When it was released in 2000, the first X-Men film blew everyone’s mind and lead to the resurgence of comic book movies after a huge decline during the late 90s. A lot of fans were excited to see what would happen next in the X-Men franchise and three years after the original’s release, they got exactly that. X2: X-Men United is arguably bigger, bolder and more mature than its predecessor and it managed to exceeded all expectations.
Set a few months after the first film, X2 opens up with the assassination attempt on the president of the United States by a mysterious teleporting mutant. U.S. Colonel William Stryker leads an assault on the X-Mansion in order to build his own version of Professor Xavier’s super-computer Cerebro, in order to destroy mutantkind and “save” humanity, leading to the X-Men teaming up with the Brotherhood of Mutants to stop Stryker and save the mutant race.
X2: X-Men United without a doubt takes everything that made the original film good and elevates it further, progressing the characters, the story and the action. Bryan Singer does a great job in developing the world and the characters while deepening the themes of prejudice and mutant freedom from the first film. The story is much more well-rounded and more complex, as we learn more about Wolverine’s past, Jean Grey’s Phoenix powers, the relationship between humans and mutants and William Stryker’s experiments on mutants.
The action sequences are also much more improved and more exciting, especially the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike. The attack on the president in opening scene is one of best opening scenes in any superhero film and sets the tone for what’s to come in the film. Another favorite action sequence in the film is the attack on the X-Mansion, where we see Wolverine unleashing his fury against Stryker’s soldiers. The special effects are also a major improvement from its predecessor. John Ottoman’s score is phenomenal and the main X-Men theme remains an iconic theme to this day. I always get a feeling of nostalgia whenever I listen to it.
Once again, the cast is fantastic. Hugh Jackman is still great as Wolverine. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen are fantastic as Charles Xavier and Magneto and their relationship gets expanded. The supporting cast are also great, but the breakout has to be Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, who did a great job and gave a lot of depth for a character that could have been a one-note, and Brain Cox as William Stryker, who proves to be menacing and a perfect foil for the heroes. The only issues I have with the film is that Cyclops doesn’t get to do much and some of the effects are a bit dated.
Overall, X2: X-Men United is is not only one of the best superhero films of all time, it is also one of the best sequels ever made. It takes everything great about the first film and expands upon them, while delivering a memorable experience. If you liked the first film, you will definitely love this one.