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"X2: X-Men United"

Directed by Bryan Singer.
Written by Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter.
Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Halle Berry and Ian McKellan.
Release Year:  2003 

Review Date:  5/5/03 

Folks--

The Year of the Action Film got off to a great start this weekend, as “X2” delivered on many fronts and has solidified my belief that this will be the greatest year of action films on record.  Taking the best parts from the first “X-Men” film and adding enough subtleties and action to make the sequel tougher and more dramatic, “X2” is a rare film that starts well, ends well, has crowd-pleasing humor, incredible special effects and quite simply, just some cool-ass “whoa” scenes that make the 135-minute running time fly by.

The plot for “X2” tracks a military scientist named Stryker (Brian Cox) that is out to eliminate mutants from the planet.  To do this, he gets information from Magneto (Ian McKellan) to find out the location of the X-Men headquarters, a school in Westchester County, New York, where Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and friends hole up.  X is captured, and in order to prevent eradication of mutant life from the planet, Magneto and his bad-girl sidekick Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) must team up with the good guys, led by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry), to find X, take out Stryker, and save the mutant population from extinction.

The story of the first film was ludicrous, so it was nice to see that the writers actually WROTE SOMETHING this time around and it makes “X2” flow quite smoothly.  An intense opening sequence featuring the popular Nightcrawler character works, and the integration of some new characters in “X2” adds some cool elements to how the good guys (since there are essentially no new evil characters brought into the fold) will work together in future movies.  Cox is great as the bad guy; his “assistant” Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) makes for a great sparring partner of Wolverine near the end of the film.  The special effects are badass, and I remember from the TV cartoon that Nightcrawler was a teleporter...the way the filmmakers pull off his special talent is quite cool, even if it doesn’t make any sense to me.  And, like the first film, Jackman’s Wolverine is the coolest character in the mix and director Bryan Singer knows it, giving him the majority of the scenes in “X2.”

Like the first film, “X2”’s biggest problem is the sheer number of people to keep up with (at varying points, there are 15 people that have major roles); so, this time around, to skirt the problem, you get almost no scenes with Professor X.  In a baffling move, you get almost no Cyclops (James Marsden), a character that I am pretty sure is central to the action in the comic books but doesn’t appear for almost an hour in the middle of “X2” since his character is captured by Stryker at a point early on in the movie.  So, we have more scenes with characters like Iceman and Pyro, characters that may or may not appear in the comics (admittedly, I don’t know this source material very well), and not as much Jean Grey or Cyclops.  And, there is a character that appears in one scene during the military raid on the X-Men mansion that looks like Lou Ferrigno, complete with the ability to shield himself in metallic armor--who the hell is that guy?  He isn’t even named, then he says to Wolverine “I can help you” and then summarily dismissed.  For the next five minutes, I was sitting there thinking “Man, Wolverine just told the biggest, toughest guy in the mansion that he wasn’t needed to fight off the bad guys.  What’s a guy gotta be, Superman?”  (I later learned that this was Colossus; note to filmmakers--make sure a guy named “Colossus” has at least three scenes where he breaks bad guys in half with his bare hands.)

Other than the high character count, I was quite happy with “X2” and, even though I don’t want to see it again, the film should appease fans of this sci-fi series.  And, after raking in $85 million over the weekend (fourth-highest of all time...at least, until “The Matrix Reloaded” comes out), we can expect “X3” sometime in 2005.

Rating:  $9.50 Show

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09