X2: X-Men United (2003)

x2 xmen united

“You’re a god among insects; don’t let anyone tell you any different.”

The Scoop: 2003 PG-13, Directed by Bryan Singer and starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart and Ian Mckellen

Tagline: The time has come for those who are different to stand united

Summary Capsule: Good mutants, bad mutants, and ugly humans are ready to kiss ass and chew bubblegum. And they’re all outta gum.

Justin’s rating: See, I thought iron in your diet was supposed to be good for you, but that shows how much I know!

Justin’s review: As a teen boy, my brothers and I went through a phase where we collected X-Men comic books. I think all teen boys do this as a way to stave off the growing insanity that the female presence causes, and it helped for a month, a month-and-a-half. Unfortunately, since the X-Men comic (graphic) books (novels) have been around since the late middle ages, it was pretty tough to keep track of what was going on.

There’s about a thousand different characters (and funny, you THINK I’m joking about this) with various cross-overs, storylines, alternate universes, reimaginings, etc. to keep track of. It’s a huge crazy universe that’s blown way out of accessibility to anyone but the most hardcore X-freak, which is why it’s fortunate that we have the new X-Men movies as a simpler way to get adjusted to this world.

If you’re looking for a black-and-white struggle between a superhero and a supervillain, look elsewhere. Perhaps in the Toxic Avenger section of your local video library. Rather than lump X-Men in with the Batman/Spider-Man crowd, I’m more comfortable with a comparison to the old Greek pantheon of gods. Zeus, Hermaphrodites, Neptune and the rest ran around enjoying their immortal status and increased powers, but were otherwise just the same as normal people.

They fought and argued with each other, were as petty as the next guy, and they weren’t close to achieving any sort of peaceful perfection that one might normally associate with powerful dieties. The Greeks used their gods to tell morality plays in a grand forum, the same way that X-Men creator Stan Lee used his powerful mutants to highlight the all-too-human issues of racism, prejudice, and loving one’s enemies (or, rather, trying to blow one’s enemies’ heads off with a plasma beam of some sort).

I loved the first X-Men movie, as well as X2: X-Men United. Director Bryan Singer, along with his writers, brought a balance to the Force. X-Men isn’t cartoony, but it isn’t without a sense of charm and humor either. It’s a blended mix of fantastical powers and genuine humanity. We learn that merely possessing superpowers doesn’t make you “evolved”, it just gives you more license to blow stuff up and call collect using 1-800-CALL-ATT without remorse.

X2 picks up the storyline from the first film, with the ever-wise Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his merry band of X-Men still steamed at the ever-irritable Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) and his anti-human Brotherhood of Mutants. Since a sequel must, by law, be bigger, we’re introduced to a third faction. General Stryker (Brian Cox) is a military madman — but quite human — who is bent on capturing, controlling and ridding the earth of the “mutant problem” forever. Hate and fear drive human against mutant, and mutant against fellow mutant, until the ashes settle and an ethical grey zone emerges. We can sympathize with each side, seeing the justification for each of their actions, but we also don’t let any deeper thought get in the way of some mindless (and fun!) violence.

The X-Men universe doubles in size in X2 — in terms of main characters and storylines — which is a shame because so many good characters are fighting over now-smaller pieces of mutant pie. For example, everyone I’ve talked with about X2 always mentions with enthusiasm Colossus’ (a bodybuilder dude who can cover his body in steel armor) ten second scene. A mere ten seconds was all it took to be incredibly cool in a way that an entire two hours with Halle Berry and a white wig never could. Our problem isn’t that the filmmakers didn’t give us enough great movie to chew, it’s just that they didn’t have enough time to go into as much detail as we’d like on each and every thing. But, better to be left wanting more than to be bored with skimpy material, so no complaints here.

Two characters stole the show for me. No, not Logan (aka Wolverine, the fella with cheese shredders between his knuckles), although people wanting to see Wolvie cut loose (ha!) are treated to near-R-rated scenes of vicious slashing and slaughter. Although Logan is a fan favorite, I was wowed by an even better Magneto performance this time around; McKellen gives complexity to a bad character who you really want to like. Magneto starts the film as he ended the first movie — helpless as a neutered and declawed baby kitten — but like Hannibal Lector, he bides his time until an opportunity comes to unleash his fury. Say what you will about Magneto not taking the moral high road, at least the man behind the metal gets things done, and much more thoroughly than the mostly-bumbling X-Men.

