of Wolverine vs. Uriko was simply painful to watch, I couldn’t help but cringe at how brutal the whole thing was, it has outstanding choreography throughout, and a great performance of “Holy shit!” from Hugh Jackman.

Performance wise, the cast seemed to grow into their roles more. Marsden was a big improvement as Cyclops, whilst the rest upped their game. Halle Berry gets a mention because she didn’t suck this time around.

It would be criminal to not mention Magneto’s prison break. I wondered how they were planning to release him after I left the theatre once I saw the original, but man, it was pure genius. I never could’ve predicted it. Even after I saw Mystique inject the guard, when I saw Magneto lift him up, I was asking, “the hell is going on here?” (To the chagrin of the rest of the audience I’m afraid!). Genius. Pure genius.

The ending came as a great shock to me. I avoided all spoilers of the film, so Phoenix’s appearance came completely out of left field. There’s was a lot of surprises throughout, Colossus’ cameo, the names on Stryker’s computer (Franklin Richards, Omega Red and Project Wideawake included!) but this one topped them all. I’m glad that Synger’s not afraid to go a completely different route from the comics, but still manages to get a lot in his films to appeal to the comic fans. I thought Jean’s death was exceptionally executed, with outstanding performances from both Marsden and Jackman. I look forward to seeing its conclusion; again, providing Ratner doesn’t completely suck.

Overall, if you’re and X-Men fan or not, this is arguably going to be near the top of your list of great superhero movies. Whilst I like the Spider-Man movies more, I can’t deny how brilliant these X-Men films really are.

With that said, a note to Brett Ratner; Don’t screw up!

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