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Face-Off: Spider-Man 2 vs. X-Men 2

06.28.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Pixar-centric Face Off, Mr. Incredible pulled out a close victory over Buzz Lightyear. Give us that sequel, Pixar peeps!

In keeping up with the sites anticipation for The Amazing Spider-Man, this weeks Face Off we're gonna see what I understand to be the most beloved of the original Spider-Man trilogy up against another sequel that many view as one of the best comic book movies thus far in Spider-Man 2 vs. X-Men 2. Both these sequels matched the quality of their predecessors if not surpassed them. Both of their spots on a lot of peoples top ten comic flick lists are well deserved, but which one tops the other?
Story
Peter Parker continues his life of great web-slinging responsibility as he is forced to battle a new foe in Doctor Octopus as he also struggles with his love life and his best friends fall from grace. Pretty straightforward with a similar formula we saw used in the first film with a medical experiment gone awry, but hey the sh*t works. Our villain is more engaging and sympathetic this time around, and the developing brotherly rivalry between Peter and Harry Osborn was great to see, have always been into a story of two friends destined to become enemies.
X2's story pulled from the 1982 graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills. Mutant hater Colonel William Stryker is on a mission to eradicate those dastardly mutants, needless to say they don't appreciate that very much. Wolverine and the rest of Professor X's 'precious X-Men' find themselves in a reluctant alliance with Magneto and his Brotherhood of Mutants to settle this little dispute. It's no secret you can link the theme of X-Men to very present and relevant real life prejudices, which makes for a powerful story. That fight for rights and survival against a common enemy was front and center here, and it was kick ass.
Action
Once sh*t hit the sh*t with Doc Ock and Spidey it was a treat to the eyes. From there debut battle in the middle of a bank robbery, to that wonderful train sequence (including Spidey's corny method of saving the damn thing), all the way to their final battle the action was engaging. Special points go to the debut of Doctor Octopuses robotic arms in a badass scene, dude meant business.
The action was plentiful in this sequel, sure enough. It's wonderful seeing the powers these people have in effect, but it's much more wonderful seeing Wolverine get pissed. The invasion of the school was short and sweet, but Wolverines protective rage was a thing of beauty. From there we get Pyro's decimation of some squad cars and the money shot being Wolverine's tango with Lady Deathstrike. When it comes down to it, X2 had a lot of breathers of thematic plot driven dialogue but when it gave us the goods it delivered.
Villain
Okay look, an experiment Otto Octavius dedicates his life too goes to hell in a big bad way and he loses his awesome wife in the process...the fact that the guy went a little bit nuts is a little justifiable. Alfred Molina played the sympathetic villain to a T in this movie. Almost to the point you want to tell Spidey (our hero mind you) to just stay out of the poor schmucks way. Doc Ock was always one of my favorite villains in the comics and he was translated to live action beautifully, loved seeing those tentacles at work.
William Stryker was one mean son of a bitch, and I love me a villain that is so delusional in his beliefs that he believes what he's doing is for the better as far as humanity is concerned every step of the way. Brian Cox nailed the conviction of this character wonderfully, you could really feel his hatred for mutants in every line, and his admiration for what he created with Wolverine was a wonderful little contradiction and it added more depth. Bottom line, there is something scary about somebody like Stryker with so much blind, unflinching hatred for something he doesn't understand. Think there's not people really out in the world like this? Think again.
Cast
Tobey Maguire. Kirsten Dunst. James Franco. JK Simmons. Alfred Molina.

The only new addition in this list of names is Alfred Molina and as stated above he really pulled his weight. JK Simmons once again brought much appreciated comic relief as J. Jonah Jameson, and I should note that I was very into James Franco's performance here. His descent and conflicting emotions were wonderful and when he made that inevitable discovery, he sold the heartbreak beautifully. Tobey and Kirsten did what they came to do great, the third movie is a whole other story.
Hugh Jackman. Patrick Stewart. Ian McKellen. Halle Berry. James Marsden. Famke Janssen. Anna Paquin. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos. Alan Cumming.

An excellent, all star lineup here folks. Unfortunately a few of these stars went underused (looking at you James Marsden, sorry bud) and Halle Berry didn't really have much to do. Nevertheless, all involved brought their A game, expecially Hugh Jackman, Brian Cox, and Ian McKellen, sir Ian just seemed to be once again having a blast with the role.
Critical Reception
Spider-Man 2 seemed to become a critics wet dream, with an overall 93% approval rating. Critics for Chicago Tribune and LA Times both praised Alfred Molina's turn as Doc Ock, and Roger Ebert called this film the best superhero film since the original Richard Donner Superman film. Can you get higher praise? Sam Raimi knocked this one out of the park and pretty much universally everyone, critics and fans alike knew it.
X-Men 2 was right on Spidey's coat tails with an approval rating of 88%. Roger Ebert discredited the film with not living up to its potential and suffering from a plot hole or two, but praised Singers ability to incorporate an ensemble of characters to near perfection. Agreed Rog. The LA times deemed it better than the original, while Rolling Stone praised Hugh Jackman's performance and took the time to admire the thematic elements of the film as a whole. Rotten Tomatoes has a spot on its list for X2 as the fifth greatest comic book film of all time.
Overall
Spider-Man 2 accomplished everything that a comic book movie sequel, in theory, is supposed to accomplish. It raised the stakes, it elevated the action, it gave us a a bigger badder villain, and it continued the evolution of the characters we grew attached to. The cast was at their best in this film, with my favorite aspect of it all coming down to the great dynamic between Peter Parker and his friend Harry Osborn, they pulled that off so well that the climax of that particular story had me aching for the third. The fact that this film is praised by critics and fans alike is no fluke, and it still stands today as one of my favorite comic book films to date.
Take great characters, mixed with thematic elements I can get behind, and you have a recipe for success. Which is just what this movie was, a success. It pulled off everything I just praised Spidey 2 for. Sure, some of the characters I wish would have gotten a bit more love, but what can you do when you have so many to work with? When all was said and done with this, it had hands down the best segway into a third film I've ever seen. Professor X's speech to the president at the end was a thing of beauty, and don't get me started on the Phoenix tease. The fact that Brett Ratner came along and f*cked it up isn't X2's fault.
Spider-Man 2
It's ironic that the verdict went this way considering the upcoming release of the new film, you may be thinking. The best way I can put my opinion is this, Spider-Man 2 had everything I loved about X2 as well with a faster more action packed pace. It packed story with action with a perfect blend and that's what has made it a classic in my eyes. But that's just the writers opinion, time to hit my spidey loving ass with yours!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at paulhuffman@joblo.com with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which film is your favourite?
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