Itís difficult to know where to begin with a movie review of X2. The X-Men have been dear friends for over a decade. To see them spring to life Ė in full, three-dimensional brilliance Ö well, itís almost enough to make you want to cheer for joy. Which was actually something I had to fight against in the theater.
Who among the friends of the Children of the Atom can honestly say that they werenít moved by such moments as finally hearing a ďBAMF!Ē, seeing Peter become Colossus, watching Wolvie go into berserker mode, or seeing that fire in Jeanís eyes? For us, this movie is two solid hours of bliss, as the things we have been dreaming about since childhood come to life before our very eyes.
So you will perhaps excuse my difficulty in stepping outside of my personal feelings and present an impartial, outsiders view.
X2 is one hell of a movie. It blends perfectly the characterization, story and action that I have come to expect (or did at one time) of the comic book. Does that make the movie perfect? No, of course not (and being the fangirl that I am, Iíll be hitting on the detailed pros and cons shortly). However the package as a whole was so utterly enjoyable that these flaws in no way detracted from my overall enjoyment.
I have to give Brian Singer all the credit in the world. As has been demonstrated so many painful times in the past, comic books simply do not automatically translate into wonderful movies. The penchant for melodrama, overacting and ridiculous costumes is sometimes a burden that is simply too heavy to overcome. But somehow, miraculously, he has done it, and has made me extremely happy in the process. Because as much as this movie is for anyone to enjoy with no prior knowledge (save the first movie), make no mistake: This is a movie for the fans. When you look at the broad scope of the X-Menís history and considering how bloody confusing it can be sometimes, this is no small feat.
The choice of story certainly has no small part to do with the movieís overall success. God Loves, Man Kills is a classic tale from the X-Menís distant past, written by the father of the modern X-Men, Chris Claremont. It was written to be a self-contained story, outside of the normal canon of the series. As a result, it was free from the occasionally daunting baggage that comes from an X-Story entrenched in history. And with the Claremont touch, it started out with the proverbial silver spoon in its mouth. But this movie was about more than the excellent story and script, wonderful effects and superb performances. This was a movie that was made great by its moments. Moments which I shall, of course, lovingly revist. Spoilers are, of course, very present.
But what's a pron without a con? X2 was not completely perfect, unfortunately. It had its share of problems, although I will be the first to say that these are nitpicks in the finest nitpicker tradition.
- Here a BAMF!, there a BAMF!: By the gods, what an opening sequence! The individual doing all the teleporting was, of course, no surprise to those of us in the know, but I'd lay good money that none of us were expecting such a ferocious fight from Kurt. This sequence showed me just how dangerous Kurt can be -- and that was surprising. The last thing I expected from the movie was to be shown further development on the use of the mutant abilities, at least not from someone who is "just" a teleporter. How magnificantly, simply brilliant was the idea for Kurt to 'port by that one guard twice, confusing him into thinking there were two of him? Why the hell didn't we think of that before? As for the necessity of the scene, watching Kurt bust his way into one of the most secure and heavily protected places on Earth helped to further illustrate just what those Anti-Mutant groups are so afraid of. That doesn't make their blind bigotry okay, but it does help make it more understandable. Hell, if I hadn't known Kurt, he would've scared the crap out of me too.
- Guess That Mutant: Everyone's favourite game show, and there are lots of chances to guess. I probably said it in my review of the first movie, and it remains true. There is just something wonderful about seeing all of these guys under one roof and trying to figure which of your friends you're seeing now. Kitty, of course, is an absolute thrill to behold whenever she appears on the screen. Being one of of my favourite characters, I'll take her however I can, even if it's little more than phasing through a bed and running through a few bad guys. We also get a taste of her daddy's gift when Siryn cuts loose -- seeing her blind-sided me, but pleasantly. Even Artie shows up, though sans pink skin. Jubilee appears, but without a firework, and Mike and I are debating if we saw (Poor Dead) Doug. I think that Jason Stryker was really Jason Wyngarde (which sets up Phoenix perfectly). And then there's the cameo to end all cameos: Peter. Goosebumps at seeing him "iron up". I miss Peter a great deal, and loved seeing him again, even if only for a few moments.
