Set a few months after the end of the previous film X-Men 2 (X2) follows Wolverine returning to the X-Mansion after searching for answers at an abandoned military facility at Alkali Lake. Magneto lingers in a plastic prison and the President of the United States is almost killed in an assassination attempt by a teleporting mutant.
X-Men was the first of the decent superhero revival films, and the trailers for the sequel promised something better than the original. Now whilst the story was not especially complex, the cast were top notch and all fitted their characters like gloves. There could not have been anyone better suited to play Charles Xavier than Patrick Stewart, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine was also perfectly cast.
In the sequel the stakes are raised as the war between humans and mutants continues to brew…
X-Men 2 opens with a magnificently choreographed sequence of a large blue demon-like mutant appearing and disappearing as he takes down the President’s secret service agents one after another. He is poised to kill the President when he is shot and disappears. The X-Men suspect that Magneto (Ian McKellen) might have organised the attack from inside his jail cell, constructed of plastic to prevent him using his powers over metal. Xavier sends Storm and Jean (Halle Berry and Famke Janssen reprising their respective roles from the first film) after the mutant responsible for the assassination attempt. Xavier questions Magneto but he denies being responsible for the attack. He tells his friend that during his incarceration a government agent named William Stryker (Brian Cox) has used a form of mind control to force Magneto to tell him ‘everything’ including the location of Xavier’s Mansion.
Xavier is captured and a strike team move in on the mansion. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) are able to aid most of the other mutants to escape, however, some are captured. Wolverine and the others are cut off from the escape tunnel and elude the strike team heading to Iceman’s home. His parents are unaware that their son is a mutant and are not exactly thrilled to discover what he is and the powers he possesses.
Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), Magneto’s most dedicated follower, injects a metal into a guard’s bloodstream that Magneto is able to rip from him (seeing it happen is one of the finest moments of the film) and escape.
As the film progresses the X-Men are forced to join with Magneto and Mystique’s Brotherhood of Mutants in order to defeat Stryker who wishes to eradicate all mutants.
Sequels can be made because the film makers want to wring a few more pennies from their audience, they are not interested in telling a story or adding anything to the universe, it is just about making money. Then there are the other kinds of sequels that have the time taken to make them superior to the original, the characters are more developed, the universe is expanded and fortunately X-Men 2 falls into the latter rather than the former category.
X-Men 2 has the advantage of many second films because it does not have to concern itself with establishing the world and the characters. The main cast and director Bryan Singer have all worked together on the previous film and are at home in the world of the X-Men. The plot is also a step up on X-Men and puts usual enemies together to fight a common foe that wishes to eradicate them all. Personally I always like this kind of formula when former enemies have to put their differences aside to fight a greater threat then the other side poses.
The two main new additions are Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), as the catholic teleporting mutant, and Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) a mutant with the same formidable powers of regeneration as Wolverine. Both characters are fine additions to an already excellent cast, with Cumming as a great addition to the team due to his powers of teleportation. The cast clearly enjoy their respective roles and apparently the entire female cast were present behind the scenes when Jackman filed the sequence in which Wolverine is running down a passageway naked.
Bryan Singer is a skilled director and knows how to get the film he wants from his highly skilled actors and actresses. Wolverine once again takes primarily the centre stage with his back story and relationship to Stryker are key factors in developing the story. Jean Grey is also further developed and those familiar with the comic will recognise the beginnings of the Dark Phoenix (non-fans will miss the reference but it is further developed in the third film).
X-Men 2 surpasses its predecessor and is able to effectively tamper with the established structure from the original film creating a superior sequel.
It should not come as any surprise that my Thumb is Up
9/10 - X-Men 2 shows how good a Marvel Comic adaptation can be with a great director and fantastic cast.