Fortunately, the good guys get a new ally in Nightcrawler (Allen Cumming), a polyester-wearing, blue-skinned, angel-tattooed, pointy-tailed teleporting Christian. Of sorts. Sporting a ridiculous Dracula accent, Nightcrawler is unusual in that he’s a humble guy. In a comic book movie where even the women have enough testosterone to kill a cow and everyone’s ready to duke it out at a mere whiff of insult, a calm and more gentler mutant immediately stands out and endears himself to us. Plus, he gets my vote for “Coolest Superpower Visual Effect”, popping around the place like Scotty drunk at the teleporter controls, leaving poofs of violet smoke behind.

Winning the “Darth Maul Award” is the new baddie, Lady Deathstryke. She fulfills the part of a vaguely menacing villain who stalks around, is brought out for key battles, and is told to keep her mouth shut. I’d always prefer a baddie who can be evil in both speech and action, but you take what you can get, I guess.

X2 only makes me sad when I consider how hard and infrequent it will be to continue the series. Like I felt with the first movie, they hit a goldmine here that combines action, superheroes, mythology, geekdom and humor into a palpable hit for most everyone. There’s more of everything the second time around, including tougher issues and deeper character development, and that makes a borderline spectacular effort that will not soon be eclipsed by singular comic book film heroes.

PoolMan’s rating: Replace Magneto with a ’20s-era curly-moustachioed villain and you have the perfect movie! Nyahaha!

PoolMan’s review: X2 presents itself as a girl you always found cute during high school, but comes downstairs for grad night looking like a goddess. Keep in mind, I’m not admitting attraction for Hugh Jackman (at least, not on Clare’s level), but just trying to point out something fantastic. The first X-Men movie was great fun, and worthy of the name. The second X-Men movie blew me away, and has leapt the series up miles on my Geekometer.

There is so much to like about this movie, I don’t know where to begin. Finally freeing itself from the necessary evils of the Origin Story™, X2 gets a chance to tell its own tale in its own way. As much as I enjoyed my first glimpses of the characters in the first movie (are we calling that X1, now?), the mere fact that we already know who most of the characters are finally takes the training wheels off the franchise and lets it rip. The whole movie is bigger, badder, and free-er (?) in every respect.

What really makes X-Men powerful as a story is the fact that every character has his or her weakness, in one form or another. Pyro requires a pilot light to work his magic, and envies the stable upbringing of Iceman. Magneto in a plastic prison is a helpless old man, but he’s also a prisoner of his own convictions. Iceman’s freeze power takes some concentration, and he’s horned up something fierce. Unlike Superman, whose main dramatic problem was that he automatically more powerful than nearly everything he ever came up against, the X-Men have flaws all over the place. They’re not only gods among men, as Magneto would insist, but men among men, as the Professor holds. What makes the premise interesting isn’t necessarily the old knuckle knives, it’s the humanity of the story.

And what a story it is. I have to hand it to them, I really like this reinventing of the X-Men Universe. Gone (seemingly) are the comics-grounded relationships between Nightcrawler and Mystique. In as much as it looks like we’re about to see the next phase of Jean Grey’s progression, it mercifully looks as though cosmic clones and aliens are not going to be involved. The keys to the conflict, like the complex relationship between Prof X and Magneto, are preserved, while the fluff that was used to push dozens of X-comics out of Marvel’s doors fifteen years ago are gone. Thank goodness. We don’t need a soap opera.

Incidentally, I can’t tell you what it means to me to finally watch Wolverine get his claws dirty. Hugh Jackman did a fine job of playing Wolvie as a gruff but loveable curmudgeon the first time out, but letting him play with the wilder, darker side of Logan is a welcome addition. Wolverine goes through red shirt villains in record time with impeccable grit and style, which just goes to show you how well cast he was. And once again, the group around him comes through. All the cast who reprise their previous roles are as good as ever, particularly Sir Ian McKellen’s continued strong portrayal of Magneto. The prison escape scene is brutal and powerful, and just give you the chills watching it. The new additions of Stryker, Yuriko (Lady Deathstrike), and Jason (mutant 143, a unique blend of Mastermind with a hint of Legion from the books) are all spookily strong, although I agree with J, Deathstrike was woefully underused. Perhaps best of all is Alan Cumming’s turn as Nightcrawler, who proves that a sulfur room deodorizer is the key to survival. Watching him bound from space to space via teleportation while kicking ass in a way even Neo still dreams about is just bouncing-in-your-seat fun.

