A Look Back At X2: X-Men United

While I barely enjoyed the original X-Men movie back in 2000, I still had hope that its sequel would be better, more engaging and more entertaining. That hope of mine was realized on April 30, 2003 when I saw X2: X-Men United (or X-Men 2 in some countries around the world) in a cinema here in the Philippines.

Commercially X2 grossed $407,711,549 worldwide and that is 37.58% more than what its predecessor made. It also gathered several positive reviews from movie critics back then and its overall success proved that there was indeed more room for artistic and commercial growth for further superhero movies. I remember leaving the cinema happy and satisfied, looking forward to more X-Men films.

Screenshot_20190603-153716_YouTube.jpg
Kelly Hu’s screen time as Lady Deathstrike was short but she really stood out in her fight with Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine.

 So how did it all come to such an outcome in 2003? In my honest opinion, director Bryan Singer and his creative team learned from their shortcomings in the previous movie, create an engaging story without necessarily faithfully adapting elements of the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills (a rather unholy story) and ramp up the enjoyment factor.

The story opens with Nightcrawler cleverly breaking through the security in the White House in an attempt to attack the President of the United States. That opening clearly showed how clever and creative the filmmakers got to not only deliver the thrills but also emphasize visually the gap between humans and mutants. To put it short, that opening sequence is still awesome to watch.

Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returns to the mansion and tells Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) he found nothing in Canada. Wolverine wanted to know more about his unknown past but Xavier refuses to help him even though he set the deadly loner on a path.

In Washington D.C., military scientist William Stryker meets with the President (along with a fake Senator Robert Kelly who is actually Mystique in disguise) and gets authority to launch a secret operation on the mutants. Along the way, Mystique learns about the location of not only the plastic prison containing Magneto but also that of a secret base. The secret attack on Xavier’s mansion and the escape of Magneto then sets of the crucial events for the rest of the movie.

X2 can be described as a film laced with lots of improvements over its predecessor technically and creatively. I see more of the literary Wolverine in Hugh Jackman this time around while Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen showed even more traits of the literary versions of Charles Xavier and Magneto respectively. Anna Paquin showed more confidence in playing Rogue while Halle Berry and Famke Jansen showed similar results with their characters. Allan Cumming and Brian Cox are solid additions as Nightcrawler and Stryker (who is not a military scientist in the present day of the graphic novel) and they mixed well with the returning cast members.

Screenshot_20190603-154547_YouTube.jpg
Mystique and the soldiers.

Like its predecessor, symbolism was used to emphasize the gap between humans and mutants on the big screen. The scene wherein Bobby Drake/Iceman showed to his parents his uncanny ability to freeze emphasizes his reluctance to show the truth about himself…something that could potentially break the family. William Stryker, meanwhile, keeps mutants company for as long as he has control over them and combined with the fact that he bore a hatred for mutants (note: something unfortunate happened to his family), he can be compared to a slave owner from centuries ago.

When it comes to spectacle, X2 is definitely more thrilling and more action-packed. The filmmakers knew how to balance the screenplay’s exposition and dramatization with action when it is needed on the right time. The standout action sequence is undoubtedly the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike (played by Kelly Hu).

The script is stronger this time. With key members of the X-Men separated during the first half of the film, character development sets in nicely. The link between Wolverine and Jean Grey got emphasized somewhat while Cyclops is away. Also Magneto delivered the film’s most memorable line: You should have killed me when you had the chance!!! That line is a nice throwback to the past friendship between Xavier and Magneto.

Like the 2000 movie, liberties from comics were implemented for “cinematic presentation.” Anyone who read Wolverine’s origin with Weapon X can tell that William Stryker was never part of it. As for adapting the 1982 graphic novel, this film is clearly unfaithful and the filmmakers decided to take the easy route on selecting certain elements to make a screenplay that can be deemed bankable by the movie studio.

Unsurprisingly there are flaws here and there. Freezing people’s movements done by Xavier is unbelievable. As a telepath he can read people’s minds, manipulate their perception, make himself invisible to others by warping their perception and even reprogram minds but freezing people is not one of those abilities. Also considering Xavier’s persistent use of his telepathy, he failed to detect before entering the plastic prison (to meet Magneto) that a trap was set up for them.

As for Jean Grey’s heroic sacrifice near the end of the film, that one took me out of the movie. She left the jet without anyone noticing, stands in front then uses her power to prevent the rushing water from touching them while slowly lifting the jet (which for some reason could not operate properly) to let X-Men survive. It sure is dramatic and it is one of Famke Jansen’s most notable moments in cinema (apart from her erotic acts in GoldenEye) but it goes against what X-Men fans know. Any X-Men fan can tell that Iceman could have used his power to freeze the water and Storm could have manipulated the weather to help out. Heck, Cyclops could have gone out and launch a massive optic blast at the water.

Another obvious flaw is the large cast of characters which prevented the film from further implementing anymore character development. The love triangle aspect continued from the previous movie barely moved forward as James Marsden’s Cyclops (a leader in the comics) was literally set aside. Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat in this movie was only used to emphasize a seconds-long chase and show off the filmmakers’ visual effects.

By today’s standards, X2: X-Men United is no longer the great superhero film it was in twenty-o-three. It is, overall, a good movie and clearly it is a major improvement over its predecessor. The many improvements on the overall quality, engagement and fun factor of X2 made 2000’s X-Men look more like a dress rehearsal.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my latest article about X-Men: Dark Phoenix and my review of Logan.

