When you have a smash hit on your hands, it is usually a good idea to go ahead and strike while the iron is hot with regards to movie sequels. That was definitely the case for today’s movie. When I first heard that the plot was being based in part on the graphic novel “God Loves, Man Kills”, I was immediately on board because that was one of the more powerful one-shot stories that I read as a kid. Then I started to worry and wondered if they would be able to do the story justice, or if it would be completely butchered. In the end, there was only one way to figure it out and that was to go see it. Now to find out whether my fears were justified with today’s movie, X2: X-Men United.
The plot: During a tour of the White House, the mutant Nightcrawler teleports away from the group and makes his way towards the Oval Office, taking out secret service guards along the way. He eventually manages to reach the President and prepares to stab him when one of the agents manages to fire a shot and wound his arm, causing him to drop the knife and teleport away. Meanwhile, Wolverine makes his way to an abandoned military base at Alkali Lake in Alberta, Canada, hoping to find something there that will help him remember the missing pieces of his past but he has no luck. Elsewhere, Jean Grey, Cyclops, and Storm are taking some of the students from the school to a field trip at the New York Science Museum. During the trip, Jean starts having trouble with her telepathy, hearing thoughts from everyone in the building, as well as thoughts from the Secret Service in the White House. Cyclops questions her about and she admits that she has been losing control of both her telepathy and telekinesis and doesn’t know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Rogue, Bobby Drake, and John Allerdyce (Pyro) are hanging out in the food court when two guys ask Pyro for a light, as he is messing around with his lighter. Pyro refuses but the guy grabs the lighter and lights a cigarette and when he asks Pyro what he is going to do about it, Pyro causes the cigarette to flare up, catching the guy’s arm on fire. As the guy flails around, Pyro simply laughs and Bobby is forced to use his power to put out the fire. Suddenly, everyone in the museum freezes as Professor Xavier uses his powers to stop them so he can chastise Pyro but when they notice the report about the attack on the White House, they all quickly leave. At the White House, Colonel William Stryker meets with the President and they are joined by Senator Robert Kelly, who is actually Mystique in disguise. Stryker wants the President to authorize a special op to take out Xavier’s school, claiming that it is a mutant training center due to information he obtained from interrogating Magneto. Kelly argues that it is a school but when Stryker shows a picture of a plane seen leaving the school, the President agrees, but warns Stryker only to detain and question but do not kill any kids, as he doesn’t want a picture of that to appear on the news. As Stryker leaves the Oval Office, Kelly chases after him and asks to arrange a visit to question Magneto but Stryker refuses, causing Kelly to question Stryker’s zeal for waging a war against mutants. Some time later, Stryker pays another visit to Magneto, using a special serum applied to a wound on his neck to render him passive and unable to refuse to answer any questions he is asked. At the mansion, Cyclops, Jean, Storm, and Xavier are discussing the ramifications of the attack on the President and Xavier asks Jean and Storm to capture the mutant and bring him back to the mansion. At the same time, Logan returns to the mansion, where Rogue greets him and introduces him to Bobby, her boyfriend. Storm and Jean then talk with Logan, asking him to keep a watch on the mansion while they go to find the mutant. Logan heads down to see Xavier, who is using Cerebro to try and locate the mutant that attacked the President. When he is finished, Logan asks Xavier to read his mind again but Xavier says it won’t help and that sometimes, the mind simply must remember things on it’s own, but promises to talk with him more about the matter when he and Cyclops return. Back in D.C., Mystique changes into Stryker’s aide, Yuriko, and makes his way into Stryker’s office, where she locates the information on Magneto’s prison and guard detail. While she prints up the information, she notices a folder marked Cerebro and when she opens it, she finds Stryker has details on the device, as well as plans for alterations. Before she can do anything further, the real Yuriko enters the room and Mystique quickly changes into a janitor and leaves. Jean and Storm locate Nightcrawler in a church in Boston, where they learn that he is teleporter, explaining Xavier’s difficulty tracking him. After subduing talking with him, they learn that he has no recollection of