PG-13, because Mr. Knife Hands is back. But I should probably mention that blue lady is naked through the entire movie. I didn't really notice this until X-Men: First Class, that full on addresses that. But there's some more violence. There's more making out and sexual encounters. The language is a bit heavy at times. Hey, a guy drinks while being seduced. Also, people are ripped apart by tiny balls of metal. It's grosser than you would think. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer
In 2003, I was convinced that there was never going to be a better superhero flick. This is something I really thought. Heck, X2 isn't even the best X-Men film. But all that being said, it is a movie that does exactly what a sequel needed to: it delivered on a lot of its promises and those teases that were dropped in the first film. Sure, Senator Robert Kelly is actually dead. Sure, the Chekhov's gun that was loaded in the first film was never really addressed. But if you wanted to know more about Wolverine's background without letting the cat out of the bag, this movie kind of pulls that off.
The first billion times I watched these movies, I was always weirded out that these were all Wolverine and the X-Men films. Wolverine takes such a central role in all of these movies. But the more I think about it, Wolverine is always incidental. I know that this isn't an accident. Magneto actually says that Wolverine keeps making the same mistake thinking that the issue is always surrounding him. It wouldn't be until Days of Future Past that Wolverine actually gets a central role in these films. It is really bizarre storytelling. Wolverine's storyline, despite the fact that it might be the most compelling part of this movie, actually seems to be the B-plot. Finding out what Logan's past is seems to be something that the character always deals with. In some ways, the X-Men films kind of follow the Veronica Mars method of storytelling. The films in the X-Men series are episodic, so I will treat them as episodes of a TV show. For all intents and purposes, the A-plot is the plan that they have to foil. In the case of X2, the plot involves stopping Col. Stryker from murdering all of the mutants on the planet using Cerebro. Honestly, for a guy who gets criminally little screen time in these movies, Professor X should actually be the protagonist of the film. Breaking this story probably had a lot more focus on Charles Xavier. The reason that all of this is happening is because Xavier fails to help Jason control his powers. His failure also extends into ideology. Jason never really embraces Xavier's attitude of co-habitation. By training Jason to become a stronger telepath, he harms his mother and awakens his father to the dangers of mutants. Professor X also becomes the means to the end that Stryker wishes to achieve. But look how little screen time Professor X has. I'm just burying myself deeper in the nerd hole that I made myself, but Professor X has the same problem that Superman does in the first season of Justice League, and by proxy, in the Justice League movie. He is terribly overpowered, so he has to be taken out quickly. In the first film, Mystique poisons Cerebro, placing Professor X in a coma. As shown in the shot where Xavier is controlling Toad and Sabretooth, we know that he could potentially do that again. Honestly, everyone should be wearing Magneto helmets. But the second film has him kidnapped.
Throughout these films, we're teased with how powerful Professor X is. X2 starts with Xavier using his power on a museum. We understand that this is almost child's play for him. He has these magnificent abilities, but we aren't often given the opportunity to see what would happen if Professor X tried taking care of the problem itself. Because of this glaring flaw, the movie instead centers on Wolverine. Wolverine is where the soap opera is at. His long narrative, despite being practically divorced from the main plot, takes a much greater importance in the grand scheme of things. This kind of forces suspension of disbelief to take over. Stryker has a realtionship with Logan. He magically holds all of the cards to Logan's memory and he is the big villain. Don't attack X2. This is a pretty common device. Logan goes to look for his past. Instead, his past finds him. It is a bit of a cop out that Professor Xavier doesn't really help Logan all that much. It isn't that Logan's trip to Alkalai Lake awoke Stryker into his plan. It's actually too much of a coincidence that all that happened. It gave us exposition that there's nothing on the surface of Alkalai Lake. Okay. Sure. But as much as I'm pointing out all of these flaws and cheats in the storytelling, that connection between Stryker and Logan actually makes the movie interesting. You put Hugh Jackman in a room with Brian Cox (hey, both "Stryker" and "Bryan Singer" misuse the letter I) and the movie gets really interesting. This kind of also leads into X2's biggest success. X-Men was about broad strokes. It was very clear that humanity hated mutants. Got it. But it also really felt like another world. Those people are crazy because they don't really act like us. They make effigies that say "Mister Mutant" on them. I don't often see effigies, possibly because I don't really participate in hate marches. But the conversations between Stryker and Logan also tie back to the smaller world building moments that are far more accusatory than X-Men's scenes ever were. Again, Wolverine is in these scenes because everyone loves Wolverine, but this scene isn't about him. Bobby Drake's return home is one of the emotional powerhouses of the movie. Logan and Jean are fine melodrama. But having Bobby Drake come out to his parents about mutanthood is fascinating. What I liked about the mutant allegory is that both sides come off as kind of making sense. Yes, I am supportive of the mutants. As disgusted as I am that Bobby's parents don't accept him after he freezes her coffee, it also makes a heck of a lot of sense without portraying it as nuts. The Drakes, immediately after they are told that their older son is a mutant, witness mutant violence involving Bobby's friends. But this scene is what the allegory is all about. The protests are interesting, sure. In this day in age, we see protests get bigger and bigger, so it makes sense. But the emotional connection, the stuff that really hurts, is when it is on this scale. All this is really just set up that I want the movie to actually be called Ronnie Drake is the Worst: X2. I invert the title because I really want to stress how much Ronnie Drake sucks. He's terrible. For years, I've had that joke under my belt and I've finally gotten an opportunity to type it. That's how long I hate Ronnie Drake and I don't know how he thought that whole thing would turn out. I mean, what did he think would happen? His best case scenario is that his brother goes to prison. That's it. That would rip the family apart.
