Main cast: Patrick Stewart (Professor Charles Xavier), Hugh Jackman (Logan/Wolverine), Ian McKellen (Erik Lensherr/Magneto), Halle Berry (Storm), Famke Janssen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Scott Summers/Cyclops), Rebecca Romijn-Stamos (Mystique), Brian Cox (William Stryker), Alan Cumming (Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler), Bruce Davison (Senator Robert Kelly), Anna Paquin (Rogue), Kelly Hu (Deathstrike), Aaron Stanford (John Allerdyce/Pyro), and Shawn Ashmore (Bobby Drake/Iceman)
Director: Bryan Singer
I give the original X-Men movie a lot of slack because it’s supposed to be an introduction to the world’s most popular bunch of mutants. I’m not so forgiving of X2, the sequel.
This movie feels like a comic book, and that’s not a compliment. Scenes jump discordantly, the Anvils of Great Important Messages hammer on my head relentlessly as Bryan Singer deliberately makes sure that we Get It: mutation is today’s euphemism for everything from homosexuality (hi Bobby Drake) to wanting to sleep with jailbaits (ahem, Wolverine, how did Mystique know to morph into Rogue?) to the peace and pacifism movement (director Bryan Singer may as well hang a sign saying “Hi, I’m Donald Rumsfeld, no, not really!” around the war-mongering White House crony William Stryker’s neck) to Down with Genetic Engineering and to who knows what else.
What a mess this movie is.
The movie also introduces the youngster generation of mutants here, but does not know what to do with them. The principal teenagers – Rogue, Iceman, and Pyro – may be mutants but I think I can say that if being a mutant means looking like them, Teenbeat centerfolds come to life, make me a mutant now, please. Pyro is introduced as a potential villain, and he’s the only Teenbeat Mutant relevant in this story. Other than icing Wolverine’s beer, Bobby Drake has no purpose in this show, same with Rogue, unless it’s to placate the Amidala-Anakin moo-moo teenybopper crowd starved for juvenile romance in their movies. Colossus has a nice chest, but is there a point to his presence here?
The more familiar mutants have a little bit more to do. The movie begins with our lovely blue teleporting agile mutant Nightcrawler trying to murder the President of the United States. Our pacifist mutants led by Professor Charles Xavier can’t allow that, so Jean Grey and Storm take off into their plane to hunt down Nightcrawler. Xavier and Cyclops go to meet Magneto, now stuck in prison since the last movie, only to be ambushed by the real bad guy, William Stryker. Meanwhile, Wolverine has found the spot where he was experimented on, promptly forgets that bad guys keep Secret Headquarters under the ground, goes home, finds out that Stryker has raided the Mutant Academy, takes Bobby Drake, Rogue, and Pyro along with him to a house, where they end up meeting Jean Grey and Storm again. Then they also meet up with Magneto and Mystique too. Then everybody goes to smash the real bad guy, who also happens to know about Wolverine’s past. Stryker has an amazing sidekick – Deathstrike, whose powers is to rain kitchen sinks from the sky onto her hapless victims. Kidding. But there are a lot of kitchen sink plotting in this movie.
How about loopholes? Okay, here’s one. Magneto can rip apart a prison but he still needs Mystique to break into the bad guy’s lab for him? Why not just rip everything apart with his powers of magnetism? Then again, if he does that, this movie will only be half an hour long. So the plane won’t start, boo-hoo. Why not have Storm summon a giant tornado to keep them aloft when the dam breaks? Or summon an earthquake, make a chasm, and drain the dam, as my husband suggests. Then again, if she does that, we won’t have Phoenix making an appearance in the next movie. Or why not have Cyclops use his infrared beams to seal the cracks in the dam? You know what, why not just have Xavier summon all the bad guys to him in every movie using the Cerebro, where the good mutants then teach the villains to sing happy peace cake songs?
But to nitpick this movie is to go against the very essence of this movie. This movie is not supposed to be logical! It’s supposed to be a softporn movie about how Hugh Jackman makes a white sleeveless tank top a deadly sex toy. I hate those dark shadows for blurring out Hugh Jackman’s frontal nudity scene. I want to be his tank top. I want to feel his adamantium inside my, er, spirits.
This movie is about admiring Ian McKellen’s oh so brilliant campy Magneto. I love how he tells Rogue, “We love what you did to your hair!” This movie is about gasping over Mystique – sexy, alluring, and all-blue.
This movie is about breathless inspirations for bad fanfiction everywhere. Famke Janssen and Hugh Jackman’s chemistry remains palpible, explosive, and somehow so right. In fact, Mr Jackman, Mr McKellen, and Ms Janssen are the only characters in this movie coming close to being two-dimensional, and that’s because the movie focuses on them the most. I actually shed a tear at the end, even though I know about the Phoenix saga in the original Marvel comics, because Ms Janssen makes the most of her character by displaying her vulnerabilities clearly with her face and her eyes. While the original comic’s Jean Grey is a deadly bore, this Jean Grey is finally becoming a memorable character within her own right. Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler is interesting, but he soon fades into the background after his explosive introduction, his religious conflict all but forgotten in the later pyrotechnics.
And finally, this movie is all about the special effects. Wolverine and Deathstrike’s penultimate battle is horrifyingly violent despite the lack of blood splattering everywhere – stab stab stab, ouch. Storm has an amazing scene where she tries to evade enemies at the tail of their plane by creating powerful turbulence in the sky, although no special effects can make her wig look good or to make Halle Berry look convincing. When Ms Berry’s Storm says that she is an angry woman, I don’t think I’m supposed to laugh, but I did: she is so ineffective and charisma-free – so wrong to play the charismatic second-in-command of the X-Men.
This movie is gorgeous and the fanservice is enjoyable., but I don’t know how the shaky script and plot holes will fare with viewers less enamored with the X-Men mythology. While there are stand-out characters that make this movie enjoyable, X2 fails to live up to the promise and the hype. It’s just an expensive movie created by a fanboy with a budget bigger than his ability to tell a decent story.