Thursday, 5 March 2009

Movie Review - X-Men 2: X-Men United

X-Men 2: X-Men United

X-Men left off with Magneto (played with typical panache by Ian MCKellen) imprisoned in a plastic cell where he could not use his powers, Wolverine was on a quest to find out who he really was, and humanity in general was uneasy about the existence of mutants. All of these threads are carried on in an intriguing manner, with sub-plots involving a love triangle (or should that be quadrangle?…), an assassination attempt on the American President, mutants swapping sides (sometimes apparently, others in earnest), mind control, family unrest and much, much more.

It is interesting that, while X-Men and The Matrix were (approximately) as good as each other, nothing could be further from the case with the sequels. Whereas Matrix Reloaded was absolutely atrocious, X-men 2 improves on the original in every way – the action sequences, the dialogue, the intrigue, the suspense, the characters are all absolutely spot on. The acting is excellent, and there is a nice balance between utilising the existing characters and introducing the new ones. You don’t need to have seen the first film to enjoy this one, although it will add to the experience a little.

This has got to be a strong contender for film of the year. It’s certainly the best one so far, and quite probably will remain so until December, when “Return of the King” will, I’m certain, provide extremely stiff competition. I’ve not been this impressed with a film since “The Two Towers” – this is one of those extremely rare films that I could happily watch several days running (Not non-stop, you understand). It’s real edge of the seat stuff, but also the plot is intelligent and involving, the more emotional scenes are played with sensitivity and, when appropriate, power. Relationships between the characters are of prime importance in this film, and you really do care what happens to them.

When you have two lead actors with as much class as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan, you know you’re on to a good thing. The supporting cast are fantastic, and the characters are all good with perhaps the exception of Rogue, who doesn’t actually do anything much.

The afore-mentioned assassination attempt on the President starts the film off, but all is not as it seems. It triggers humanity into a course that seems destined to lead to an all-out war. The good guys decide to visit Magneto in prison to find out what he knows, Wolverine comes back from his journey with some disturbing news, the would-be assassinator is found and turns out to be nothing like you’d think… and then the fun really starts. Cyclops is a bit muted (in addition to being mutated) in this film, but then he does get to have a wonderful marital tiff (which, amazingly, is the only real fighting he does in the film), but the other characters from the first film develop their personas in much the way you would expect, but there are still a few surprises in store there…

(My vote for best character – and sexiest! – oops I hope my wife doesn’t see this… ;) – definitely goes to Mystique, who has the ability to transform herself into anyone she sees. She’s also pretty good at doing the voices too, but I don’t know if this is supposed to be an acquired talent or an aspect of her… er… mutancy? She’s Magneto’s loyal side-kick, extremely athletic and intelligent (a rare combination in a woman – oh there goes the good ratings from any female readers! Anyway I’m only joking, you understand), and she develops a love interest… everybody say aaaaaaaaaaaah. She plays a very central part in the proceedings, and if you’re like me, you’ll have definite suspicions about what one of the sub-plots will be in the next X-Man film…)

It is subtitled: “X-Men United”, and no, it’s not a football team… it’s a clue that the film involves the good mutants and bad mutants coming together for a mutual interest. And so it comes to be. But will the alliance last? Well, there’s a couple of plot twists at the end of the film… actually I expected both of them to happen, but I think that’s just my devious mind as no-one else seemed to! (Just so as you realise that the twists in the plot aren’t actually lame!) It’s just that the film gives you certain clues as to what will happen next, without it being blatant. I just happened to pick up on them.

Anyway enough waffling, let’s get back to reality for a moment. If you haven’t seen this film, go out and do so right now. The first film was good but this is a MASSIVE improvement. Superb acting, great special effects, tension galore, and most importantly a brilliant storyline. Having never read the comics I don’t know how much of the story owes its existence to them, but even if it was a straight adaptation the scriptwriters deserve to win an award for this. If you haven’t seen it yet, go and do so now. When the DVD comes out I will buy it immediately. And that’s the highest recommendation I could possibly give any film. Seeing the first film would give you a bit more knowledge of what’s going on in certain scenes, but it certainly isn’t a requirement for enjoying this film. I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t love it.

See Also:

X-Men - the first film, not quite as good as this but still excellent entertainment

CaptainD's Top Ten Superhero Movies

CaptainD's Top Ten Films of 2003

CaptainD - Movie Reviews Blog

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