- Berserker Mode: I think that the mansion invasion was one of my favourite scenes in the movie (again, I love seeing that big ol' house on Greymalkin Lane). All the cameos mentioned above, and Wolvie cuts loose. For one brief, fleeting moment, we were able to see what Logan can do when he's really, really angry. It's one thing to read about it in the comics. It's entirely another to see it with your own two eyes. Wolvie wasn't pulling punches, he was slashing to kill. And it was scary.
- Iceman Cometh: Home, that is. Cyke likes Backstreen Boys, Wolvie smells beer, Rogue thinks it's "cool", Pyro living up to his name, and Bobby returning home and having to tell his parents about his mutant powers. This was a great scene for several reasons. One, we had a few peaceful moments, giving the characters time to develop a little. Two, several great lines of dialogue. Three, X-Men versus the police. Four, and most importantly, the consistent theme of fear and irrational hatred returns in a painful way: through Bobby's family. Though you can see his mother trying to come to grips with what he's telling her, her "Have you tried, you know... NOT being a mutant?" line, while eliciting some chuckles, really cuts to the heart of the matter. A mother is telling her son to stop being what he is. He can no more stop being a mutant than he can stop his heart from beating. When his own brother betrays them all and his parents sit by and do nothing while their son is being shot at -- well, the image of them fearfully huddled together at the window really says it all.
- Pyro's Defection: Not a big commentary on this one, but Pyro belongs in the Brotherhood. I was delighted to see him go there.
- Who's That Girl?: Her look having grown on me by now, I think I utterly enjoyed every scene Mystique was in. For having next to no lines at all, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos does some fine communicating in body language alone. Raven doesn't so much move as she melts from one position to another. Everything about her is fluid and changing -- most appropriate, given her power. And it's all done with an attitude. One of the biggest laughs for a "blink and you'll miss it" scene is her flipping off the guards as she slides past them. Mystique is beautiful, manipulative, and dangerous. She's done perfectly.
- From the Ashes: Easily the best of all moments in the entire movie is any time Jean got that fire in her eyes. I wanted to see her take to the air in all her Phoenix-y glory so badly I could almost taste it. Much like Wolvie's berserker mode, actually seeing the budding Phoenix Force just helped to make it feel that much more real. And that ending shot ... Wow. It's not after a space flight, and it's not the Hudson Bay, but it had to do with a flying machine and it's water, so it'll do in my book. I cannot wait for X3. Which sucks royally when you consider that they don't even have a script yet. But I know we'll see Phoenix. I will be patient.
Despite these little nits I have picked, this movie is fantastic. It's actually the first movie that I think I will pay to go see again. Is it the most thought provoking film you'll ever see? The most action-packed? Not at all. But it is one of the best blends of all these things and more. It's a tribute to all of us fans who secretly wish, deep down, that we were mutants too.
- Fuzzy Elf: Nightcrawler's look. Okay, I can understand why they didn't make him furry. I'd imagine that even CGI technology today would have trouble making it look real. And I can't deny that it's much easier (and cheaper) to paint someone's face and use prosthetics. But dammit, I want my Fuzzy Elf. Kurt is the kind of guy that you just want to give a big hug to. Maybe it's my own prejudices coming to the forefront, but I simply would not want to cuddle with Movie-Kurt. His hair looked greasy, his teeth looked evil (Kurt has pronounced canines, not a mouth full of fangs), and the over-large fingernails gave me the shudders. This is, of course, 100% superficial. Movie-Kurt and True-Kurt share the same enormous heart, and I love him for it. But dammit, was it too much to ask that they keep Kurt cute?
- And YOU Have An Oscar?: Halle Berry. She felt flat in the first movie. I attributed that to very few lines and an unfamiliar movie setting. But when she fell flat in the second movie too ... well, I'm beginning to think that her rumoured desire to break from the X-Franchise may not be a bad thing. She has the look down easily. I liked the haircut. However Storm is a woman of great passion. She's never been a favourite character of mine, but I've simply followed her for too many years to not understand her. When Movie-Storm is talking to Kurt about her own anger and hatred, I wanted to pat her on the cheek and say "That's nice honey, but the adults are talking." She may as well been discussing the weather (though I guess that takes on a whole new meaning from her) for all the emotion displayed in the scene. It was supposed to be one of Storm's big moments, fully realized as she puts her faith in something at the end of the film. It deserved more than to simply be recited to the audience.
