Science fiction and fantasy                                            

X-Men 2

Directed by Bryan Singer

X-Men 2 poster  
It's sequel time again, and X-Men 2 promises more of the same kind of action in this effects-laden follow-up to the first movie. This one continues with the struggle between humans and mutantkind, now that the cat is truly out of the bag about their existence.

In the Whitehouse, a mysterious mutant is teleporting around, getting past all of the president's bodyguards and leaving clouds of purple smoke in his wake. This is Nightcrawler, black and demonic looking yet softly spoken and deeply religious, played by Alan Cumming.

Then we are in a museum, where Jean Grey is lecturing her "gifted" students about the last notable evolutionary offshoot, Cro-Magnon man. Rather than being wiped out by our ancestors, she tells them that the two species are now believed to have interbred. The metaphor is obvious, although there isn't much evidence of cross-species harmony in this film. Ordinary humans are portrayed as uniformly stupid, paranoid, or nasty, whereas even the bad mutants are allowed some redeeming features.

Wolverine, meanwhile, is in the north trying to find out about some base of operations. There are some clues to his forgotten past here, and he returns to the mansion to find out more from Professor Xavier. Not long after, the mansion is attacked by Stryker, played by Brian Cox, and his military minions.

Stryker is after the Cerebro machine, the same one that appeared in the first film. Cue fights, action, explosions, escape, rinse, repeat. We see Magneto imprisoned in the plastic prison that held him at the end of the first movie, but not for long. After an unpleasant visit from Stryker he escapes and joins forces with the X-Men to counter the threat to all mutants. Essentially the story is much the same as in X-Men: the struggle against fear and prejudice as people worry about mutants, and looming war.

All the old characters appear, as well as quite a few new ones. Nightcrawler, Pyro, Iceman and Lady Deathstrike are the most prominent, but many others are also there. Although Lady Deathstrike makes it to many of the movie's promotional posters, hers is only a bit-part in the end. There are probably too many characters involved, making it no-one's story in particular. It is somewhat fragmented, with too many threads going on.

What the scriptwriters have to contend with is condensing stories that have been appearing for decades into a usable film. The pantheon of X-Men is large: many of them appear in cameo roles, or even just as a name on a screen, but it might have worked better had a few been written out.

The tone is very much "Wow! Look at this!". Imminent destruction may be on the cards, but there's little darkness amidst all the flashy high-kicks and whizzy, shiny, fiery superpowers. Odd bits of plot and emotion are squeezed in at the edges of all the action. The whole Cyclops - Jean Grey - Wolverine love story is drawn in very obvious strokes, brief and blunt with no suggestions of doubt. Granted this had its beginnings in the first film, but in the second it's as though they are going through the motions. It fails to engage. The audience simply doesn't see enough of these characters when they are not fighting to be able to connect on an emotional level.

There are a couple of stabs at humour, but the dialogue as a whole is uninspiring. If you follow the comics at all, you may be disappointed by the death of a certain character. However certain turns of the plot may well make more sense to fans. My overall impression after watching this was one of annoyance. The effects may be spectacular and the cast impressive, but it could have been so much better with a decent script. Not up to scratch.

Film Details

Year: 2003

Categories: Films

  Science fiction

Classification: 12

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3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Bryan Singer