attacking the President and when Jean wants to take him back to the mansion to further treat his injury, they notice the circular mark on his neck. Meanwhile, Xavier and Cyclops head to Magneto’s prison and while Cyclops stays back with the guards, Xavier goes on alone into the cell, where he notices the bruising on Magneto’s face. When he questions him about it, Magneto tells him that he has had frequent visits by Stryker. Xavier remembers him, as his son Jason was a former student at the school, but he couldn’t help Jason the way that Stryker wanted him too. When Magneto questions Xavier about Logan, mocking Xavier’s reluctance to pry into his mind for fear of losing another of his precious X-Men, Xavier asks Magneto what he told Stryker and Magneto says everything. As gas begins to fill the chamber, Magneto tells Xavier that he should have killed him when he had the chance and Xavier turns and yells out for Cyclops. In the guard’s area, Yuriko appears and attempts to tranquilize Cyclops but he blasts her with his eye beam, then fights off the guards. He heads to the door to free Xavier but Yuriko recovers and quickly knocks him out as Xavier slumps to the ground. Back at the mansion, Wolverine wakes up from a nightmare regarding his past and finds Bobby in the kitchen eating some ice cream. As the two talk, Stryker’s team begins infiltrating the mansion and starts tranquilizing the students. Wolverine hears something and goes to check it out, returning in time to save Bobby from being attacked by one of Stryker’s men. One of the students, Shadowcat, sees the men and is able to phase through her bed and escape from them. Another student, Siryn, wakes up and begins screaming when she sees the men, alerting the rest of the students to the danger before she is knocked out. Colossus heads to her room, changing to his steel form, and knocks out the men attempting to capture Siryn, then leads some of the other students to safety. Wolverine kills the man he is fighting with, then starts killing some of the other soldiers, rescuing another student and giving him to Colossus to take out of there with the other students. Bobby goes looking for Rogue, getting Pyro to help him and when they find her, they attempt to escape from the soldiers, eventually being rescued by Wolverine. Wolverine leads them to another escape passage and closes it behind them, then goes to face the soldiers only to be confronted by Stryker, who remarks that it has been 15 years since he last saw Wolverine. As Stryker continues to talk to Wolverine, an ice wall suddenly separates them and Wolverine turns to see Rogue and Bobby had returned. Rogue pleads with him to come with them and Wolverine reluctantly does so, taking Cyclops’s car to make their escape. As they drive off, Rogue asks where they are going and when Wolverine says they are heading to Boston, as that is where Jean and Storm are, Bobby says his parents live there and Wolverine decides to head there to hide. Back in the mansion, Stryker is told that most of the mutants escaped but they managed to capture 6 of them, as his men work on breaking into Cerebro’s chamber. Elsewhere, Mystique, disguised as a hooker, picks up one of the guards in Magneto’s prison and after giving him a laced drink, injects some iron directly into his bloodstream. At Stryker’s facility, Xavier regains consciousness to find Styker watching him. When Stryker tries talking to him about his son, Stryker tells Xavier that after he returned from Xavier’s school, he started placing images into the heads of him and his wife and his wife eventually took a power drill and committed suicide by trying to drill the images out. Xavier realizes that Styker arranged the attack on the President and Stryker says that he has plans for Xavier to help him in dealing with the mutant problem, leaving Xavier there with his son, Jason, who begins using his powers to weaken Xavier’s willpower. In Boston, Bobby lets everyone into his parent’s house and he heads to his parent’s room to get some clothes for Rogue. After she changes, they kiss briefly and when it doesn’t have a bad effect on Bobby, they kiss even more but Rogue starts absorbing too much of Bobby’s energy and she quickly apologizes. Meanwhile, Wolverine tries using the communicator he found in Cyclops’s car to get in touch with Jean when Bobby’s family returns home and Bobby quickly comes downstairs to talk with them. In Magneto’s prison, the guard Mystique drugged goes to bring Magneto his food but Magneto, sensing the additional iron in the guard, rips it from his body, killing the guard. Fashioning the iron into ball bearings, Magneto uses them to destroy his cell and kill the other guards while making his escape. In Boston, Bobby’s parents are having a hard time coming to grips with Bobby telling them he is a mutant and his brother Ronny runs off and secretly