The X-Men series is doing the unthinkable, in turn with Spider-Man, Daredevil, and so many other mentionable favourites: it’s making the world see why us geeks always found the comics so cool. Our existence is validated. Thanks Bryan Singer!

Kyle’s rating: In the great genetic lottery, I pulled “fast typing”

Kyle’s review: Like most of the mysterious mutants of the X-universe, I look just as normal as you and your friends. There are those of us who dress gaudily and wax poetically in order to pontificate grandly to impress girls, but most of us just keep our secret to ourselves and you’d never realize the truth unless you followed us to the comic store. That’s right. I’m a comic book junkie. Or at least I was. When I was a kid I really went nuts with comic books, especially Spider-Man and X-Men and Batman, and now I just follow whatever Grant Morrison writes (more on that later). However, once a comic junkie always a comic junkie, and that means I can remember practically every plot point and character twist there was/is for the X-Men. Did that affect my enjoyment of the movie? Somewhat. Will that affect yours? Probably not, unless you run into me later and I start over-explaining everything.

I don’t always mean to be elitist about these comic book movies. These Marvel Comics adaptations are fantastic and probably satisfy the greatest possible number of people, die-hard fans and civilians alike. My point is more that while these two X films are very professional and highly pleasing, if you’re interested in more of these characters’ stories, hit the comic stores and get some of those trade paperbacks (especially ones by Morrison) to see the X-Men go nuts in adventures with unlimited budgets and creative ideas! See them in space! See them defeat world-ending menaces! See them crucified in the New York sewers! If you can read and have an attention span, give comics a try. Sorry, my literature major subconsciously forces me to encourage reading. Teach your children well, people!

That public service out of the way, X2 is a great extension of the cinematic X-Men and their friends and foes, especially if you liked the first film. Every main character, including new ones like Nightcrawler and Lady Deathstrike, gets at least one scene of absolute coolness where their mutant powers are used to the max. Great stuff! Like Justin mentioned, Magneto really comes across as a seductive and powerful character: if you were on the cusp of deciding whether to be a superhero or a supervillain, this is one source of guidance you would not want to contact. It really feels like a middle chunk, setting up things between the first film and the next one(s?), but not as badly as certain other films cough-Matrix Reloaded-cough. Still, if you want another helping of mutant super-action, X2 is a great way to go. Summer movie fun lives!

Lissa’s rating: I wish I had a cool Mutant power….

Lissa’s review: It was a dreary, unexceptional Friday evening in May. Duckie was away for a business trip, and I was absolutely exhausted. So I plopped on the couch, thinking that maybe I’d pop in a DVD, but the ten feet seemed an enormous distance to walk. A guilty voice that sounded a lot like the Head Mutant (well, not really) told me I should be writing a review, and I WAS sort of in the mood to see X-Men 2, and maybe I should pop that in. I ignored it and turned on the TV and flipped to HBO, where X-Men 2 (technically called X2: X-Men United, but who are we kidding?) was just starting .

True story.

So now that I’ve been given a giant slap upside the head by God (or a tiny ping by coincidence), here we go.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m not a comic book reader. Or a comic series watcher, at least since I was like 13. (The Maxx and Aeon Flux and Animaniacs and Simpsons nonwithstanding. Hmm. Maybe I’m more of a cartoon watcher than I thought.) But although my best friend in high school was really into the X-Men, I never got into them until the first movie came out. Duckie dragged me to it, and I think I ended up liking it even better than he did.

What is so incredibly appealing about the X-Men is the group dynamics. It’s a far cry from the League of Justice, where everyone was always happy and the key phrase was “good idea!”. I mean, if Scott makes a suggestion, Logan’s much more likely to heckle it, and then a few hours later after he’s chewed it over in his mind suggest it again in a slightly modified form or something. It’s much more realistic and a lot more fun to read about, because many of the X-Men are far from two-dimensional.

X-Men 2 is one of those rare sequels that is at LEAST as good as the original, if not better. It’s got a lot going for it, which the guys above have already mentioned. Great plot, lots of good characters, Mutant powers, Hugh Jackman in black leather, a decent villain and LOTS of Magneto, who I think is my favorite character. I love the relationship between Magneto and the Professor, and any movie that has that kind of complex, not-so-simple friendship in it gets major points from me. The acting is pretty much solid, and the younger generation does a great job as well (especially Aaron Stanford, who plays John-slash-Pyro). Lots of action, tons of great character interactions (Logan and Bobby are pretty funny to watch, too)… what more can you want from a movie?

