X2: X-Men United Review
By Joe Lozito
I can't imagine Bryan Singer, director of "The Usual Suspects", "X-Men" and now its sequel "X2: X-Men United", is much looking forward to the inevitable third installment of the Marvel mutant superhero franchise. The filmmakers have packed so many characters into X2's two-plus hour running time that Mr. Singer must dream of mutants during what little sleep the filming affords him.
Like its predecessor, 2000's "X-Men", "X2" follows a band of mutant heroes led by the enigmatic Professor Xavier (a perfectly cast, but underused Patrick Stewart) as they struggle to be accepted by "normal" society. This time around, a US General played with a perfect degree of scenery-chewing camp by Brian Cox, is out to eliminate all mutants, forcing Professor X and his arch-nemesis (and old friend, of course) Magneto (Ian McKellen, also underused) to team up and stop the General.
That's the plot in a nutshell, but there is a lot more going on in this film, not always to its benefit. There were already enough mutant characters to explore in the first "X-Men", so I don't know why they chose to add so many more. In addition to Wolverine, Jean Grey, Storm, Cyclops, Mystique and Rogue, we now have Nightcrawler, Pyro, Deathstrike, Iceman, and a school full of mutant youngin's. While the jam-packed cast of characters does nothing to give the film coherence or depth, it does serve to keep the senses entertained as Mr. Singer's band of effects technicians have the time of their lives visualizing the varied mutant gifts to both stunningly beautiful (witness the frozen barricade created by Iceman) and cringingly awful (it's still hard to make a wall of water look real) effect.
Somehow, Mr. Singer does manage to keep track of all his mutants, sometimes by simply having one character ask, "Hey, what happened to so-and-so?" but, still, it feels like at any moment the film could spiral out of control. If - make that 'when' - there is a third installment of the series, it would be nice to see the writers concentrate on one or two characters instead of spreading themselves so thin. But that might alienate a majority of the franchise's viewers who surely buy into the films solely to see a lot of mutant butt-kicking. And for that (I have to say it) 'X' hits the spot.