A Look Back at X-Men (2000)

The first time I saw the first live-action movie of the X-Men was on August 30, 2000, here in the Philippines. Back then my interest in comic books had waned but I was still an X-Men fan by heart. I enjoyed reading the comic books written by Chris Claremont, the early 1990s comic books drawn by Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio, and the X-Men animated series.

Prior to its Philippine opening, X-Men was released in the cinemas in the United States on July 14, 2000, and in the weeks leading to August 30, there were several pirated copies of the movie in video CD format made available here in the Philippines. I resisted the temptation of watching a pirated copy in favor of the cinema experience.

X2Kposter
Arguably the one superhero movie that sparked the 21st century wave of superhero movies which we moviegoers enjoy now.

Back on August 30, 2000, it was a rather intriguing experience for me to see the X-Men and the villains portrayed by actors on the big screen (and there were no IMAX cinemas back then). While I felt Hugh Jackman (then a newcomer) lacked impact on portraying Wolverine, Patrick Stewart captured the essence and look of Professor X/Charles Xavier. Halle Berry’s half-baked foreign accent ruined the cinematic Storm while James Marsden and Famke Jansen really had no chemistry as Cyclops and Jean Grey. Ian McKellen was passable as Magneto while I found Rebecca Romjin’s Mystique a distorted version of the character. On the side, the supporting role of Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly was very solid and it was too bad he did not have enough screen time.

More on the storytelling, I noticed back then that X-Men really felt more like a build-up laced with some spectacle rather than a complete standalone story. Of course, the filmmakers really had to do lots of build-up and they could not just expect moviegoers to be fully aware of the X-Men comics and mythos. At least the movie did a decent job of assembling the characters, emphasizing the theme of public fear of mutants as well as the struggle of mutants, and establishing the elements of good and evil.

Screenshot_20190518-223706_YouTube.jpg
Magneto and Charles Xavier.

There is also symbolism with how the filmmakers translated Charles Xavier and Magneto from the comic books to film. Xavier strives for helping mutants use their powers for good purposes while trying to help them survive in human society that fears them….plus help humans understand mutants in order to accept them. Magneto, who as a boy lived through the Holocaust and witnessed how brutal humans are to his people, strives for the rise of the mutant race even if it means harming innocent humans.

Wolverine and Rogue, in their own ways, are the lost people who have yet to realize their true purpose. They symbolize the mutants struggling in society and in the case of Rogue, played by a very young Anna Paquin, she is the lost youth whose future is clouded with uncertainty since her mutant ability makes her a danger to others by simply touching them. Wolverine/Logan, for the newcomers reading this, has been lost for decades and what makes his plight painful is that he could not remember his past nor is he aware he is over a hundred years old living with claws and a healing factor that delays his aging.

Screenshot_20190518-223501_YouTube.jpg
A young Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He came into the film as a replacement for Dougray Scott, the guy originally hired to play the superhero icon. Fortunately for Jackman, he became a superstar and a movie icon.

When it comes to spectacle, X-Men is satisfactory. There is enough action to balance with the storytelling and character development but for the most part they lack impact even back in 2000. The standout action sequence is the fight between Wolverine and Mystique which is a mix of martial arts and stunts (aided by wires). The next best sequence is Wolverine’s fight with Sabretooth at the Statue of Liberty. The fight between Toad and the other X-Men meanwhile would have looked better had there been none of those silly moments pulled of by Ray Park (Toad). Special effects that emphasize Cyclop’s optic blast and the Liberty Island energy generation looked tame.

Flaws in the movie? Apart from the uneven quality of cinematic performances and use of cheesy dialogue, not to mention the half-baked use of a foreign accent for Storm, the presentation of Xavier’s estate as a school filled with multiple students remains alienating (note: the “school for gifted children” in the comics had only the X-Men members living and learning in comfortable privacy). Next, Magneto showed carelessness over the handling of his machine designed to mutate humans and his plan to use Rogue as a source and handler for the Liberty Island incident was illogical.

As there were so many characters in the story, the key element of Cyclops as a mature and calculating leader in the comics was absent in the film. James Marsden ended up playing a Cyclops who really did not have much to do other than looking cool with his visor.

Screenshot_20190518-224207_YouTube.jpg
Mystique in action.

And then there was the scene in which Magneto kidnapped Rogue only to face several police officers outside. During that scene, Charles Xavier mentally controlled, temporarily, Toad and Sabretooth to try to push Magneto into submission (with Sabretooth’s large hand holding his neck). Magneto answered back by threatening to kill the police officers with their guns and bullets (controlled by Magneto) forcing Xavier to just give up. Knowing that Magneto’s helmet protects him from mental control by Xavier, I said to myself – why didn’t Xavier have Sabretooth or Toad remove the helmet so that he can control Magneto? That scene took me out of the film.

Overall, by today’s standards, X-Men of 2000 is a satisfactory superhero flick. Directed by Bryan Singer, it was fairly good in 2000 but did not age well. Really, the film was more of a build-up and set-up for expanding the X-Men Cinematic Universe. Fortunately for Singer and 20th Century Fox, this movie was successful and justified the plan to release sequels (best sequel: X-Men: Days of Future Past) and spin-offs (the best is Logan) which not made billions of dollars more in ticket sales for the studio but also helped make the superhero movie genre wildly popular today.

If you plan to watch this movie, don’t set your expectations too high. Try to enjoy X-Men for what it is and see if you can tolerate the flaws. Definitely this one is no classic.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my latest article about X-Men: Dark Phoenix and my review of Logan.