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Vault Movie Review: “X2: X-Men United”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Theatrical Release: 5/2/2003

Theatrical Release: 5/2/2003

Synopsis

Logan (Hugh Jackman) has found his place as a member of the X-Men. Unfortunately for him, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has been unable to fulfill his promise. Logan hoped Charles would be able to unlock his mind, allowing him to access his memories, but Logan is still unable to remember his past. It seemed all hope was lost, but a man from Logan’s past heard that the Wolverine has joined the X-Men, and he has set his sights on Xavier’s Institute.

William Stryker (Brian Cox) was the mind behind the Weapon X program—the program that infused Logan’s skeleton with the indestructible adamantium. Stryker wants nothing more than to wipe mutants out, but he is not above using mutants as weapons and tools to further his plans. Meanwhile, Magneto (Ian McKellan) and Mystique (Rebecca Romjin) are still hell bent on mutant domination, but when Stryker attacks Xavier’s Institute and kidnaps Charles Xavier, the X-Men are forced to form an unlikely alliance with Magneto and Mystique. The X-Men need to save Charles Xavier and put an end to Stryker’s plans, but trusting Magneto will not be easy. On top of that, Stryker is not to be underestimated, as he almost certainly has a few tricks up his sleeve, and he hopes to convince his prized creation—Wolverine—to work for him once again.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Charles Xavier, Jean, and the New Mutants (+8pts)

Logan & Jean (-2pts)

Stryker, Weapon X, and Magneto (+6pts)

Cyclops, Rogue, and Storm (-4pts)

Wolverine & The Students (+8pts)

Hectic (-3pts)

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Pro: Charles Xavier, Jean, and the New Mutants (+8pts)

Without giving anything away, I really liked Charles Xavier’s story and his connection to William Stryker. It made him an imperfect, but far more interesting character, and I enjoyed pretty much everything about this storyline. I also liked Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) in this movie, as she had serious problems of her own. Those problems were mysterious for her character in this movie, and they teased really exciting things for future ones. Finally, I liked all of the new mutant characters that were introduced in this movie.

The new mutant characters consisted of Pyro (Aaron Stanford), Ice Man (Shawn Ashmore), Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), and Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu). There were plenty of other new mutant characters in this movie, but these were the ones that got the most focus. Lady Deathstrike was an interesting new villain, as the filmmakers kept her powers a secret, which made her mysterious, and the big fight at the end between her and another mutant was awesome. The other three—Pyro, Ice Man, and Nightcrawler—each had their own traumas and internal struggles, and I enjoyed seeing them using their powers in the epic fashion that they did.

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Con: Logan & Jean (-2pts)

I remember being annoyed by this romance when I was a kid, and I found it just as annoying as an adult. It was annoying, because it was very much a one-sided romance, and it was clear it was never going anywhere. Jean clearly cared about Logan in the platonic way someone would care about a friend and teammate, but I never got the impression that Jean had any romantic interest toward Logan. Even when the filmmakers were very strongly hinting that she might, I never actually felt it. Instead, it was just Logan being obsessed with Jean, and it was clear that this would never go anywhere. It made the romance feel like a distraction, and it made it feel like a waste of screen time.

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Pro: Stryker, Weapon X, and Magneto (+6pts)

William Stryker was a pretty interesting antagonist. He was interesting because he was very obviously an antagonist, but I wanted Logan to get closer to him, because I—like Logan—knew Stryker had the answers Logan was looking for. It was clear that Stryker and Logan had a long history together, and it was interesting that Stryker, the obvious antagonist, was the only one who remembered that history. I also thought it was interesting that Stryker hated mutants, but he used them to further his plans despite his hatred.

I liked William Stryker as an antagonist, and I liked the mystery surrounding the Weapon X program as a whole. Logan’s lack of memory on the subject fueled the sense of mystery, as well as my desire to see answers. Then there was the comparison between William Stryker and Magneto. One character was fighting for humans, the other was fighting for mutants, but both characters wanted a war between the two species, and the X-Men were caught in the middle. This provided the movie with a strong feud, and I was invested in seeing how everything would play out.

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Con: Cyclops, Rogue, and Storm (-4pts)

To keep this section short and sweet, these three characters were severely underutilized. Cyclops (James Marsden) was simply an escort for Charles I in the beginning, and he was used as a mindless puppet later. Rogue (Anna Paquin) was a generic damsel in distress in the last movie, and she was not much more than that in this one. Storm (Halle Berry) was just the pilot of the X-Jet, and the filmmakers had her cause an occasional storm or gust of wind to remind audiences she was important and powerful, but she never really did anything noteworthy. All three characters are powerful, and the filmmakers could have done really interesting things with each of their stories here. Unfortunately, they chose to keep all three on the back burner, and it was pretty disappointing.

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Pro: Wolverine & The Students (+8pts)

Wolverine defending Xavier’s Institute was one of the best scenes in all of the X-Men movies, in my opinion. It was Wolverine doing what Wolverine does best, and what he does best is not very nice. He was really all on his own in trying to defend the school, as Charles and the rest of the X-Men were away, and he was tempted by a figure from his past. It was just an awesome action sequence that any fan of the character will enjoy, and it led into him becoming essentially a babysitter to a group of young mutants who he helped escape the school.

The dynamic between Logan and these younger mutants was pretty amusing, and it took the character out of his comfort zone. The guy was a loner by nature, but he was forced to look after a group of young mutants who were just starting to understand their powers and what they were capable of. This storyline also led into exploring the characters of Pyro and Ice Man, characters who had a yin and yang relationship with one another both in terms of their powers and their stories. I just really enjoyed following this group of characters, right from when Logan was left in charge of the school and all the way up until they rendezvoused with the other mutants.

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Con: Hectic (-3pts)

As much as I enjoyed the opposite antagonists that were William Stryker and Magneto, having both of them and their opposing goals made the climax of the movie feel like it was a little bit all over the place. Throw the various X-Men in the mix and it made things even more hectic. Multiple characters were after the same thing, but for very different reasons. There was also Logan trying to figure out his past, and there were the mind controlled mutants running around as well. Then there was the rescue mission of some young mutants, which made if feel like the filmmakers were trying really hard to give all of the X-Men something to do. None of these things were bad on their own, but all of them together made for a climax that felt somewhat incoherent.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

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Grade: B+ (88pts)

I really enjoyed X-Men, but X2: X-Men United was a definite step up. Seeing Wolverine defending Xavier’s Institute was awesome, seeing the storyline with him and the students was exciting, funny, and interesting, and Logan’s story was one of mystery and intrigue. I also liked how the filmmakers handled Charles Xavier, Jean Grey, the new group of mutants, Magneto, William Stryker, and the Weapon X program. Each of these characters and things provided interesting additional layers to this movie, and I enjoyed all of it. Unfortunately, while the filmmakers handled a lot of things really well, there were some things that they could have handled a lot better.

To start, the filmmakers did not do a great job with Cyclops, Storm, or Rogue, as all three characters were pretty underutilized in this story. I also did not think the romance between Jean and Logan was very interesting, as it was a one-sided romance that I knew was not going to go anywhere. Finally, the climax of the movie had so many storylines, characters, and motivations coming together that it made the climax feel like somewhat of a mess. This was an entertaining superhero movie with plenty of interesting characters and plenty of exciting superhero action. There was plenty of room for improvement here, but it was still a pretty good superhero movie.

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