My only complaint about X2 is Storm and Jean Grey.

I used to think Halle Berry was being a diva for saying she wouldn’t come back next time if Storm didn’t have a bigger role. I mean, Storm had tons of screen time, right? But when I was watching it last night, I wondered if she might not actually have a point.

Where the male Mutants are very well fleshed out and fun characters, Jean Grey and Storm fall pretty flat. Yes, they have some pretty cool powers, and yes, they’re not just spineless whimpy girls. They do kick some butt and they save the day more than once. But their personalities rarely deviate from calm, sweet girls who teach school. They’re understanding, gentle, caring, firm about their principles, yada yada yada. And now, that’s great that they’re excellent role models for any young girls watching the movie. I applaud that. And I really like Storm’s touching relationship with Nightcrawler, and the way Jean walks away from Logan. But the characters lack the spice and the flaws and the fun of the other Mutants. Half of Jean’s lines in the movie involve her staring into space and saying “something’s wrong”, and Storm never, ever loses her temper. I mean, maybe she’s written to be an even person or something, but EVERYONE gets along with her. And when you put the two of them aside the more interesting male characters, it really shows up.

I don’t think this is a result of any misogyny from those in charge, however. I mean, I like Rogue. She’s well-developed and interesting. And Mystique got a lot of great screen time, and even some character development beyond shape-shifting. (Not much, but some.) I think more the problem is there’s too many Mutants, and not enough time. And that’s just not really fixable, I guess. Although given how major a part Jean had in this movie, I would have liked a little less time with her saying vague “something’s wrong”s and a little more time with her actually saying something with substance.

But overall, yes, X-Men 2 is a great flick, and I am so ready for X3 (of course, XXX has already been taken as a title, but still!)

Don’t let this happen to you- be sure to bite your nails regularly.

Intermission!

  • Mystique’s big hacking scene into Deathstrike’s computer has a whole bunch of other character references it seems to not only the X-Men but other Marvel franchises. Yesterday we went through the list of names she pulled up on the screen during the movie whilst trying to find Magneto’s location. Keen observer ‘Will’ though managed to find more references though on the other screen where she brings up the ‘Cerebro’ file – “Listed there are files for Project: Wideawake which is the Sentinel Program, a file on Omega Red – the Soviet’s answer to Weapon X/Wolverine, the Muir Island mutant research facillity home of Proteus and his mother Moira, and lastly there is a file on Franklin Richards the son of Reed and Sue Richards of “The Fantastic Four” (which is also set up at Fox) who is acknowleged as one of the most powerful mutants in the Marvel Universe”.
  • In a sequence of channel-surfing, Patrick Stewart is seen on a television as Jean-Luc Picard in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation
  • The castle used as mutants’ school is Hatley Castle located on Vancouver Island, next to Victoria. This castle is also used on the WB TV Hit series “Smallville” as Lex Luthor’s mansion.
  • Iceman freezes a cup of coffee to demonstrate his mutant ability, but the coffee in the cup does not expand as it freezes (as it should).
  • Matthew B writes in: “Actually, it’s possible to ‘super cool’ water such that it doesn’t expand. [edited out a super-long scientific explanation of this]”
  • Justin C adds this: “There’s currently a bit of debate going on about the scene where Bobby freezes the coffee in his mother’s cup, to the tune of why the coffee does not expand and shatter the cup, like water would. Well, water is the exception to the rule — that rule being, “When a liquid becomes a solid, its molecules gather closer together.” So, while water would’ve expanded and broken the cup, the coffee would’ve entered a more compact form.”
  • In the scene where Nightcrawler has to go down to rescue the six children, he’s actually there before he teleports. He’s in the back, unlit waiting for his cue.
  • Gambit and Beast on the news in the bar
  • This makes two X movies featuring police cars that refuse to stay on the ground.
  • Justin thinks buying comics would help you not have to deal with women? Have you SEEN the costumes they wear in the comics?
  • Mystique continues her freaky flirt-with-Wolverine fetish.
  • Rebecca Romijn-Stamos finally gets a (brief) break from her all-body makeup.
  • Grr… I’m Cyclops! I’m insane! I’m under mind control! No wait… now I’m not!
  • Of all people, Stryker is the only one who can see through Mystique’s disguise?
  • Stryker implies that (unlike in the comics), Wolverine’s claws are artificial, not natural parts of his body.
  • What could the cat be licking off of Wolvie’s claws? Hm…
  • Nobody comments on the brimstone smell normally associated with Kurt’s transportation tricks.
  • Apparently, a pound of liquid iron being injected into your body is perfectly safe, allowing you to return to work immediately.
  • That shape under the waves…
  • Jocelyn L. writes in: “Didja know Jubliee was in X2 as well? She was the asian girl who sat right next to Professor X in the last scene before he looked out the window.”
  • If you’re a Mutant Forum lurker, you know we had a good debate on the issue of the question: could either Storm or Iceman have stopped the kind of flood that happens at the end of the movie? I think the general consensus was that Iceman couldn’t (too little time, too much water), but Storm was less clear. Couldn’t she summon enough wind to either lift the jet or blow back the water?
  • Alan Cumming had to endure 8 hours of make-up to become Nightcrawler. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos’ make-up took five hours to apply.
  • The “Lady Deathstrike” claws were glued to the bottom of Kelly Hu’s own fingernails. She had to grow them out a bit so that the claws would fit securely.
  • Most of the cast wore contact lenses when their munant powers were used except Halle Berry who found them unbarable to wear for extended periods of time. All her scenes were digitally enhanced when she controlled the weather.

