With Days of Future Past about to hit theaters this Friday, I thought it would be a good opportunity to revisit my favorite X-Men film to date, X2. Although, there is that motion comic of Astonishing X-men……
(Anything that starts with a voice over by Patrick Stewart has got to be great, right?)
The X-Men is, of course, about a group of people with extraordinary abilities. Mutants. Problem to some, allegory to others, mutants exist in this world and they have to be dealt with. The X-Men are a team of select mutants chosen by Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who are tasked with protecting mutants and their rights. Sometimes that means going in front of congress and demanding equal rights, most of the time however it usually means a jet and super-powered brawls.
X2 picks up where the original left off, with Logan (Hugh Jackman) on a quest to uncover his past, Magneto in a plastic prison cell and the students of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters all safe and on a field trip, just like normal kids. And then, not even 4 minutes in, I have stumble upon one of the few gripes I have with this movie. Before we get the Logan story or Magento or the awesome museum mind/body-freezing scene, we are treaty to the best action sequence of the film. Which is a shame, because the rest of the movie is great, just not as great as this first scene. Nightcrawler’s (Alan Cumming) assassination attempt on the president is a thing of beauty. At least it was for this kid who grew up on that great cartoon.
After Logan returns to the mansion from his unsuccessful trip to Canada, Jean (Fameke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry) are tasked to track down the would be assassin, while the Professor and Scott take a trip to see Magneto. And the Shit hits the fans, as simultaneously the X-Mansion is infiltrated by William Stryker (Brian Cox) and his thugs with some students managing to escape while others are captured. and Professor X is gassed and taken by one of Stryker’s cronies Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu).
After this, the plot moves at a fairly consistent pace. Gripe number 2. Like the first, I don’t really think it detracts that much from the film overall, but there are some scenes in the middle that drag. The time we spend at Bobby’s (Shawn Ashmore) house, the over elaborate jet escape (featuring the most incredible guess work by Magneto), the time we spend in between just hanging out on the jet, the fireside conversation. It all just lasts a bit too long. It does help to build quite the tension at the end of the film, with plot devices having interesting payoffs, I just wish it didn’t take so long to get there.
Of course the silver lining to my gripes (and the reason I am so amped for Days of Future Past) is the feel of this movie. Video Game’s press have a great word (well, i say great.) they love to use; immersion. When I’m playing a game I find to be truly ‘immersive’ it usually means that the world I am visiting has it’s own internal logic. Sure, sometimes the circumstances and elements of that logic are bizarre and even far fetched, but it makes sense within the confines of the rules it has established and anything that break these rules feels wrong and out of place. Throwing you out of the experience. This is, to me, what Bryan Singer nailed (no pun intended, sorry) with the first 2 films, especially the second. The feel of the X-Men world. Matthew Vaughn’s First Class comes in a close second, but story and character’s established in the first film continue to shine here, helped tremendously (and I can’t stress this enough) by pitch perfect casting. All the actors put in great performances (with the exception of a line or two), and then others like Stewart, McKellen, Jackman simply are the Professor, Magneto and Wolverine.
The real travesty of the movie is of course the follow up to it. After spending a great deal of time carefully kneading the Phoenix Saga dough, it all gets spoiled by the third installment. The build up to the Phoenix in X2 is well done, giving us small doses of a larger force at work and paying it off with the end tease. It all made for a great build up…..it’s just too bad. Although, from what I can gather online, producer Lauren Shuler Donner claims Days of Futures Past should eliminate or at least clean up most of the fat in this universe.
X-Men 2 is a great film. Minor gripes aside it still holds up as one of the best comic book movies to date and re-watching it has solidified my faith that Days of Future Past will not disappoint.