X-Men 2

X-Men 2

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

There is no need for formal introductions. That was dealt with in their previous incarnation and the process of going through the "Logan's other name is Wolverine and he can..." and "Don't let Rogue touch you, because..." and "Storm is more than a pretty face" routine wastes bunches of storytime and doesn't feel like anything more than an exercise in fact filling.

The sequel assumes that you understand the concept of mutant superheroes and if you don't, too bad, no one's going to give lectures on special powers because it's boring and, anyway, you'll catch up if you're switched to Xavier's waveband.

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What's good about director Bryan Singer's approach is that he respects the material and so do the actors. There is not a whiff of parody. These people live in the real world, even if they appear a little odd. It's difficult to explain the ability of Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) to shapeshift at will, or the way that Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) teleports himself through walls, with any rationality. Just call them talented and leave it at that.

The disabled Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) believes in peaceful co-existence between the mutant community and humanoid underachievers. He runs a school for the exceptionally gifted - ie kids who can perform magic without looking at a book - and keeps track of registered members by donning his interactive helmet and going into a trance.

His one-time friend, now arch enemy, Magneto (Ian McKellen), incarcerated in a transparent plastic cell, has plans for world domination, with the help of the extraordinary Mystique and other miscreants. Also, in the bad guy's camp, is a certain Col Stryker (Brian Cox), who has the ear of the president. He is an ex-soldier, who behaves like Morgan Freeman in Dreamcatcher, reinforcing a policy of means justifying ends in the pursuit of a right wing agenda. He attacks Xavier's headquarters with a hand-picked platoon of well equipped commandos.

It is a battle for survival, in which the mutants unite against forces not dissimilar to those that laid Baghdad to waste. The pitiless power of America's might is a weapon of mass destruction in the hands of a military psychopath like Stryker. Xavier's band of specialist freakshow operatives use every trick in their bag to protect mutantkind from institutionalised terror tactics and re-educate those in the White House to the positive qualities of unconventional genetics.

Some might suspect that the bigger budget makes X2 a superior effects fest, but it's so much more than that. The scriptwriters may have tinkered with details from the original comicbook, but not as an act of sabotage. This is a team effort, in which generosity of spirit and professional ethics ensure that everyone involved believes in what they are doing, rather than slap on makeup and wink at the audience.

X marks the spot with more certainty than before. They are back and they're staying and you should be glad.

Reviewed on: 01 May 2003
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The mutant X-Men battle to survive against a psychopathic military man with a right wing agenda.
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Jennie Kermode ***1/2

Director: Bryan Singer

Writer: Dan Harris, Michael Dougherty, based on characters from Marvel Comics

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Kelly Hu, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford

Year: 2003

Runtime: 128 minutes

BBFC: 12A - Adult Supervision

Country: US

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