I will always remember the day I first saw X2: X-Men United. I was a junior in high school. My buddies and I hit up a midnight screening of the movie. I had loved the first X-Men installment, but wasn’t prepared for the trip I was about to embark on. A trip of action, romance, suspense, and intrigue.
X2: X-Men United is the second chapter in the X-Men franchise. It continues where its predecessor left off. Magneto is rotting in his plastic prison. Professor Xavier is still fighting for mutant/human coexistence while trying to help Wolverine piece his past together. And Wolverine is still trying to steal Dr. Jean Grey from Cyclops. Added is the boyfriend/girlfriend element of Rogue and Iceman. They can’t kiss or touch because Rogue’s “gift” is that she lifts the life force from those she comes into skin-to-skin contact with. Thanks to director Bryan Singer’s excellent feel for the pulse of real life teenage relationships, this connection between Rogue and Iceman never becomes “WB-ish”, but stays real and nearly heartbreaking.
The roles that stick out of course are Hugh Jackman as Wolverine, Ian McKellan as Magneto, and a newcomer to the X-Men franchise: Alan Cumming (what an unfortunate name) as the demon-looking, teleporting German, Nightcrawler. Cumming plays this role with eerie confidence. Nightcrawler, as known by all X-Men comic fans, is a faithful, God-fearing mutant, despite his bluish-black appearance. In fact, Nightcrawler, being ridiculed his entire life as a sideshow freak, has the most reason of all to hate the human race. However, instead of resorting to said hate, he options faith, which leads to a very interesting friendly conflict between Storm and Nightcrawler. One argues anger, one argues faith. We’ll let you decide who is right.
Nightcrawler is also the star of the opening scene of the movie in which he uses his awesome smoke-teleporting skills to attack White House security and make his way to the President. Wait, I thought this mutant depended on faith? Why would he attack the President? It’s all in the storyline, my friend.
Colonel William Stryker appears from Wolverine’s past to confuse the poor, hairy mutant even more. Stryker is played effectively by Brian Cox.
I was so impressed at Singer’s ability to handle so many characters in one movie. Each has an important purpose and the storylines never really get too mangled. This is a testament to his directing skills and his feel for human interaction.
The ending is a heartbreaker and left me wanting more IMMEDIATELY. That night, at the movie theatre, all my buddies agreed that X2: X-Men United was one of the best superhero movies ever made. It still resonates with me.