The X-Men are back, in a bigger way in X2, again directed by Bryan Singer, the cast from the first film returns with some additions, namely in Brian Cox (William Stryker), Alan Cumming (Nightcrawler), Aaron Stanford (Pyro), Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake/Iceman), Kelly Hu (Lady Deathstrike) and Katie Stuart as (Kitty Pride/Shadowcat). X2 kicks off in style and sets the tone for the rest of the film with a great opening sequence, with Nightcrawler making an attempt on the US presidents life, the X-Men respond to this, tracking him down, while William Stryker, a military strategist plots to attack the X-Men and take several mutants into custody by force.
X2 presents the pinnacle of the original X-Men franchise for sure and is a very, very well put together film with great storytelling, fantastic visuals and action and some great writing, it’s the prime example of a great summer blockbuster and a blockbuster done well, without sacrificing good writing, character development or story. X2 manages to handle the number of new mutants introduced very well with the context of the mutant academy being the place for mutants to come to and live, Pyro is a great addition and adds some friction to the mix, while Iceman represents the opposite character type to him, in a pretty on the nose fire-ice duality.
The tension between the two is well made though and they have a small rivalry, not rivaling the main Xavier – Magneto rivalry of course, which again returns in part, though not out in the open, X2 laying the seeds for the Brotherhood and X-Men war to come in The Last Stand. Other prominent characters include the ever present Mystique (Rebecca Romjin), loyal to Magneto and a expert hand to hand fighter, her individual sequences are awesome in X-Men and X2 and while I don’t think she’s the most interesting character (in this trilogy anyway), she really gets some great individual scenes. As does Rogue as her character develops and comes to terms with her powers. As far as relationships go, Rogue and Bobby have a very believable relationship and have great chemistry, which makes it all the more sad they can’t physically touch without Bobby going into a seizure due to Rogues powers, highlighting some of the struggles that mutants face in dealing with normal, everyday things.
The action in the film is great and very well shot, from Pyro lighting up police cars to Colossus turning metallic, it’s all very cool to see and of course Wolverine takes centre stage again and has a pretty big part to play in the story, as does Jean Grey, who gets an increasingly more important role, the set pieces are big and bold and some great spectacle. Stryker, brilliantly played by Brian Cox represents the darker side of humanity and mutant experimentation and he’s a great bad guy that you’re practically cheering for him to be taken out though the X-Men never kill, he’s also surprisingly well prepared for the X-Men.
The X-Men tend too not have everything easy and not everyone gets out unscathed and it was a bit of a struggle to set things right in the final third, the use tension was also a big part nearing the end of the film with the machine Cerebro being used and Strykers plan almost succeeding. But seeing the X-Men work and fight together in sync was awesome, the action scenes are well done and the plot is a great expansion of the universe that X-Men brought to the movies.
. Great performances in the film
. Action and set pieces in the film are great
. Very good pacing in the film
. Great expansion of the X-men world, characters introduced get fair amount of screentime