johnlink ranks X-MEN 2 (2003)

Way back in February I expressed an interest in getting through the original X-Men trilogy in anticipation of DAYS OF FUTURE PAST. Well, like so many things in life, that never happened. I revisited the first one and stopped there. Now that the new X-MEN is in theaters it is time to plow through the others. This means seeing the solid X2 again and, unfortunately, hitting up the third fiasco. But… first things first. Here is X-MEN 2…

xmen2-2003-2

I watched X-MEN 2 (2003) on 5.28.14. It was my third viewing of the film, and first in probably eight years.

The modern comic book movie phenomenon was young when X2 (as it was then known) came out in theaters in May of 2003. Seeing the movie over a decade later reveals both how strong an example it is of telling a group-action story and how the industry was still figuring out the manner in which it would tell comic book stories.

There is not an easy transition from comic book to major motion picture franchise, despite the success in doing so over the 21st century. While characters like Batman, Superman, or Spider-Man are well known culturally, the late 20th century showed what happens when corny lines and masks and nipples are mixed with goofy villains and danger-less action. Before Christopher Nolan revitalized the Batman character, the caped crusader was seen as a dead franchise in terms of movie making.

In making the first two X-Men films, Director Bryan Singer was careful in how he presented what we would see. Major X-Men comic characters, like Colossus, show up in X2 without being named. The uniforms and masks are toned down, traded in for a more leather-bound look certainly influenced contemporaneously by THE MATRIX.

But what is most fascinating about X2 is how well it takes a giant group of characters, both heroes and villains, and turns them towards a greater evil. The scope of the major players is large. Despite spending most of the movie seperated from them, Professor X (Patrick Stewart) leads Storm (Halle Berry), Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Cyclops (James Marsden), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Pyro (Aaron Stanford), and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore). The villains-turned-good-guys are Magneto (Ian McKellen) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). The new heroic wild card is the German blue skinned Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming). The villain contingent is anchored by William Stryker (Brian Cox) and his major henchwoman Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu).

X-men-2-2003-152-g

It all sounds too big. Surprisingly, it is not. The script bounces nimbly from story to story, not leaving anything behind for too long. Nobody feels unimportant or wasted. Minor characters, like Pyro, get more than one major beat. Storm is better utilized here than in the first. Cumming’s performance as Nightcrawler quietly stands up as one of the best performances in a comic book film. And, of course, with Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan taking turns steering this giant ship, the movie is constantly in able hands.

The story, which has Stryker attempting to murder all mutants naturally, works very well as a framework for danger. This gets heated pretty quickly, in a manner which is echoed (albeit with less characters) in IRON MAN 3. The villains put the heroes on the run, capture some loved ones, and play out the hand.

There is very little about X2 that does not work. The beat at Iceman’s house feels a little underwritten, if necessary. The special effects at the very end seem to have been made after the budget was drained (the jet landing followed by the water rushing said jet are not up to the standard of the previous one and seven/eights films).

The characters really do drive this though. Even if the Jean Grey/Cyclops/Wolverine love triangle feels tired, it is attacked with gusto and fittingly resolved. Nobody get wasted in this. While it may seem like the Iceman/Rogue story is all drama and no action, that is counterbalanced by the Lady Deathstrike character who is all action and who’s only story is assumed based on what we know of Wolverine.

Really, X-MEN 2 is a solid action movie, a solid comic movie, and a movie worth revisiting even eleven years later.

SCORES

FILM: 6; MOVIE: 9; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 7

6+9+7+7+0=29

FINAL SCORE: 7.25 out of 10

 

 

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~ by johnlink00 on May 29, 2014.

5 Responses to “johnlink ranks X-MEN 2 (2003)”

  1. +1 For one of the best opening sequences.

  2. Love this films opening 😀

  3. I agree with you both! I’m not sure if I forgot how awesome Nightcrawler is in this, or if I only first realized it watching it a third time. But he single-handedly ups the quality of this movie.

  4. The best of the whole franchise and showed us all exactly why this brand was worth caring about in the first place. Good review John.

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