X2 is one of my favorite superhero films. Nightcrawler‘s (Alan Cumming‘s) influtration of the White House at the opening of the film is such a memorable scene. It’s disorienting, unexpected, and it grabs the viewers right away. It immediately introduces a new conspiracy. Is Magneto behind it? Does someone just want us to think he is? The tone is already different than the first, and that’s a good thing.
One of the benefits of already doing an origin story is that this can just jump directly into the plot without a lot of introductions or background exposition. It’s already a more focused, sinister story, darker in tone. I suppose it might have something to do with an attempted presidential assassination and Magneto being tortured for information within the first few minutes, not to mention a midnight raid on the school with kids being rounded up.
It is a nice complication that we feel a twinge of sympathy for Magneto. Yes, he’s a bad guy, technically–you can see where he’s coming from and why he does what he does. He’s a freedom fighter, though his means are not justified in the end. At the same time, we just want to hate William Stryker, the new protagonist. Why? Is it because he wants to wipe out Mutants? Doesn’t Magneto want to wipe out humans? Maybe it’s because Magneto has some kind of a sense of honor, a cause for which he fights, while Stryker just seeks to destroy without regard. Magneto is almost a mentor, providing an inspirational haven for mutants, a purpose, just like Xavier, but he comes from a place of anger and pain, while Xavier is more idealistic.
One thing I think has not been established enough (in the films at least) is the forbidden romance between Jean and Logan. They flirted maybe twice in the previous film, and all of a sudden they’re irresistible to each other, a temptation that’s so palpable they can’t handle it. They’ve literally known each other for a few days (the film picks up shortly after the first one, which only took place over a short amount of time). For fans who know the comics, there is precedence, but it just doesn’t fit within the time frame of the film.
This film builds on the themes of the previous one, with bigotry going too far–mutations are simply a disease to be eradicated at all costs. Revealing mutations are on the same par as coming out. The “mutant problem” is a “complicated” one, with prejudices coming from a place that no one can exactly identify.
Some of my favorite moments:
The opening with Nightcrawler’s “Bamf-ing” assassination attempt on the president. It immediately sets itself apart from its older brother with more evolved, more precise effects. It’s a jarring, yet quite effective beginning.
Magneto’s prison break. We left him at the end of the previous film in a plastic and glass prison. Everyone is scanned so that no metal gets within his range of effect. Mystique (in her human, Rebecca Romijn form) then seduces the prison guard and injects him with liquid iron. Magneto can smell it as soon as the guard enters. It’s a great moment that’s dark and cheer-worthy at the same time. His abusive guard is given his dues, and Magneto floats away on a paper-thin disc with two iron orbs, contentedly making his escape.
The cringe-worthy fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike. It’s painful in its intensity. There’s a whole lot of stabbing going on, then healing, then stabbing some more, with the final blow of filling her with liquid adamantium, making her sink to the bottom of a tank of water.
This film is better than the first by leaps and bounds. It’s more exciting, visually more stunning, and with a more developed plot than the first. This belongs to that elite club of sequels which outshine their progenitors, alongside The Godfather Part II, The Dark Knight, and The Empire Strikes Back. It’s the pinnacle of this trilogy, and it’s at least matched by X-Men: First Class.
4 out of 5 stars