Back Shelf Beauties
by Willie Waffle

X2:X-Men United

The summer movie season gets underway this week with a flick that seems like a can't miss blockbuster. Based on the Marvel Comic Books and building on the original X-Men movie, X2 is a good film that could have been great. You'll enjoy it as an action film, but it could have been much more.

In X2, mutants with amazing superpowers roam the earth, but not everyone is happy about it. Plenty of humans are scared of them, and, after a horrible incident, a shady military man, William Stryker (Brian Cox), convinces the President to allow him to break up a secret mutant school run by Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Sadly, the professor just wants to teach mutants how to live peacefully among humans and come to terms with their special powers, but his school is wrongfully portrayed by Stryker to be some sort of evil training facility. Little do we know that Stryker has a secret agenda that casts doubt on his motives.

Will Stryker succeed in wiping out the mutants? Can the X-Men and Professor Xavier stop him? Who will help them? Is war between the mutants and the human inevitable?

There is much more to the movie than that, but I don't want to give too much away. Suffice to say, you might want to watch the first X-Men movie to refamiliarize yourself with the basic plots and characters. All of the leads are back including Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) - a mysterious, brooding mutant with a secret past; Storm (Halle Berry) - the woman who can make storms happen any time she wants (also known as the woman you least want to scorn); Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) - a woman with amazing telekinetic powers; Rogue (Anna Paquin) - a young lady who steals the energy out of anything she touches (Don't make me say the obvious one-liner!  OK, I can't resist.  "Kinda like my evil ex-girlfriend"); Magneto (Ian McKellen) - a mutant who feels humans should be eliminated in favor of the "higher" life forms and more. Now, you know one of my problems with X2. There are too many characters.

With so many characters, and even more that I didn't list, no one gets the proper attention and development that would make this a better movie. There are plenty of great storylines from multiple love triangles to mysterious pasts to an examination of humanity and discrimination. Plenty there, but writers Michael Dougherty and Daniel Harris and director Bryan Singer are saddled with so much baggage, that the movie is an action film with untapped potential. They might want to cut the number of characters, but die hard fans will be upset if their favorite x-men aren't in the movie.

Also, I had a problem with some of the action. In this post-Matrix world, we expect more from action films. We want to see the actors and actresses carry out the moves and scenes. However, many of the fight scenes in X2 are shot in a dizzying, unfocused manner that never allows the audience to get a full view of what's happening. The action is hard to follow, as if the stars were not able to perform some of the fight scenes in a believable fashion, or Singer is unable to control the camera enough for us to see unedited material.

All in all, I want to make sure that you understand that I like X2. For all of its faults, it's a good movie that gets better as the plot develops and some of our favorite (OK, my favorite) characters play a bigger part. McKellen and Stewart get a chance to show that they have the strength and gravitas that we expect from the vets, while Cox is wonderful as the evil, twisted Stryker. It had to be intimidating to walk into a sequel as the "new" bad guy, but he fits in wonderfully and plays opposite McKellen and Stewart with aplomb. Also, Harris and Dougherty give us some welcome comedic moments, and the last 30 minutes are some of the most exciting and surprising that I have seen all year.

X2 is a great start to the summer. Grade: B

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