X2 (2003)


X2


X2 PIt is an unfair thing, reviewing a movie I have seen many, many times. Chances are it has desensitised me, left me barren to its pleasures and secrets, unless, of course, it is a classic, made with rich care and timeless exuberance. I cite very quickly The Lord Of The Rings pictures, which just found their way (again) into my Great Films collection. In that review I said “it is somewhat extraordinary that every time I see Return Of The King, with its skirmish on the Pelennor, I feel a surge of adrenaline”. In X2, the sequel to 2000’s X-Men, whatever adrenaline I felt upon first viewing has by now evaporated into woeful nothingness. Even the opening sequence, once thought to be exciting, has all but lost its charm.

That separates the good films from the evergreens. Movies that retain their freshness after years no doubt contain within them qualities that encourage their viewers to continuously seek enriching details in their veins (these will potentially be Great Films). Movies that wow us once, maybe twice, then become droll repeats of dialogue and action work as decent entertainment, not built to endure. X2, I think, is such a movie.

It’s not bad in any way (in fact it’s much better than the first film), it has just lost its moxie. And as I see more and more films about Jackman’s animalistic Wolverine, I question 20th Century Fox’s initial mission to push him into stardom. He is infinitely surrounded by characters more complex and interesting, yet we have to settle for his grunts and groans. Trust me, after a while it grates on the ears.

Take Pyro (Aaron Stanford), the mischievous runt who blows up a few cop cars for the heck of it. The movie instantly hints to a backstory that would’ve been so much more captivating than Wolverine’s memory loss. Consider the series of scenes that take place in Iceman’s house. Iceman’s got a few family portraits hung proudly on the wall. As he watches Rogue (Anna Paquin) undress upstairs, Pyro is in front of the portraits. The music is ominous. The camera angles dramatic. We get the feeling Pyro’s envious of Iceman’s suburban American life. Why? What hardships has he faced? Did his parents disown him when he accidentally set their dog on fire? Sometimes hinting at a backstory is more effective than blasting us in the face with flashbacks.

X2 is lucky because X-Men has come and gone. All the major characters have been introduced and established. All X2 has to do now is provide a coherent, intriguing plot that gathers them, briefs them, and sends them on their merry way to the resolution.

There are a few new additions. The most fun is a blue meanie called Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) who, I learn from comic lore, is the son of the shapeshifter Mystique (played again by Rebecca Romijn), but the movie makes no mention. He can dissolve into wisps of blue smoke and teleport to any location as long as he can see where he’s going, otherwise he could “end up in a wall”. Funny thing. He teleports through walls, which are certainly not see-through, and never gets stuck. Maybe he’s not aware of his powers.

The most needless is Lady Deathstrike, a knuckle-cracking aerobics instructor played by the beautiful Kelly Hu. Deathstrike is Colonel William Stryker’s personal bodyguard, but abandons him to fight Wolverine when the plot requires her to. She has extendable metal claws that make her look less like a death-striking lady and more like a rabid cat. Alas, I have no clue what she is for except to crack her unusual knuckles on a regular basis and do battle with the grunting, groaning Wolverine.

William Stryker (Brian Cox) wants all mutants dead, because his son is a mutant and drove his wife to kill herself. How he plans to accomplish this task is an idea that to me seems rather foolish. I will not say much except that he must have been harbouring these thoughts of genocide for decades, since he converts an abandoned dam into a secret lair and retrofits it with a chamber that is a perfect duplicate of Professor X’s Cerebro sphere. I’d love to ask his engineers how long the entire project took.

Bryan Singer’s having fun with this one, and it shows. The story is darker, which is a clear sign that he has confidence in his characters to find the light. Indeed, his characters are more comfortable now in their mutant positions and seem to be going along for the ride without much resistance. There are awesome action set pieces, as when Storm (Halle Berry) swirls tornados down from the sky to damage (but not destroy) two pursuing jet fighters, and when Nightcrawler clears out The White House to stab the president. But in the ensuing 12 years it has been the mission of superhero movies to outdo the grandeur of their predecessor’s action scenes, and by golly, the scenes in X2 have been outdone. They now look like museum exhibits.

 

Best Moment | I think it’d still have to be Nightcrawler’s opening rampage through the rooms and corridors of The White House. Mozart’s “Requiem” in the background is a neat little touch.

Worst Moment | Nope. No standout Worst Moment.


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