Long time readers (well, since July 2000) know how much I loathed the first X-Men movie. Don’t bother writing in and complaining again – you had your chance. Jeez, fanboys sure are touchy. So it should come as no surprise that I only saw this sequel as part of my constant supreme sacrifice for you, Constant Readers, as part of my painful duty to my loyal fans and eager detractors. I will say this: X2 is WAY better than the first one.
With a cast of this many old and new characters, some of whom blatantly contradict their four-color origins, it would be easy for the film to do a Batman Forever and just be a freak parade of Show & Tell Your Power. Naturally, we get some showing off, and maybe some of it was needlessly ostentatious, but no more than expected. Director Bryan Singer (Usual Suspects) occasionally wants his characters to be real, despite the pointy wigs, and so he de-comics the; but then he wants the flick of the wrist and the floopy cape and The Look (you know, the blank stare when the director is yelling into the megaphone “and then the huge effect barrels down on you!”) He alternates between making his mutants very real & fleshed out, and incredibly comic booky. It’s hard to tell if he’s holding back into for intrigue or just had lazy writers. He never really commits to either extreme, which was only occasionally vexing.
Overall and thankfully, all the action served the story. That’s all I really ask, you know? Another yummy if inconclusive scene of Ian McClellan and Patrick Stewart matching wits, Hugh Jackman in a dangerously strained undershirt, and Nightcrawler was enough to keep me awake and in the theatre. Very excellent effects, nicely designed and rendered and executed, far better than the first one (which did have good effects). All of them – CGI, wirework, pyrotechnics, the extras, and all of it.. The writing was still aimless and weak, but not insulting. The character’s problems dissipated as soon as they saw light of day, so it was odd having even brought up the problem if it was to be solved so easily.
They gave me what I asked for after the first one, which was less inane banter and meaningless non-plot strung between action sequences. Here, we have action sequences that are largely related to each other and even kind of matter. Nightcrawler was cool – Alan Cumming is always cool, but his makeup and powers did not overshadow his dialogue and acting and very very awesome introductory sequence. I loved every second he was on screen.
My only real problem, and it might just be me, but I know it wasn’t *only* me, was how totally disengaged I was from the people. I didn’t care about anyone and no one wanted to make me try (except Nightcrawler). Even when the fates of a billion or more innocents hung in the balance, I couldn’t quite turn on the empathy. And I cry at Kodak commercials, I can suspend disbelief like no one’s business. I felt lost, like there was a movie between the last one and this, with lost of people, particularly Wolverine, covering huge amounts of informational ground.
The acting was almost uniformly great. As my companion brilliantly noted, we’d “like to see all these actors together in a different movie.” The new(ish) bad guy Striker (Brian Cox) is a great grizzled egotist of a baddie with a painfully obvious grudge.
Any movie where people can do extra-ordinary things in our ordinary world will not be able to help fire the imagination. Sometimes it’s frustrating, when say, Aquaman ends up being the one trapped in the fish tank and Magnet Man ends up in the knife factory. It would of course be more of a challenge to see their situations reversed. But our intrepid X-Men get into some scrapes and work together with their unique skills, which helped reduce the “that was lucky” factor. I was a little disappointed in the reliance on mindreading/psychokinetic in the story, it always feels like a cheat. It’s generally watchable, totally disposable, but passable.
MPAA Rating PG-13
Release date 5/2/03
Time in minutes 134
Director Bryan Singer
Studio 20th Century Fox