Movie Recommendation: X-Men 2
Well, I finally got around to seeing X-Men 2: X-Men United last night, and by finally, I mean that I couldn't wait any longer than five days. Directed by Bryan Singer, this is the follow-up to the very good X-men from 2000. While I'm a fan of X-Men (I have a significant number of comics, including quite a few reviewed here, refered to by this villain), really I'm just biding my time waiting for Matrix Reloaded to come out on May 15. The most I was hoping for was that X2 would sate me long enough to get to the real show.

Boy was I surprised. My expectations were wildlyexceeded. This movie rocked. If you liked X-Men at all, you will love this one, which on a factor scale, is 5 times better than the first. I'm going to see it a few more times just to be sure.

With soliding casting, a good script, and voluminous special effects and action sequences, this is a good time in the theater, even if you aren't that familiar with the characters. Additionally, the performances added immeasureably to what could have been an emotionless action pic. Standout notes go to Aaron Stanford, Alan Cumming, and of course Hugh Jackman; more on them later.

Or maybe right now. Jackman is Wolverine. We got a glimpse of what happens when he gets into a near-bezerker rage, for which he's famous. He let's rip, and when I say that, I mean, unlike the first one, I have to go back and count the bodies left in his wake. Hugh has fun with the role, but is completely serious and believable at the same time. He's also the mutant who can have fun with mutant powers. In one scene, before drinking a soda, he hands it to Iceman to chill it. He sees the practical (if somewhat comical) applications to abilities immediately.

In what may be foreshadowing that James Marsden would not be reprising his role as Cyclops much longer, the screen time that ol' one-eye gets has been cut down significantly. I'd say that of the original characters, his part was the smallest. Still, he definitely kicked some ass while he was on screen.

Jean Grey's, character was kept busy as well as Storm's, each getting a chance to stretch their range of emotions. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan continued to flex their acting muscles in their roles. Nothing to say more than they all continued to pull their considerable weight.

Rogue develops her powers further, gaining enough control to have her first kiss (since she put her 'boyfriend' in a coma in the first movie) and further mimic the powers of whomever she has touched for a time (this time it's Iceman and Pyro.

However, the biggest upgrade from the first movie had to go to Mystique, who got a lot more screen time and a lot more to accomplish. She was empathetic, caustic, teasing, flirty, feisty, and naughty, many of which at the same time. There is a fabulous seduction scene in the film, where she reveals her potential as the ultimate fantasy sexual partner. "Who do you want me to be?" she asks, morphing her visage to tempt her target.

We get a no-so-welcome home from the family of Bobby Drake, a.k.a., Iceman, who finally 'comes out' to his parents (their reactions are rather mutaphobic, especially his brother), but gets to show his stuff a helluva lot more than just making snow cones. Pyro, played with just the right balance of attitude and vulnerability by Aaron Stanford, is a presence each time he's on screen (and I'm not talking about the fireballing). This kid, who was great in Tadpole, can, amazingly, hold his own with McKellan in a scene.

But I have to give the trophy for favorite character to, of course, Nightcrawler, who was given a lot of deserved screen time and a lot of 'bamfing'. His effects were amazing (the assault on the White House), and sometimes heartstopping (the rescue of Rogue), and at the end you did not feel you weren't given enough. Alan Cumming does a great job conveying Kurt's (his real name) range of emotions through the body makeup, making his character at times freighteningly dangerous and shyly endearing.

There were quite a few cameos of famous characters from the comics. The ones I recognized were Siryn, Jubilee, Beast, Colossus, and Kitty Pryde. Curiously, the ones who were called by name (Jubilee, Hank "Beast" McCoy) were the ones who didn't use their powers at all. Must be a tradeoff. Anyway, Colussus drew a cheer from the audience during his scenes, but Kitty's brief escape was better, although I could have sworn she was older in the original (I checked; they used a different actress who appears younger, but really they are about the same age).

For those of you salivating over Gambit, you have to be quick to notice his only 'appearance', which is his real name, Remy LeBeau, on a computer screen readout from a mutant database. The third X-Men movie would seem to be a perfect entry point for the popular cajun, with the burgeoning romance between Iceman and Rogue (in the comics, Gambit, who is a charming womanizer, has a romance with the never-can-be-touched Rogue).

Of course, comparing comics to movie isn't going to work perfectly. There are a lot of discrepancies between the two, as would be expected. As long as they keep the essence of the series intact, and Bryan Singer seems to have very successfully done that, that's what is important.

Notes: Although there are a few nit-picky plot points I have issues with, it would require me revealing spoilers about the plot to discuss here, and as I've mentioned before, I'm not gonna do it. Also, do not see the film if you haven't seen the first X-Men -- X2 starts right where X1 ended (i.e., there is very little exposition as to who these characters are and what they are doing, like Two Towers to Fellowship of the Rings).

PS. The Hulk's new trailer looked awesome.

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