The question on everyone’s mind: “Is it better than the first one?”In a word, Yes.
But this wasn’t very hard to do.
The problem with turning any comic book into a movie is that a significant portion of screen time must be devoted to introducing characters and establishing the pre-existing story, leaving little room left for any serious plot development. But that’s what sequels are for.
Although I liked the first X-Men movie, it annoyed me that with so many characters to introduce, none of them, besides Wolverine, received sufficient focus. Character profiles were sketchy at best and with all these introductions, the plot was whittled down to a very simple story arc.
Such is not the case with X2: X-Men United. The film not only gives the familiar characters a chance to expand, but also creates a much better plot with more complications, twists, and entertainment.
While new mutants are introduced (Nightcrawler, Iceman, Pyro, and Lady Deathstrike), the focus remains primarily on the mutants of the first movie.
Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in particular stands out, as her growing powers establish the probability of her transformation into Phoenix, potentially in another sequel. Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), however, steals the show and quickly emerges as one of the more memorable mutants. Likewise Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, and (surprisingly) Rebecca Romijn-Stamos all give superb performances and make X2 truly excellent.
Aside from the great characters, much of the movie’s strength lies in the fight sequences, which are spectacular. They are (thankfully) not drawn out and incorporate all the action of the X-Men without dragging down the story. And while I enjoyed them all, the opening sequence involving Nightcrawler’s teleporting had me riveted.
I also got a kick out of the allusions, both subtle and overt, to other X-Men favorites, such as Beast, Gambit, Shadowcat, Colossus, and Jubilee.
The story of the continuing human/mutant tension becomes a little hokey at the end when Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) starts to get preachy. The slight drop in quality of the ending, however, does not deter from the otherwise excellent movie.
So if this movie does well at the box office (and I suspect it will) I’d put my money on the Summer 2005 release of X3: The Phoenix Saga. I can hardly wait. A-