DVD Review #10: X2: X-Men United (2003)

February 4, 2010 at 10:17 AM | Posted in Based on a Comic, DVD Reviews, Franchise Film | Leave a comment

Yep, he was totally a mutant. You didn’t know?

Despite the effort made, I don’t think this sequel tops the original in any way. It doesn’t even manage to match it. There’s a real jumble of ideas here, and a confusion about what to do with the characters.


Basically, the story tries to set up a human as the villain, and regardless of him having a backstory, he’s not very engaging or very threatening. Magneto here is reduced to teaming up with the X-Men, and he doesn’t do very much. The setpieces of the first film, such as a train being ripped in half and the Statue of Liberty used to house a weapon, are absent here. Instead, we get a couple of cop cars flipped over and exploding, which is repetitive of the cop car gag from the first movie, and a boring secret base under a Canadian dam. Where the movie tries to set up a war against the mutants, it never really happens, and thus a grander scale is not achieved.

Mystique is the only character really used to decent effect. Everybody else just scrambles around like headless chickens. Logan goes to the secret base only to leave again because it was secret. Rogue runs around in her nightie for a minute, and then learns to fly a jet for one scene. Xavier is in a fog for most of the film. Cyclops gets kidnapped and doesn’t do much. Storm makes a couple storms. Jean’s character progresses sort of vaguely until the end, where she dies. Magneto is manipulated, breaks out of prison, tries to turn on everybody, then flies away.

The big action scenes in this movie consist of a teleporting semi-attack on the White House, Wolverine murdering a bunch of soldiers-for-hire, the aforementioned cop cars exploding, a fighter jet attack, a very stabby Wolverine fight scene, and a dam breaking. Aside from the ridiculously violent Logan fight, which is ultimately pointless, only the Nightcrawler attack is particularly original. The jet fight is done well, but there are lots of dogfight movies, even without tornadoes, and this has ultimately been made redundant by the much more exciting and much funnier scene in Iron Man.

The “plot,” involving somehow making a brand new, yet inexplicably rustier copy of Cerebro in order to kill all mutants, tends to be too offscreen and convoluted to have much effect. An unwelcome formula crops up when you watch all three films, which is that they all revolve around the powers of mutants everywhere, which is a broad scope that’s never really supported onscreen. We only see the homelives of, by my count, three mutants, and those lives are vague at best. In the first movie, Magneto wants to make all humans into mutants, even though the machine doesn’t work and will just kill them (he adapts to this news quite calmly). X2 has a human trying to kill all mutants, and then Magneto tries to kill all humans. X3 presents the notion of humans trying to cure all mutants, by force. More personal stories, or more black-and-white good vs. evil battles should have been the first step before attempting to portray mutation as a global phenomenon, when the only mutants we ever see all end up at Xavier’s school. The same trick in three variations doesn’t work. And when it works best is in the first film, where it’s quite easy to identify with being a human, and not wanting to turn into a mutant briefly before melting.

Logistics is a huge problem with X2, which doesn’t know how to coordinate all of its characters. It can be twenty minutes between scenes of any given character, and it’s never clear what the others are doing when they’re not onscreen. Xavier gets kidnapped, and then the movie cuts to a bunch of idiots flying around in a jet while they do errands. When you cut back to Xavier, the idiots are still flying around in a jet doing nothing for a good ten minutes. Magneto escapes and apparently just goes to hang out in the woods. All the kids supposedly leave the mansion, but many are never seen again. It’s pretty much a big mess, with a story that tries to seem important, but comes across as boring. The movie tries to be darker in the Empire Strikes Back style, but really just lacks any color or any great amount of humor or excitement. It all feels flat, and it falls flat. The only draw of the movie is to see Wolverine stab a lot of people.

Ironically, the movie has little to do with any uniting of X-Men. In fact, it is only Magneto and Mystique that unite with a small group of the X-Men. The X-Men themselves are quite separated in this film, far more than in the first movie. I guess X2: X-Men Wandering Around Doing Different Things In Various Groupings didn’t test well as a title.

Brian Singer does the commentary for this one with his cinematographer. But actually, the producers and writers have the more interesting track. The writers are genuinely funny, whereas Singer spends a lot of the movie talking about the circles and X’s he put in every shot, like some demented tic-tac-toe fanatic.

X2’s bonus disc presents the comic book history feature that strangely didn’t appear on the first movie’s DVDs, but has since become a standard inclusion of Marvel films (albeit sometimes taken to ridiculous extremes).

There’s also a separate, but brief, feature about the character of Nightcrawler.

For the movie proper, there are features about the general design of the movie, an hour-long making-of, behind-the-scenes of Nightcrawler, 25 minutes of visual effects, scoring the movie, some webcast footage, a couple of fight scene rehearsals, trailers and galleries. Not nearly as much here as with X-Men 1.5, but still substational for a regular, non-special edition release.

Film Connections:
DVD Review #9: X-Men 1.5
DVD Review #15: X-Men: The Last Stand

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