- Guess That Mutant, Round Two: The X-Universe has been around since 1963. During that time, the number of mutants has become staggering. From the big players to the villains to the ships passed in the night, their sheer numbers and range of powers is incredible. That is why I am at a complete and utter loss to explain why the need was felt to create cameo mutants for the movie. I must have spent a good couple of hours wracking my brain to figure out who the remote-control kid was. My answers were: Legion (as I can't remember everything Legion can do), Blink (cuz he was blinking, get it? Ha ha.), and Harry Potter. It was with no small amount of irritation that I finally decided that he was none of these and must have been created by the film makers. Now why the hell did they need to do that? Surely they didn't feel that the scene was so integral that it couldn't have been rewritten with another mutant in mind. I conceed that the kid's power was very low-budget, easily pulled off by somebody with a real remote control off-camera, but ... I dunno, Jubilee could've popped a few fireworks while watching TV and it wouldn't have cost all that much in the grand scheme of things. Bleah, I say.
- "I can help.": Peter to Wolvie during the assault on the mansion. I'm certain that I am not alone when I say that I wanted this to see Colossus jump into the fray soooo much. And with Wolvie? Can anybody say "Fastball Special"? But alas, we were simply tantalized, and Logan sent Peter with the rest of the kids. Maybe next movie.
- Steel Magnolia: Probably one of the biggest things to bother me was, not surprisingly, Rogue. I liked her scenes, don't get me wrong, but there was something missing. I think that something is the ability to freaking DO something! What I wouldn't pay to have a post-Ms. Marvel Rogue flying around and kicking such ass. But even without Carol's powers, Rogue can still be effective. XME's Rogue shows that much. At the very least, Rogue should be sarcastic and ready with the quips, not petrified whenever she encounters trouble. I keep reminding myself that this Rogue is different from mine. She hasn't had the benefit of Mystique's training. She hasn't ever been invulerable, allowing her the chance to develop that cocky attitude that I love so much. Shoot, for all we know, the non-X-Men students haven't even set foot in the Danger Room before, which would explain why she's a little gun shy. I can make excuses for her all day long, but the end result is the same: This Rogue is much weaker than mine, and I don't mean that in powers alone. The streak I'm looking for is certainly there: She ran back to find Wolvie, and manhandled the hell out of the Blackbird (her reaction after landing was actually enjoyable). I'm just hoping that now she's officially got a uniform, she'll become the Rogue I know she can be.
- New Mutant Villain: Plot Hole: I think the weakest part of the movie comes right at the climax when Jean chooses to go outside of the Blackbird. I'm still having trouble wrapping my head around that one. She had to stop the water and levitate the jet ... but she could've done these from inside as well as outside. And, you know, been inside the jet while it was levitating, thus avoiding all that nasty water. From a plot standpoint, I of course understand why they did this, but Jean is an intelligent person. Xavier explaining it away by saying "It was her choice" is pretty darned lame. Not that the others could stop her if they wanted to, but I think some more work should have gone into making her choice make more sense to the audience. Perhaps even a scene or two where she really starts to loose control of her increasing powers would help. Yeah, we got a hint or two, and even got to see her having trouble blocking out all those thoughts, but it wasn't enough justification for her to, in effect, become suicidal. The scene was touching, but would've meant so much more if we were given more insight into what prompted her decision.
- Danger Room: I wasn't in this movie. I want it in the next. That's that. Oh, and maybe a baseball game too.
- Credit Where It's Due: As mentioned, God Loves, Man Kills, the story from which this script was drawn, was written by Chris Claremont. In addition, he created almost every character that appeared on that screen, and molded those he didn't create into who they are today. And for all his hard work, he didn't get a single credit. Yeah, he's written the novelization, but he deserves more than that. Shame on the movie for not acknowledging his contribution.