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X-Men 2 (2003)
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Review Date: April 29, 2003
Director: Bryan Singer
Writer: Michael Dougherty, Daniel Harris
Producers: Ralph Winter, Lauren Shuler-Donner
Actors:
Hugh Jackman
Famke Janssen
Anna Paquin
Plot:
The story of the x-men continues as a top U.S. military commander advises the President to attack the mutants' well-guarded mansion, in order to quell society's growing mistrust and fear of the mutants. At the same time, Magneto finds a way to escape the confines of his plastic prison, as all mutants band together to deal with their newfound common adversary. A kickass comic book movie ensues.
Critique:
Wicked cool. What I love most about comic book based movies is that they can really take you to that special place in which your every day reality becomes one with the fantasy and the supernatural and this movie is a perfect such example with an all-out character-driven adventure packed with fun, action, story and genuine believability. In fact, as much as I enjoyed the first mutated round of the X-MEN, I liked this one even better because it managed to balance that many more elements including a stand-alone story that most anyone could appreciate, a developed plotline which allowed many of the characters from the first film to progress in their own understanding of themselves and because of the introduction of a variety of new characters, many of whom were as compelling as the ones to whom we were previously introduced. Another commendable element in the X-films is their uncanny ability to actually "kill" characters off. Nice! I guess when you have so many different players to work with...it doesn't hurt to whack some of them out here and there. The film also features a booming score, a well-established pace (which unfortunately doesn't hold up near the end though), plenty of mutant oddities, in-jokes, introductions to characters upcoming, as well as groovy action scenes, superior special effects and easily, one of the coolest opening sequences of the year. Which brings me to the characters themselves, many of which are intertwined throughout the film, but with a more obvious focus on a handful of them. Wolverine, to me, is the man leading this tale and I can't say that there are many other characters who could likely pull the gig off as well as he does. He's charming, he's a badass, he's good-hearted, he's somewhat romantic (chicks dig that), he's hip to the one-liners, he drinks beers, he smokes cigars and oh yeah...he carries these adamantium claws around and can stab the F out of anyone who gets in his friggin' way!

Logan rocks and it's his mysterious background and investigation thereof, which takes us along the straightest path in this film (think adopted child searching for his/her parents, etc...) Everyone else can be considered secondary characters, but when you reflect on the sheer number of them, it's nice to see so many of them as expanded as they are. Jean Grey, for example, continues to develop her psychic powers here and must face a romantic choice between two mutants. Storm is interested in a new member of the family, loses the bogus accent from the first installment (although her hair still blows) and accentuates her powers more as well. Rogue isn't as pronounced as in the original, but her character is given more "regular girl" scenes, in which she must deal with her unfortunate powers and their clash with the love interest in her life, Iceman, who is the new player on the block, and is given one of the more "human" scenes in which he basically "outs" himself to his parents (note how the scene can easily be interpreted as him "coming out" as a homosexual). Both Cyclops and Professor X aren't featured as much in this go-around, but in the case of the Prof, I didn't really mind, since I don't particularly care for his "mind game" shtick. Cyclops, on the other hand, disappears for about half the movie and is noticeably absent. As for the two new members of the "good guy" team, Pyro is a complicated teen who is an ideal specimen to watch and wonder about, while Nightcrawler is mucho cool, features a funny German accent, a shy personality and some very cool teleportation powers. As for the "baddies", Ian McKellen still looks a little ridiculous as Magneto, in my opinion, but brings his acting chops to the forefront and keeps things as real as can be, while the very lovely Rebecca Romjin-Stamos is given much more to do in this follow-up, which I for one, appreciated. I dig on her ability to transform and unlike the goofy "masks" from MI2, appreciated their use and repetition in various plot binds here. I also enjoyed Romjin-Stamos' own personal "cameo"...nice!

But at the end of the day, my favorite new character had to be the very hot Kelly Hu as Lady Deathstrike (although much like Darth Maul in PHANTOM MENACE, she's criminally underused), whose kickass finger-blades could slit my throat any day and whose total berserker scrap against Wolvie brought the mutants' full potency to the forefront. Truly awesome! I also loved the shot of her eyes "tearing up"...brilliant. As for the "humans" in the film, Brian Cox brought humanity's fear and hate of the mutants to the fore with a backstory that worked and also paralleled society's similar past indiscretions against minorities. Incidentally, I spend most of this review discussing the characters because they are what make up the meat of this film, and even though the plot is engaging on its own, there is no way that any of it would fully work if the characters weren't believable and somewhat "human" on their own. Director Bryan Singer is also to commend for this show, especially for being able to carry on this very credible world of mutants on earth, as well as the slick style which enveloped it all, its coherence and its most difficult task of balancing the serious, the dramatic, the humor and the action. Tough job, but most of it is nailed to the board here and for that, I gotta tip my cap to the man. Yes, the film isn't perfect, it doesn't offer the best one-two punch to end things off, it goes a little long and it certainly doesn't spend enough time with all of its characters (can't wait to see more of Colossus in the next film), but for such a grand project, such a big budget, such a sorted history with hundreds of stories to be told and characters to highlight, this film does a great job of capturing it all in a nutshell as well as entertaining throughout. So if fun, popcorn, action, adventure and plenty of coolness is what you crave in your trips to the theater, order up them nachos, buy your Cherry Coke and get ready for the first true cinematic blast of the "summer". Got that, bub?
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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