X-MEN 2: X-MEN UNITED
Directed by Bryan Singer
Story by Zack Penn and David Hayter & Bryan Singer
Screenplay by Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris and David Hayter
Heigh-ho, True Believers
I'm happy to report that X2: X-Men United is a benevolent mutant in the realm of Hollywood Summer Blockbusters. It's a wonderful, action-packed thrill ride that at the same time presents us with character development and an intelligent plot. I admit I was worried because all the trailers I had seen only featured action clips, but the filmmakers have come through with a movie worthy of your time. Without giving away too many secrets or plot turns, like most dumb-ass movie reviewers, I’ll only provide a brief summary of what this film is about.
William Stryker, a military scientist, is attempting to wipe out the X-Men and other mutants worldwide due to some personal issues he has. Stryker uses and abuses a mutant who has amazing mental powers. With his abilities he can create vivid illusions, which allow him to make people bend to his, and ultimately Stryker's, will. As powerful as Magneto and Xavier are, even they succumb.
The X-Men and the students from Xavier’s school are scattered across the Northeastern United States after the military attempts to capture the school and all of its inhabitants. With some assistance from the shape-shifter Mystique Magneto breaks out of his plastic cell where he had been imprisoned at the end of the first movie. It is arguably one of the cleverest jailbreaks in film history. Now, I usually don’t use nor like to read such hyperbole, but Magneto’s escape was one of the smartest scenes I’ve seen recently. It was refreshing to see Magneto use his brains over brute force.
Later, he joins forces with the X-Men as they head to the Stryker’s secret lab, which brings back some hidden memories for Wolverine. The heroes and villains work together combining their different talents to get into the compound and battle against Stryker’s forces. During one fight sequence between Cyclops and Jean Grey, the dam that the secret lab is hidden in becomes damaged, so not only does Stryker’s plan have to be stopped, but it has to be done quickly before the dam gives way, killing everyone inside.
Rather than stopping Stryker’s plan completely, Magneto changes its function from attacking mutants to attacking humans. He quickly makes his exit, leaving his recent allies behind. This is one of the many nice touches in the film, having Magneto stay true to his character while also doing something that was a bit of a surprise. It’s no secret that our heroes make it out and save the day; however, one X-Man makes the ultimate sacrifice for the team so everyone else can escape.
There are other scenes worthy of mention such as Nightcrawler’s introduction where he displays his acrobatic and teleportation skills, which is well balanced by the screenwriters when they show us Nightcrawler discussing his faith in God. The writers understand the material and have made the wise decision to make the characters realistic people rather than have them be cartoon caricatures that show up and do tricks.
Now that’s not to say there wasn’t moments where I thought “How did that happen?” such as how Magneto finds the X-Men or why Prof. Xavier can’t use his powers when free from his mental restraints. Those were only minor plot questions that really didn’t affect the entire nature of the story and by being good on many levels the film kept my interest so my mind didn’t linger.
The biggest cheat is the death of the aforementioned X-Man. Fans of the comics know that this person died in the comics only to be reborn as a more powerful hero. And we’re given no good reason why this person had to be sacrificed, but perhaps they needed something for X-Men 3 in case they run out of ideas.
Still, I must repeat that this is one of the smartest action films in years. Go see it on a big screen. ‘Nuff said!