'X2' surpasses first 'X-Men' film
Take a breath. Don't worry. "X2: X-Men United" is bigger, better, badder -- like all sequels should be. But the question was whether the film could satisfy audiences after a three-year wait, or better yet, stand on its own as a movie-going experience.
"X2" is worth the wait, sure to please its viewers with thrilling entertainment, comedy, tragedy and flawless storytell-ing. But the spectator who sneers at comic book lore is only passing up one of the best movie-going experiences this summer.
"X2" picks up where "X-Men" left off: Magneto (Ian McKellan) remains locked in his prison, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) happily oversees his Academy and mutant and humankind seem at peace. But the news breaks out that a mutant of overwhelming power has attacked the White House, and a new anti-Mutant movement is wrought. Former army commander William Stryker (devilishly played by Brian Cox), leads the new movement with an itchy trigger finger and a mysterious past.
Here we are again with our favorite gang of marvelous mutants: Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is still unaware of his own past. Storm (Halle Berry) is still disquietingly aloof, lost in a gentle fury. Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Cyclops (James Marsden) are still madly in love despite a few squabbles, while lovers Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) have trouble getting close.
Then there are the villains we love to hate: Magneto, masterfully performed by Ian McKellan, and his lovely, lethal, shape-shifting cohort Mystique, tantalizingly played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
"X2" delivers new intriguing characters too, such as Nightcrawler (tenderly performed by Alan Cummings), and the silent but deadly Yuriko (Kelly Hu), Stryker's assistant and a fearsome match for Wolverine. Every one of these actors breathe life into the formerly
2-D characters, pulling at the heartstrings and snatching our breath in suspense.
"X2" is magnificent entertainment in its purest form. Providing us with action, special effects and suspense, director Bryan Singer keeps the story rolling and the eye candy delicious. Despite a complicated story line, Singer responsibly keeps the audience informed, intrigued and laughing. The moviegoer can easily feel the film's zest for comic-book storytelling, even if some of the references are unfamiliar.
The United States of America has lasted 200-odd years, and yet our greatest piece of mythic storytelling remains a gargantuan blue bovine and the giant lumberjack who loves him. Our nation's youth has inherited a profound lack of mythic folklore. Comic books are an answer, creating modern myths and modern heroes.
The X-Men may seem silly or trifling to more cynical viewers, but "X2" is deeply immersed in legitimate themes: racism, social upheaval, political intrigue, faith in times of adversity and the simultaneous frailty and strength of the human spirit. In line with other films in the comic-book genre, "X2" offers heroes to admire and villains to despise.
For all those who think "X2" will be two hours of asinine geek love in 35 millimeter, be wary. Obviously fans of the comic books will catch all the jokes better than a moviegoer who's never heard of Wolverine. But this is no reason to dismiss "X2" with a roll of the eyes.
"X2" will be misunderstood by many because of a lack of appreciation for comic books. Critics and moviegoers alike will deem it muddled and stupid if they refuse to understand that the film follows a different storytelling technique than they're used to. But the reality is that "X2" is an exceptional film and -- for those willing to accept it for what it is -- a reminder of why we appreciate both good comic books and good movies.