Published on April 30th, 2012 | by PJ Montgomery1
X2 – A Movie Flashback
After the success of the first X-Men, hopes were high for the sequel. Director Bryan Singer, and most of the cast, were all returning, and there would be new characters in the shape of Alan Cumming as fan favourite X-Man, Nightcrawler, and Brian Cox as William Stryker, the main villain of the piece. Throw in the promise of the classic comic book plot point of the X-Men having to team up with Magneto (Ian Mckellan), and you’re set for what should be a cracking film.
X-Men 2 starts brilliantly, with a bravura set-piece in which a mind-controlled Nightcrawler attacks the White House, and just keeps going. The film is filled with brilliant moments, such as Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) berserker rage filled attack on soldiers who infiltrate the X-Mansion, Magneto’s escape from his plastic prison, the X-Jet’s aerial battle with two fighter planes, which culminates in Storm (Halle Berry) revealing the true extent of her powers, Pyro’s (Aaron Stanford) attack on the Boston PD… The list goes on and on. And that’s before we even get to the fight scene between Wolvie and Deathstrike (Kelly Hu). It would be no exaggeration to say that this is one of the absolute best fight scenes ever committed to film. It’s brutal, savage, and choreographed beautifully, with an ending that gives Deathstrike a very unpleasant demise indeed. The fight scene alone is worth the price of entry.
That said, X2 is an almost perfect superhero film. Of course, the key word there is almost. It’s not without some, admittedly tiny, flaws. There are so many characters here that some of them, almost inevitably, get lost in the mix. Cyclops (James Marsden) is criminally underused, vanishing completely for most of the film, and Professor X (Patrick Stewart), while vital to the plot, is also sidelined for much of it. There’s also a moment where Nightcrawler is clearly visible in a dark room BEFORE he’s teleported into it. But those are really the only gripes.
The performances are excellent all across the board (even Hally Berry manages to act in this film, actually bringing some of the majesty to Storm which was so sorely missing last time out), though some are, of course, more excellent than others. Ian McKellan steals most of his scenes as Magneto, and Hugh Jackman is still perfect as Wolverine, but mention also has to go to Famke Janssen, who gets much more to do as Jean Grey this time around, and Shawn Ashmore, who’s role as Iceman is greatly expanded. As for the newcomers, they’re all wonderful. Alan Cumming brings a sensitive touch to Nightcrawler, while also letting the character’s playful side out here and there, and Aaron Stanford makes the conflicted Pyro absolutely believable. Brian Cox is also suitably scary as William Stryker, a man willing to commit genocide with absolute belief in his cause.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an X-Men film without fan-pleasing cameos sprinkled throughout, and X2 doesn’t disappoint. Siryn, Shadowcat, Hank McCoy and Mastermind all get a look in, and there’s a fantastic Colossus moment during the Mansion attack which really makes you want to see more of the big guy. There are also small nods to Project: Wideawake, Nimrod, Muir Island and Franklin Richards. Then there’s all the foreshadowing of the coming of the Phoenix, which is handled brilliantly. It’s subtle, but clearly sets up where the franchise is going next.
If it seems like I’ve been gushing in this column, well, I have. But that’s only because X2 is one of the finest examples of a film based on comic to date. It’s without a doubt the best movie we’ve covered in this series so far (though there are two contenders to potentially knock it off the top spot coming up), which makes our list look a little like this:-
1. X2, 2. Captain America: The First Avenger, 3. Thor, 4. Iron Man, 5. X-Men, 6. The Incredible Hulk, 7. Daredevil, 8. Iron Man 2, 9. Ghost Rider, 10. Elektra
Recommended Reading – God Loves, Man Kills
A stand alone graphic novel published in 1982, God Loves, Man Kills is another example of the superlative work writer Chris Claremont did on the X-Men during his initial run. Many of the elements of this comic were used as the basis for X2, including the presence of William Stryker as the main antagonist (though in the comic, he’s a priest, not a military scientist), the X-Men being forced to team-up with Magneto and Stryker’s use of Professor X and Cerebro to try and kill all the mutants in the world. The major reason the comic is regarded so well is thanks to it’s portrayal of Magneto. This was arguably the first story to show Magneto as anything but a villain. While his goals had always been something people could easily understand, most of his appearances revolved around him being another Marvel Supervillain. But in God Loves, Man Kills, we get a Magneto genuinely grieving for the deaths of two mutant children, and joining the X-Men against Stryker because it’s the right thing to do. Sure, he wasn’t changing overnight, but this comic was the first step on a path that would eventually lead to Erik Lensherr joining the X-Men. These days, Magneto is easily one of Marvel’s most complex and interesting characters, and God Loves, Man Kills was the comic which started it. It’s also one of the best examples of the X-Men using the plight of mutants to tell a story about prejudice, without being too on the nose about it. Claremont, ably assisted by Brent Eric Anderson on art, was on the top of his game. This is the X-Men comic everyone should check out, even if you think you have absolutely no interest in Marvel’s merry mutants.
Next week, X-Men: The Last Stand.