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X2 X-Men United (2003)

Reviewed by Lady Liberty

The Marvel Comic X-Men are back in this sequel to the 2000 blockbuster film, X-Men, and so is the cast of the first feature. It should be noted that I've only read one of the X-Men comics (which, despite not liking comics, I liked), so I can't honestly make any claims as to how closely the characters, character interaction, or storyline matches that established by Marvel. That being said, I will confess to liking the movie just fine.

In X2, the action begins perhaps a month or so after the events depicted in X-Men. Although not strictly necessary, it would be a good idea to see the first film before seeing the second so as to catch up on certain events that are discussed only briefly as well as to learn about some of the early interactions between main characters.

X2 opens with a mutant attack on the President of the United States which, in turn, generates still more of the simmering anti-mutant sentiment among members of the "normal" public. Chief among those who hate and fear the mutants is an ex-military man and research scientist, William Stryker (Bryan Cox). Stryker is determined to get rid of the mutant population all together, and he's cobbled together some nefarious plans to accomplish his goals. At the center of his plans is the desire to capture and force Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) to help him.

As Stryker does anything and everything he can to make progress in destroying mutant-kind, the X-Men and their mutant enemies are forced by circumstance to unite against Stryker and his forces. Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) are sent to find a frightening lone mutant calling himself Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), just as Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returns from a search of a more personal nature. Meanwhile, the evil Magneto (Ian McKellen) remains held in a plastic jail where he schemes an escape he hopes will succeed with the assistance of the beautiful but ruthless Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). While Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Asmore), and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) struggle through adolescence and an acceptance of their mutancy, Wolverine comes to discover he has a unique enemy of his own, the Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu), as well as learning of a nemesis who can give him the key to his past but likely destroy him in the process.

If it seems as if there are a lot of side plots to the movie, there are. But it's not at all confusing and does, in fact, give dimension to some of the characters as the main story moves along at a reasonable clip. The cast of name actors, of course, doesn't hurt the quality of the film at all. But X2, in the way of comics, is more about broad strokes and action than about subtle drama. The special effects are superlative, particularly the morphing scenes involving Mystique and the disquieting teleportation of Nightcrawler, the latter of which also is arguably the most sympathetic character of this installment (with one exception, but I won't spoil the surprise). The story is exciting and fast-paced enough for action fans, yet has some meat to it so as not to disappoint those moviegoers who appreciate a plot with their adrenaline.

X2 is not a film that will win a lot of awards for acting (although Hugh Jackman and Famke Janssen in particular are terrific) or script writing, but the public has already rewarded it well with the popularity it deserves. ... Though some more serious theatre fans have a hard time with movies like X2, it is my firm belief that movies are first and foremost meant to be entertaining. And this one is.

FAMILY SUITABILITY : X2 is rated PG-13. It's got some comic book-type violence, only a little of which is graphic, and no sex or really objectionable language. The movie is fairly suspenseful at times making it unsuitable for young children (and a scene where young children are in grave danger is probably over the top for little ones), but it provides an enjoyable ride for those age 10 and up who like comics. It will also prove a diverting couple of hours for anyone else able to let go of reality long enough to enjoy a fast-paced and entertaining fantasy onscreen.

Lady Liberty has a web site, visit it at - http://www.ladylibrty.com/.

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