Not much of an evolution
By Philip Concannon
, 23 Sep 2004
Bryan Singer's 'X-Men' was a fair attempt at making an intelligent take on the comic-book genre, accessible to both newcomers and hardcore fans. The film presented a world where mutants walk among us causing prejudice and hostility.
'X-Men 2' or 'X2'(as it insists on calling itself) picks up shortly after the first film's finale. Magneto(Ian McKellan) is incarcerated in his plastic cell, Wolverine(Hugh Jackman) is taking some time off to investigate his past, and the mutants are generally getting back to whatever it is mutants do. But when an unknown mutant attacks the president, it's the perfect opportunity for military advisor William Stryker(Brian Cox) to launch an offensive against them. He's given the go-ahead to attack the X-Men's school, but he has darker motives behind his actions.
All this is neatly summed up in a pacy, exciting opening half-hour, confidently handled by Singer. It seems to promise a thrilling ride, but the film instantly grinds to a halt.
The main problem with this overplotted movie is the fact that there's too many characters doing too many things in too many different directions. Singer seems determined to focus equally on each of the disparate strands of the plot, lending the film a bloated feel.
Singer has again assembled an impressive cast. Hugh Jackman is again on form as Wolverine, Ian McKellan and Patrick Stewart are excellent(especially in their scenes together) and Alan Cumming is a fine addition to the team. Halle Berry and James Marsden fail to bring much to the party while Brian Cox is a disappointing villain.
There's still much to enjoy here. Ian Mckellan's prison break is a stand-out scene and the attacks on the school and the white house are both brilliantly handled. But the messy climax manages to feel both rushed and overlong, and there's the nagging feeling that a good 20 minutes here could be easily lost.
The X-Men series is all about evolution, but this entry in the franchise is a case of arrested development.
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