calls the police. In the Blackbird, Storm and Jean can’t make contact with anyone at the mansion and eventually manage to contact Wolverine, who tells them where they are and tells them to hurry as the police show up. Wolverine heads outside to speak with the cops and ends up getting shot in the head. As the police tell Rogue, Bobby, and Pyro to get on the ground, Rogue and Bobby comply but Pyro decides to attack the cops. When he sets one of the police cars on fire and refuses to stop, Rogue uses her powers to absorb his and put the fires out, just as Jean and Storm arrive. Wolverine recovers from the bullet and leads the kids onto the jet, with Bobby taking one last look at his family before boarding, and they quickly leave. Back in Stryker’s base, Jason continues using his powers and eventually manages to overcome Xavier’s will, tricking him into thinking he is a little girl and Xavier leads her away towards Cerebro. Back on the jet, Storm alerts everyone that two fighter jets are approaching them, just as the jets order them to follow them to a nearby air force base. When they don’t respond, the two jets fall back and move to fire on them so Storm uses her powers to summon some funnel clouds. The twisters manage to destroy the planes but not before one of the pilots is able to fire two missiles at them. Jean is able to stop one of them but the second one hits them, opening a hole in the tail section and causing them to plummet to the ground. Rogue, whose harness wasn’t fastened properly, gets sucked out of the hole but she is rescued by Nightcrawler. As the plane drops to the ground, it suddenly repairs itself before coming to a stop, and the surprised X-Men see Magneto and Mystique below them. That night, Jean, Storm, and Wolverine speak with Magneto and Mystique, who tells them about Styker and his plans. Informing them that with Cerebro and Xavier, Stryker could manage to get Xavier to kill every mutant on Earth, then comments about how Stryker was the one that bonded the adamantium to Wolverine. When they ask why he helped them, Magneto tells them that Mystique downloaded the plans for the base but not it’s location and he believes one of them does, looking up to indicate Nightcrawler, who had been snooping on their conversation. Jean uses her telepathy to learn that Stryker’s base is at Alkali Lake and when Logan says he didn’t see anything there, she says it is underneath the lake. With final repairs still taking several hours to complete, the group prepare to make camp for the night and Wolverine talks with Jean for a bit, bringing up the tension between them. Jean tells him that girls want someone that is willing to stick around, not just leave whenever they feel like it and Wolverine says he could find a reason to stay before kissing her but Jean asks him to stop and not to make her choose between Cyclops and him. Later that night, Jean goes to Wolverine’s tent and starts kissing him but as he moves his hands up her shirt, he feels three scars on her chest and realizes it is Mystique, who taunts him by changing into Storm, Rogue, and back into Jean before turning into Stryker and asking him what he really wants. The next day, they fly to Alkali Lake and Magneto and Mystique tease Rogue about her hair, prompting Bobby to lead Rogue away from them before she tries anything. Magneto then speaks with Pyro some and begins to bond with him, as Pyro has been feeling stifled with having to keep his powers hidden all the time. Back in their base, Stryker is told that the machine is finished and one of his soldiers asks why he is keeping the children there and Stryker tells him it is to see if his machine works. Outside the base, Storm and the others are discussing the best way to enter the base and stop Styker. Wolverine says he should go, as he feels Stryker would want to keep him alive, but Magneto says Wolverine won’t be able to manage the controls for the spillway. Mystique, disguised as Wolverine, goes instead and is let inside but when Stryker gets a closer look at him, he realizes this Wolverine is a fake and orders his men to shoot him. Mystique manages to get away and lock herself into the control room, opening the spillway so that Magneto and the others can enter. Realizing that time is running out, Stryker and Yuriko head to the Cerebro room, where he orders Jason to tell the mesmerized Xavier to start searching for all of the mutants all over the world, knowing that if Xavier focuses hard enough on them, he will inadvertently kill them all. When Magneto and the X-Men join Mystique in the control room, they start discussing plans and Wolveirne notices a monitor showing Styker and Yuriko trying to escape and he secretly goes off after him. Meanwhile, Storm notices the monitor showing the children and asks Nightcrawler to help her rescue them but is worried about leaving Jean and Wolverine