The John / Pyro thing is not something that is ever fleshed out. It is odd that every story really needed to involve Magneto. I'm so torn about this. I adore Ian McKellan as Magneto. His scene escaping from his plastic prison is inspired. But it's almost absurd that Magneto finds himself in the center of all of these stories. Building Pyro into this story seemed like it was going to go some place. Maybe the next movie shouldn't have been named X-Men: The LAST Stand. So much was rushed before the story actually had a chance to play out properly. Perhaps we can blame Brett Ratner. Brett Ratner is easy to blame for lots of things. But the takeaway from X2 is that we get Catholic superhero Nightcrawler. I know, he's played by Alan Cumming. It's an odd choice, especially in consideration of the many other roles that he has played. From an action movie standpoint, Nightcrawler might be one of the coolest characters ever. The opening sequence with Nightcrawler in the White House sold the movie to me. I remember that I was riding on air after how cool that sequence looked. No one could have told me that the movie wasn't any good after that scene because it was just that cool. But from a Catholic perspective, I may have cooled on it a bit. I know, it's 2003. It's not exactly the best time to make movies. In retrospect, we had a lot of oversimplified storytelling in this era. Back in the day, I was so glad that they even acknowledged Nightcrawler's Catholic background. But X2 Nightcrawler is a bit of a lunatic when it comes to his Catholicism. I love his thoughts on faith. I love that he prays when he is upset. I also like that he views his mutation as his cross to bear. It's the CARVING INTO HIS OWN FLESH that makes him a crazy person. I'm not going to throw the character completely under the bus. I think that a lot of these choices came from the concept that Nightcrawler would look really rad with all those angelic glyphs all over him. I agree. He looks super cool. I also don't think that everyone thought he was a nutbar for doing that. But it reads a little bit like The DaVinci Code version of Catholicism when one of our heroes rips into his own flesh to atone for his sins. I wonder why Nightcrawler didn't show up for a lot of the franchise after this. I think I remember that Days of Future Past reboots him a bit. I think that X-Men suffers from stars not getting enough attention. I know that Halle Berry infamous hates how little attention Storm gets. I imagine that Alan Cumming hated getting in absolutely insane makeup. But his character is so interesting that ending his story here is kind of a waste. There's so much left ot his character to explore. I want to see the Nightcrawler / Wolverine relationship. From this perspective, the two never really get along. Whatever happened to all of the "Elf" stuff? It's kind of a waste because the character is so cool. Maybe there was no story there. Maybe the Brett Ratner stuff put a kibosh to a lot of the ideas that might have been in the pipeline. Regardless, it's a shame to see this stuff not really come to fruition.
Why does Jean get out of the plane? Like, I get it. It is emotionally satisfying. But she puts this force field up around herself for a long time. I'm pretty sure that the plane would like a force field as well. I get it. The death of Jean Grey and the tease of the Phoenix is really memorable. It ends the movie in a spectacular way. But it also...doesn't make sense? It's when a character offers to sacrifice themselves when there are far greater options presented. This one is one of of those. I know, we're supposed to shut off our brains. But Jean really could just lift the X-Jet. If she can move all that water, why not...not move the water and just focus on moving the X-Jet? Okay, dramatic intensity. I get it.
It seemed like I grip a lot about X2. It really is a good movie. Yeah, the end of the movie runs a little long and I have no idea who Lady Deathstrike is based on this film. But X2 is one of the best superhero sequels of all time. It takes what was set up in the first one and expands on it in a direction that is fascinating and fun. The Wolverine stuff is just the right amount. Stryker and Jason make great bad guys. There's some real builds with the world that move it into the right direction. I adore this movie; perhaps not as much as I used to. But it is still a really solid X-Men movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.