X2 (2003)
Directed by Bryan Singer

Artistic & Entertainment Value
* * *

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When a ruthless general kidnaps and brainwashes Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in order to use his powers to wipe out the mutants of the world, the X-Men, an elite group of mutants who have trained at Xavier's school, join with their arch-enemy, Magneto (Ian McKellen), who has recently escaped from prison with the help of his own mutant followers, to stop their newfound mutual foe.

Much of what can be said about Bryan Singer's X-Men can also be said about his sequel to that film, X2. Like its predecessor, X2 is a fun movie. It is as packed with marvellous fights, strange characters, and peculiar happenings as is X-Men, and watching it is just as enjoyable as is watching the first movie. Sadly, the sequel has the same faults as does the earlier film and does not really improve on it in any way.

Not surprisingly, X2’s single worst problem is its huge cast. The movie is crawling with so many characters that most of them come across as little more than forgettable curiosities with some special power. The viewer is, more often than not, introduced to a character only to find that he may not see that individual again more than once or twice during the remainder of the film's duration. Even if he does, most of the mutants remain little more than shadowy manikins dressed in strange costumes and endowed with impossible powers. In fact, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) are virtually the only persons who are given sufficient depth for the viewer to be able to engage with them.

Fortunately, although X2 is, admittedly, visually undistinguished, it is, nevertheless, a well made film. In fact, thanks to the peculiar designs of the costumes worn by a number of the mutants, it is often genuinely attractive to look at and able to keep the viewer's interest. The moviegoer is, for instance, treated to such oddities as the eerie but sensuous Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), who wanders through much of the movie completely naked, and the tattooed, demonic Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), who can scurry across ceilings or leap from wall to wall with the help of his writhing, prehensile tail.

Even without such appealing touches, X2 is so filled with riveting action sequences that the viewer is likely to find himself fascinated by the film from its beginning until its end. I have to concede that, while X2 is hardly an inspired movie, it is always an exciting one.

I was never awed by X2. Singer never displays any particular inventiveness in the film, but he does demonstrate a genuine talent for crafting action sequences. He may not have made a memorable movie, but, thanks to such skills, he has made an enjoyable one.

Review by Keith Allen

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