Everyone has their own way of judging a movie. You have your criteria and I have mine. There are certainly differences between our opinions on the matter but my guess is we have more agreement than disagreement. For example, I'm sure you'd agree that there is one factor that stands out as a means to improve the first X-MEN movie: more Halle Berry. I mean that's obvious, right?
X2 was directed and co-written by the very capable Bryan Singer (APT PUPIL, X-MEN [all]) and co-written by Daniel P. Harris (THE KILLING OF CANDACE KLEIN), David Hayter (X-MEN, THE SCORPION KING), Michael Dougherty, and Zack Penn, based of course on characters created by Stan Lee, among others.
The story picks up where the last movie left off, with the mystery of the origin of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman: X-MEN), a mutant and therefore a member of an oppressed minority. Wolverine has the ability to heal almost instantly and someone took advantage of that. An unknown organization performed a great deal of experimental surgery (that would have been fatal to a normal human) and now Wolverine's skeleton is lined with adamantium, an unbreakably strong metal.
Wolverine can only remember brief flashes of this horrific, painful operation. It was established in the first movie that he has no memory of anything before that. This is gradually established in this movie, too, but the fact is if you haven't seen the first movie (you haven't? Are you Amish or something?) you'd have a hard time understanding the plot.
So just in case: The movie is about a time in the not too distant future when mutants have begun appearing. Each seems to be unique and all have unusual abilities. The X-Men are a group of mutants organized by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart: STAR TREK: TNG, X-MEN), a powerful mutant his own self. In fact I had no idea just how powerful until I saw this movie. The Professor runs a school for the gifted in Westchester, New York.
Other subplots from the first film are continued, like Wolverine's romantic interest in fellow mutant Jean Grey (Famke Janssen: DEEP RISING, THE FACULTY, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL , X-MEN). Jean is involved with Cyclops (James Marsden: DISTURBING BEHAVIOR, THE X-MEN), and has other problems besides being the focus of a love triangle. Her mutant abilities, telepathy and telekinesis, have been growing stronger lately and she doesnt know why.
Mutants are feared by most normal humans and there are those who want mutants rounded up and confined, but even so tensions have been somewhat reduced since the first movie. All that changes when a very unusual mutant attacks the president in the White House! The mutant, known as Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming: GOLDENEYE), has the ability to teleport, making him difficult to catch.
Of course, public opinion and government action swing wildly against the "mutant problem". The president calls for ideas and General William Stryker (Brian Cox: the ORIGINAL Hannibal Lector in MANHUNTER, THE RING) steps forward. He has satellite photos proving that Professor Xaviers school for the gifted is more than it seems.
Arguing against action is Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison: APT PUPIL, THE X-MEN, DAHMER) who those of us who saw the first movie remember is dead. The lovely and dangerous metamorph known as Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos: THE X-MEN) has taken his place and I must give kudos to actor Bruce Davision here. In several scenes some very subtle female vibes are generated by the way he walks or gestures, like a woman doing a not-quite-perfect imitation of a man.
Mystique is a mutant but she's not a goody-goody like the X-Men. She belongs to a different organization headed by the currently imprisoned Magneto (Ian McKellan: APT PUPIL, LORD OF THE RINGS, THE X-MEN). Magneto believes that mutants are superior and simply cannot co-exist with inferior humans.
Lots of characters, right? Wait, there's more. The teen mutants are here too, including Rogue (Anna Paquin: DARKNESS, THE X-MEN), her boyfriend Iceman (Shawn Ashmore:THE X-MEN, WOLF GIRL [TV]) and their troubled friend Pyro (Aaron Stanford: 25th HOUR). They aren't official "X-Men" yet but they become involved in various adventures.
There is, of course, one more character of great significance: Storm (Halle Berry: THE X-MEN). Storm is a mutant of tremendous power with the ability to control the weather. She calls up tornados and thunderstorms whenever the mood strikes her. The things she does are almost as awesome to behold as the beautiful Halle Berry is herself. I was looking forward to seeing more of her and learning more about her character in this movie but that was not to be. There are just too many characters and too much focus on Wolverine. In fact the Oscar winning Ms. Berry has publicly stated that she was disappointed with her small role and won't be playing Storm again.
That complaint aside, there is a lot to like here. Circumstances force the X-Men to work with Magneto and Mystique and we almost forget that Magneto's agenda is just as evil as Stryker's. Magneto's escape from his metal-free prison is a lot of fun to watch and Mystique's character is given some more depth. But before I say any more I think it's time for a ...
For more information, read THE SCIENCE MOMENT/XMen 2.
Back to the movie. As I've hinted it's ultimately a mixed bag of good and bad, but mostly good. The worst moment comes when an actor who shall remain nameless has to portray grief at a great loss and comes off as theatrically challenged. But the many awe-inspiring scenes and fascinating characters make up for a lot. I give X2 a rating of three out of five on the shriek girl scale.
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