Groovy Quotes

Storm: Kurt, can you transport in there?
Nightcrawler: No. I have to see where I am going, otherwise I might end up in a wall.

Magneto: Mr. Laurio, never trust a beautiful woman; especially one who’s interested in you.

Stryker: The tricky thing about adamantium is, that if you ever manage to process it’s raw, liquid form, you got to keep it that way. Keep it hot. Because once the metal cools, it’s indestructible, but you already know that. I used to think you were one of a kind Wolverine…I was wrong.

Storm: Sometimes anger can help you survive.
Nightcrawler: So can faith.

Pyro: They say you’re the bad guy.
Magneto: Is that what they say?
Pyro: That’s a dorky looking helmet.
Magneto: That “dorky looking helmet” is the only thing protecting me from the real bad guys.

Pyro: You know those “Dangerous Mutants” you hear about on the news? I’m the worst one.

Nightcrawler: I do not fear them I pity them. You know why? Some people will never know beyond what they can see with their own eye.

Pyro: [after the plane rolls over] Don’t do that again.
Logan: I agree.

Magneto: When will these people ever learn to fly?

Mrs. Drake: Have you ever tried not being a mutant?

Professor X: [to Pyro] The next time you feel like showing off, don’t.

President McKenna: How did you get this?
Professor X: Let’s just say I know a little girl who can walk through walls.

Nightcrawler: Then why not stay in disguise all the time? You know, look like everyone else.
Mystique: Because we shouldn’t have to.

Policeman: Put the knives down and get on the ground!
Logan: I can’t.

Nightcrawler: My name is Kurt Wagner. But in the Munich Circus, I was known as the Incredible Nightcrawler!

Cyclops: Wait, wait a second, who the hell is this guy?
Nightcrawler: I’m Kurt Wagner, but in the great world of circus, they…
Storm: [interrupting] Shhh! He’s a teleporter!

Professor X: Eric, what have you done?
Magneto: I’m sorry Charles, I couldn’t help it.
Professor X: What have you told Stryker?
Magneto: Everything.

Mrs. Drake: What exactly do you teach, Professor Logan?
Wolverine: Art.

Storm: [about Nightcrawler’s scars] What are they?
Nightcrawler: They’re an angelic language passed down to the human race by the archangel Gabriel.
Storm: How many?
Nightcrawler: One for every sin, so, quite a few.

Stryker: Sergeant, kill everyone that approaches, even if it is me.

Magneto: You’re a god among insects; don’t let anyone tell you any different.

Rogue: [notices Magneto and Mystique laughing quietly at her] What are you looking at?
Magneto: We love what you’ve done with your hair.

Xavier: Logan, my dislike for your smoking not withstanding, continue to smoke in here and I will have you spend the rest of your life believing you’re a six year old girl.
Logan: You’d do that?
Xavier: I’d have Jean braid your hair.

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • X-Men
  • Spider-Man
  • Daredevil

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