with Magneto. When she asks where Wolverine is, Jean looks and sees his communicator lying on the table and says disappointedly that he is gone. Storm and Nightcrawler reach the children and Nightcrawler begins teleporting down to their cell to rescue them. Meanwhile, Jean, Magneto, and Mystique head towards the Cerebro chamber but when Jean senses the mesmerized Cyclops about to attack them, she telekineticaly shoves Magneto and Mystique to safety, then yells at them to keep going while she deals with Cyclops. After knocking him down to a lower level, Jean goes looking for him only for Cyclops to try and blast her again. Jean uses her powers to block his blast and, with a sudden surge of power (and a flash of fire in her eyes) she causes a massive feedback wave, knocking both of them back but also damaging the dam. As Jean lays dazed on the floor, Cyclops approaches her but as she readies to defend herself again, he says he is ok and apologizes for attacking her. The two embrace and Cyclops helps her to his feet but Jean suddenly says that something is wrong. Meanwhile, Stryker and Yuriko are making their way out of the base when Stryker feels water dripping from the ceiling and looking up, he notices cracks in the foundation. Heading to a bank of panels, he checks the readings and yells out as he realizes his plans might come to naught. Wolverine reaches the chamber where the adamantium was bonded to him and he starts having flashback of the experience. As shakes off the memories, Stryker appears and starts talking to him before exiting the room, leaving Yuriko there to handle Wolverine. Wolverine tries to go past her but she attacks him, revealing that she also had adamantium bonded to her and a healing factor. As the two keep fighting, Yuriko appears to get the upper hand and is about to kill him but Wolverine grabs an injection gun for the liquid adamantium and stabs her with it, injecting her body full of the liquid metal and sending her sinking to the bottom of the tank. Back on the jet, Pyro gets tired of waiting around and decides to head into the base to see what is happening, taunting Rogue and Bobby for always doing what they are told. Outside the Cerebro chamber, Magneto pulls the pins for the grenades that all of the soldiers are carrying, killing all of them, then approaches the door. Inside, Jason has Xavier concentrate on finding all of the mutants causing all of the mutants on Earth to start writhing in pain. Magneto, protected from the psychic attack by his helmet, uses his powers to open the door, disrupting power to Cerebro. He then heads inside and decides to change the pattern of the Cerebro plating, so that it will kill all of the humans, instead of the mutants. Mystique, who has recovered from the attack, changes into Stryker and tells Jason to kill all of the human instead. Outside, Stryker attempts to get away on his helicopter but he is stopped by Logan, who stabs him and asks about his past. Stryker tells him he volunteered for the project and if he remembered all of the things they had done, he would consider not knowing them a blessing. Suddenly, they hear a siren going off and Stryker tells him the dam is about to burst and the whole base will be flooded. He offers to tell Wolverine everything if he helps him get out of here but Wolverine chains Stryker to the landing gear then heads back to save his friends. As Stryker works on getting free of his bonds, he is suddenly struck by Xavier’s psychic attack and he starts writhing in pain. Outside the Cerebro chamber, Storm, Nightcrawler, and the students are joined by Jean and Cyclops, and Jean explains what is going on. Realizing they can’t open the door without killing Xavier, Storm asks Nightcrawler to teleport her inside the chamber. Nightcrawler does so and they are confronted by Jason, sending them the same illusion of the little girl he is using on Xavier, but Storm doesn’t fall for his deceptions and when she can’t make contact with Xavier, she uses her powers to lower the temperature in the room. Outside, Magneto and Mystique reach Stryker’s helicopter, with Magneto forcefully removing Stryker from the landing gear, and as they go to leave, they see Pyro outside watching them and they take him with them. Back in the Cerebro chamber, Storm’s efforts are rewarded as Jason looses his hold on Xavier, who is able to stop Cerebro, just as the dam starts to break and the base floods. Nightcrawler teleports Storm and Xavier to safety before the debris crushes them and they all head towards the exit to leave the spillway but they are stopped when Logan seals the doors just as the spillway floods and he leads them outside. Logan leads them outside to where the helicopter was only to find it missing but suddenly, the Blackbird appears, as Bobby and Rogue attempted to fly it to them. Everyone heads for the Blackbird but