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X2 (2003)
Director: Bryan Singer

review by Debbie Moon

The Mutant Registration Act has been defeated, the militant Magneto is safely in jail, but humanity's hatred and fear of those born different is still growing. When an assassin with extraordinary powers attacks the President, Colonel Stryker is given free rein to deal with the 'mutant problem'. His first target is Xavier's school for the gifted - but it isn't a few schoolchildren he's after. Decimated and on the run, the X-Men realise that he intends to use one of their own against them - and stopping him will require them to team up with an old enemy, unravel the mystery of Wolverine's past, confront the Professor's greatest failure, and make a final, terrible sacrifice...
   Moving on from the streamlined origins story of the first movie, Singer and his writing team have created a film that's pure, classic X-Men: complex interlocking stories, a high action quotient, iconic imagery, and a no-holds-barred exploration of intolerance, fanaticism, and human weakness. The action set-pieces, from the opening one-man assault on the Oval Office to the final attempt to stop Stryker's global mutant massacre, are superb: Wolverine's near-berserk defence of the school is everything the fans will expect, and even the younger generation get to cause a little mayhem.
X2 Nightcrawler
But Singer still finds time for tenderness, humour, and some painful character growth. Despite jostling for screen time in a complex web of storylines, almost everyone gets a big moment. Famke Janssen embraces Jean's rapidly expanding powers and her emotional turmoil, carrying us with her on a story arc that may seem somewhat familiar to comicbook fans. Hugh Jackman finds a kind of angry vulnerability in a Wolverine brought face-to-face with his past, and Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart revel in the new, bitter complexities of their characters' political and moral differences. Newcomer Alan Cumming, as Nightcrawler, a deeply spiritual man with the appearance of a monster, also gives a tremendous performance.
   A new emphasis on the students foregrounds Rogue, Iceman, and the arrogant Pyro, variously struggling with young love, teen angst, and new, dangerous role models. The excellent Shawn Ashmore (Iceman) has some of the best material in the film - not least a scene where he confesses to his bewildered family that Xavier's establishment isn't actually a fancy prep school... And with more name-checks and 60-second cameos that you can shake a stick at, your favourite character is bound to be in there somewhere. Of course, with so much to pack in, the film can feel a little crowded at times - not least a rather sprawling ending trying to wrap up almost more stories than it can cope with. Despite some fine moments towards the end, Cyclops barely seems to appear in the film at all; which diminishes the story by leaving us with only two sides of a love triangle.
   However, the energy and the emotional intensity of X2 will carry you through its occasional flaws. A film that will delight both fans, and newcomers prepared for something more than a popcorn movie, this is a true blueprint for superhero movies. Roll on 'X3'...

Related item:
tZ  X-Men - film review
X2

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