2", the sequel to 2000's "X-Men",
is a better movie than the original, but not by much. Considering that director
Bryan Singer and his screenwriters were burdened with having to introduce the
world of the X-Men, the original lacked what I called the "Wow
Factor". While "X2" is still not what I would like the franchise
to be one day, and it does go on for about 20 minutes too long, the film does
have its cool moments.
"X2" brings back the entire cast for another
go-around. Instead of facing the menace of evil Magneto (Ian McKellen), the
X-Men now has to contend with evil human Stryker (Brian Cox), a covert
operations General with an ax to grind against the X-Men's head honcho,
Professor X (Patrick Stewart). After a failed assassination attempt on the
President of the United States by mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), Stryker
gets the go-ahead to raid the X-Men's mansion. And just like that, the X-Men
must unite to battle this new threat.
Actually the full title seems to suggest that the word
"X-Men" is not only used for the good guys, but rather all mutants. I
make this conclusion because later in the movie, the X-Men teams up with
now-freed villain Magneto and shapeshifter Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) to
rescue their captured friends. (And since the X-Men -- the good guys -- are
already united, why would they have to "unite" again?) One of the
captured X-Men includes Professor X, who Stryker plans to use to kill all the
mutants on the planet using the Professor's mutant-finding machine.
"X2" picks up pretty much where the original left
off, with Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) still in search of his elusive past. It is
revealed that Wolverine, like Professor X, has a history with Stryker, and in
fact Stryker had a very large hand in "creating" Wolverine in the
first place. And oh, ice-making mutant Bobby is still putting the moves on Rogue
(Anna Paquin), while Wolverine is trying to get some lovin' from Jean Grey
(Famke Janssen), who is trying to stay faithful to boyfriend Cyclops (James
Marsden), who gets captured by fingernails-for-knives Yuriko (Kelly Hu), who is
some weird mutant under Stryker's control.
If it sounds as if "X2" has way too many subplots
for its own good, that's probably because "X2" has way too many
subplots for its own good. The movie constantly tries to give some screentime to
its many subplots while at the same time trying to maintain a consistent A-plot
involving Stryker's attack on the X-Men. As a result, much of the movie feels
condensed, not to mention more than a little contrived. For instance, it takes
two of the X-Men a few hours to reach a destination by their super duper X-jet,
but it takes the same two people nearly the whole day to return to help
their captured friends?
In the third movie, I would strongly recommend to the
studio that they change directors. While director Singer, who also helmed the
first, seems to have a good handle on the franchise, he is either incapable, or
unwilling, to let loose. As was the case with the first movie,
"X2" just seems so...restrained. In fact, despite the movie's many
action sequences, it's a brief sequence where Wolverine kills his way through
Stryker's soldiers during the X-Mansion assault that is the movie's highlight.
This, mind you, in a movie where a character can shoot beams out of his eyes and
another can create storms out of nothing.
I just can't shake the feeling that "X2" is
holding back. For instance, why does the Bobby character, who can freeze an
entire hallway, turn into Johnny Do Nothing when confronted by cops? Why not
just freeze the cops, or throw up an ice shield like he did before? For that
matter, Anna Paquin's Rogue has absolutely nothing to do in the sequel except to
make kissy-face with the Bobby character. And oh, she puts out a fire. Big
whoops. It should also be noted that Halle Berry ("Die
Another Day"), playing the weather-controlling Storm, has since given
up on that weird accent she had in the original.
"X2" is a reasonably good movie, but for a
big-budget Hollywood film, I expected so much more. The franchise has still not
reached its strides in my opinion, and if anything it's still playing too close
to "reality". The filmmakers need to make a choice to cut down on the
characters and perhaps just follow Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, or go in a
completely new tangent. As it stands, there were too many precious minutes
wasted on the silly Rogue/Bobby relationship. Watching two horny toads trying to
decide if they should or shouldn't kiss is what I call lame, not to mention a
big waste of time.
For those who cares, the ending of "X2" has given
us a big hint as to the third installment's storyline. It seems as if the Jean
Grey/Phoenix crisis made popular in the comics will soon be coming to a big
screen near you. Let's hope they cut down on the kiddie factor this time around
and focus on having adults smash the living heck out of each other with their
groovy powers instead. As it stands, I'm still waiting for "X-Men" to