before he goes there, Wolverine discovers Striker trapped against some rocks where Magneto left him. Stryker asks Wolverine if he will find the answers he seeks with them and Wolverine says he will take his chances with them and walks away, as Stryker yells out that one day, someone will finish what he started. On board the plane, Xavier tells Cyclops that they have to head to Washington, as he fears this isn’t over yet. As they attempt to leave, Storm asks where Pyro is and Jean is able to tell that he is with Magneto. As the plane isn’t able to start, Jean senses that the dam has broke and she quietly walks off the plane. Wishing to keep her loved ones safe, she closes the loading ramp and and prevents Nightcrawler from teleporting to save her. She then telekineticaly lifts the plane into air while holding back the wave of water from crushing them. Speaking telepathically through Xavier, she tells them that this is the only way and wishes them goodbye. With her body surrounded by a glowing flame, she easily lifts the plane to safety and sends them flying, then allows the wave to crash down around her, as Cyclops cries out in grief over her death. In D.C., the President is preparing to give a live broadcast to discuss the phenomenon that affected the world when the power fluctuates and he notices everyone but him is frozen. As a storm suddenly occurs outside, darkening the room, a bolt of lightning reveals Xavier and the X-Men in the room. Xavier addresses the President and has Rogue hand him files that Shadowcat retrieved from Stryker’s office, revealing he was behind the attack on the President. Xavier explains that there are people, both human and mutant, that want feel that a war is coming between the two species but the President has been presented an opportunity to try and work towards peace instead, which is what they want as well. Another bolt of lightning occurs and Xavier and everyone is gone, and the President is left with the folder to prove that he didn’t imagine what happened. Back at the mansion, Xavier, Cyclops, and Wolverine are discussing Jean and as Cyclops and Wolverine leave so Xavier can teach his class, Wolverine tells Cyclops that Jean made a choice and choose him (Cyclops). In the class room, Xavier is about to address the children when he suddenly looks away for a minute before getting a smile on his face and turning back to the children, while in Alkali Lake, the flaming outline of a phoenix can be seen moving underneath the water.
X2: X-Men United met with high praise from the critics, holding a certified fresh rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus on the site is, “Tightly scripted, solidly acted, and impressively ambitious, X2: X-Men United is bigger and better than its predecessor — and a benchmark for comic sequels in general.” The Sentinels, the mutant hunter/killer robots from the comics, were initially supposed to be used in this movie but due to budgeting and rewrites, they ended up being scrapped. They would make a somewhat brief appearance in X-Men: The Last Stand, though they weren’t referenced by name, and would be a central plot line for X-Men: Days Of Future Past. The movie was a hit at the box office, earning $407.7 million off of a $125 million budget and set up way for a sequel.
This was a really good movie and definitely showed some improvement from the first one. The acting was pretty good, with all of the returning character doing good jobs in their roles. I thought that Brian Cox was great as Stryker and Kelly Hu was decent as Yuriko (Lady Deathstrike) but I really wish they could have given her at least a little bit of character instead of making her nothing more than a robotic slave. The story was great, sticking fairly close to the graphic novel, but with some changes necessitated by the previous movie, as well as a little creative licensing. The minor change of making Stryker a black ops colonel, as opposed to a religious figurehead like he was in the comic, actually played out better in the movie and I liked how they made Magneto even more ruthless in this, as instead of simply leaving with Xavier and the X-Men like in the comic, he chose to alter Stryker’s plans in an attempt to kill all of the humans on Earth, which is a rather twisted sense of irony in that Magneto, a survivor of the Holocaust, would actively attempt to cause widespread genocide. I also liked how they dealt with Jean and her powers, slowly giving hints to the phoenix persona beginning to emerge by showing glimpses of fire in her eyes as she uses her powers. The special effects were really good throughout the whole move, especially during the jet chase scene amidst all of the funnel clouds as that was an incredible bit of artistic work. All in all, this is a great comic book movie and definitely something worth watching whenever it comes on.
Rating 4 1/2 out of 5