X2: X-Men United
X2: X-Men United 2003
I’ve almost finished revisiting all of the X-Men movies and tonight I watched what many consider the strongest out of all of them. It has more characters, a bigger conflict, and the whole enemy of my enemy is my friend plotline. And not only are there more characters, most of the characters are stronger than in the first X-Men and there are fewer weak characters. Where X-Men was the movie that made everyone take notice of the superhero movie again, X2 was the movie that made everyone take superhero movies seriously. At least for a little while. I do have to mention that for whatever reason, the movie didn’t fully hold my interest for the duration. I felt the need to pause it a couple times to check on other things. It’s not a huge negative against the movie because I can be easily distracted, but it is a slight negative. There is still a lot of great things in this movie.
There were a lot of characters in the first X-Men movie, and while this movie thankfully got rid of a few weak links such as Sabretooth and Toad, it added many more. The notable additions were Nightcrawler who BAMF’ed onto the scene in one of the best opening sequences period where he teleports his way through the White House right to the President, and yet is also a man of quiet faith. Pyro is the misguided rebellious teenager that succumbs to the powerful allure of Magneto’s charm. And Stryker is the military leader with a personal vendetta against all mutants and the know how to get things accomplished. Unfortunately there were a couple duds, like Lady Deathstrike who spent the entire movie under mind control and while she got to have an entertaining little fight with Wolverine, it felt like a gimmick fight of Adamantium vs. Adamantium rather than having any real depth to it. And finally there was Stryker’s mutant son Jason, an interesting and vaguely sympathetic character. He’s extremely powerful, yet fully under the control of Styker which means he really only served as a plot device rather than an actual character.
But besides all of those new characters, there were still plenty of returning characters. One of the things I enjoyed the most about the first movie were the relationships between all of the characters. This movie shifts a lot of those relationships around. Wolverine’s relationship with Jean is turned up, while his fatherly relationship with Rogue is played down and spread out to being more of a guardian for all the kids in the shool. I thought both of these really suited his character and made an interesting contrast with the scenes where his loner mentality. The friendship between Magneto and Xavier is still there, but again played down quite a bit, especially when Magneto uses Xavier at the end rather than rescuing him. The new relationship in this movie is between Rogue and Bobby as a boyfriend and girlfriend who can’t really touch each other. Though instead of pushing her to go all the way, all he’s looking for is a kiss, which considering her powers is more dangerous. Another character that gets a lot more love is Mystique, and I enjoyed her character much more in this movie than in the last one. She really got the chance to use her powers to the best of her abilities and they toned down some of the ridiculous fighting and played to her intelligence much more, while still giving her a nice little fight scene.
The stakes in this movie are much higher than the previous one. Instead of the fate of a handful of world leaders, the entire mutant race, and alternately the entire human race is at stake. I don’t really know for sure if this was a good idea or not. While it does increase the amount of danger everyone is in, it does create a problem in the believability factor. Even in a world where mutants exist, and a machine exists that can amplify Xavier’s psychic powers, it still stretches my personal line of believablity that one mutant could kill the entire population of the world so easily. But removing that portion, there is still enough at stake in the small scale to become invested in the plot. From the attack on the school and the capture of several of the children, to his abuse of Magneto, and his involvement in Wolverine’s past, Stryker is still an impressive enough enemy to warrant the Brotherhood and the X-Men to set aside their differences to set out against a common foe.
One of the other things this movie has going for it is that it sets up the famous Phoenix storyline. It is considered one of the best X-Men storylines. In this movie, Jean is quickly becoming stronger with her abilities to the point of worry. She handles it in this movie very well, being equal parts surprised, scared, yet also enjoying this newfound power. I just wish Cyclops was given a better chance to help play off of it. He has generally always been considered the leader of the X-Men next to Xavier, yet in this movie the most he really gets to do is become emotional at the end, and essentially written out of the next movie. While Cyclops has never really been my favorite character, I thought he at least deserved more than he got here.
There is a lot more of everything in this movie, and yet it’s spread out a lot more and feels occasionally diluted. I won’t argue that it’s the best of the X-Men films to many people, but I personally enjoyed the first movie just slightly more. I thought it had stronger relationships between the central characters. I think this movie added a few too many characters, some of them were great additions, but not all of them. And with all the added characters, that meant that the returning characters got less development. There’s still a ton of great stuff in this movie, especially the ramped up action scenes. It’s a fantastic movie, I just happen to like the first one a shade better. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.