In commemoration of the upcoming and final installment of the X-Men franchise, DARK PHOENIX (2019), I’m taking a trip down memory lane to review all of the X-Men films made by 20th Century Fox. Should be fun, y’all!
- X-MEN (2000)
- X-MEN: THE LAST STAND (2006)
- X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (2009)
- X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011)
- THE WOLVERINE (2013)
- X-MEN: DAYS OF FUTURE PAST (2014)
- X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (2016)
- LOGAN (2017)
Cast: Hugh Jackman (MISSING LINK , FRONT RUNNER , SHOWMAN , and EDDIE/EAGLE ), Brian Cox (SUPER TROOPERS 2 , CHURCHILL , MORGAN , PIXELS , THE RING , and upcoming films REMEMBER ME  and THE BAY OF SILENCE ), Alan Cumming (SHOW DOGS  and BATTLE/SEXES ), Kelly Hu (STAR WARS KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC 2: THE SITH LORDS , and upcoming films GO BACK TO CHINA  and PAINTED BEAUTY ), and Aaron Stanford (THE CAKE EATERS  and THE HILLS HAVE EYES )
Director: Bryan Singer (BO RHAP )
Writers: Michael Dougherty (GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS ), Dan Harris (SUPERMAN RETURNS ), David Hayter (WATCHMEN  and THE SCORPION KING )
Producer: Kevin Feige (everything from the MCU)
Composer/Co-editor: John Ottman (BO RHAP and NICE GUYS )
Cinematographer: Newton Thomas Sigel (BO RHAP, MARSHALL , and the upcoming DHAKA )
Co-editor: Elliot Graham (CAPTAIN MARVEL  and MOLLY’S GAME )
This is my honest opinion of: X2
After a Mutant-led assassination attempt on the President of the United States (Cotter Smith), military scientist Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) is enlisted to apprehend the Mutants at the Xavier Academy in an attempt to see if they have any connection to the assassin. In reality, Stryker is an anti-mutant man and seeks to capture all of them for nefarious purposes. Even worse, he’s after Cerebro. Despite his efforts, many Mutant students escape with the help of the recently-returned Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin), and her boyfriend Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), and other friend Pyro (Aaron Stanford). However, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has been captured by Stryker after visiting Magneto (Ian McKellen) in prison, and Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Fanke Janssen) are away, locating the would be assassin, Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming). To make matters even more complicated, it seems that Stryker is somehow linked to Wolverine’s past that he can’t remember.
And I’m still on board with this being one of the best superhero movies ever made. If the first flick didn’t hold up, this one does. While I might argue that this supposed “war” never happens in the movie (I’ll talk about LAST STAND when I get to it), I think this has some of the best action and the best superpower action sequences until FIRST CLASS.
Alright, so what holds up? Well, of course anything with Nightcrawler. That opening scene with him trying to kill the President remains an X-Men classic. Even the slow-mo is warranted considering how heavily it’s used in the actual oval office. And let’s face it, he looks great. The marks on his face, his teeth, his own tail handing him that knife, those eyes, too awesome. And this is still the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Alan Cumming. He’s generally annoying and cartoonish in everything else, but here he’s cool. Not only in his look and powers, but also in terms of his character. I can’t claim to know of Kurt Wagner is religious in the comics (he sure wasn’t in the cartoon X-MEN: EVOLUTION [2000-2003], which is where I know him best from), but I really like this side of him. Let’s face it, religion isn’t an easy subject to tackle in movies. It sparks too many arguments about who is or isn’t right, even in their own movies, but here, it’s done very well. It never needs to spoon-feed how much Kurt looks like a devil, but the reality is that he’s actually a very sweet-natured guy who happens to believe in a higher power. Nor does he beat his beliefs into any of the characters. He’s treated like a normal person, and he talks like a normal person. Really, he steals the show in any scene that he does. Best teleporter in superhero history.
That’s really what this movie does best. The new characters this movie creates are actually really complex and interesting and provide new ideas. Kurt’s handling the ideas of faith and persecution, arguably making his side of his stories better than anything that Pure Flix has put out, but another character that has an interesting story is Pyro. Clearly a showoff and a trouble-maker, but nothing outside of the norm when it comes to teenagers. He’s otherwise a good kid, if not a little snarky. But then the attack in the Institute happens and then he goes through a kind of shift in character. Humans with guns take away his fellow students, Iceman’s parents sell them out, and a police officer, who is supposed to uphold the law and protect people, literally shoots Wolverine in the head, taking him down. From Pyro’s perspective, straight-murdered him. Accident or no, he shot him out of fear, and you can tell that Pyro hates that and makes the choice to feed into that fear for revenge. Again, teenagers make dumb choices for the right reasons, but you can perfectly understand why. Pyro doesn’t hurt anyone, but he does cause destruction, which could have seriously hurt people. Later on, we know that he doesn’t exactly feel good about it, but <<<SPOILERS>>> [ it’s absolutely not a surprise that his interaction with Magneto would give him a superiority complex and feed into the darker path that Pyro is going down and eventually succumbs to when he leaves with him and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) at the end. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Even some of the veteran characters are improved upon. The subplot with the Iceman and his family was especially powerful stuff. That he’s been lying to his parents about being a Mutant, and the brother calls the cops on them? It’s like, they don’t even put up a fight. Worst parents ever. Then again, when your world is turning upside down and faced with a nation-wide crisis and question, and you’re suddenly part of the
Even Stryker has a little bit of depth to him. Once, he simply saw mutation as a sickness that can be cured, but when Xavier failed to help his son Jason (Michael Reid MacKay) in the way that he wanted, he ended up seeing Mutants as a threat and hatched his devious plan against Mutant-kind. Okay, so he’s not Shakespearean, but it’s Brian Cox. How does he not sell a performance that he’s in. He’s just so intimidating. And of course, there’s the Darth Maul of the X-Men franchise (who is funny enough, not Ray Park), the impossibly awesome Kelly Hu as Lady Deathstryke. I mean… seriously, those finger claws of hers, making her arguably cooler than anything that Sabretooth brings to the table. Much more versatile in her ability to attack and cause harm. Seriously, every stab hurts like a mother f***er. <<<SPOILERS>>> [ But can we ask the million dollar grim-as-hell question? Did she need to die? She’s obviously just under Stryker’s mind-control serum, therefore a victim of circumstance. Isn’t her death kind of tragic, in the end? I mean, hey, she’s stabbing the fuck out of Wolverine, and under the pressure of him or her, he killed her out of necessity, not choice, but… damn it, writers, what’s with you keeping the wrong characters alive? Plus, she could have come back for THE WOLVERINE and made that movie ten times better. I know Hu is technically of Chinese decent and wouldn’t have worked in a Japanese setting, but damn it, she’s way too kick-ass and should have been recognized by Hollywood. Sure, Jackman gets his star shot into the stratosphere, but Hu gets to be in the lesser Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic game. F*** you, Hollywood. Right in the ass. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Of course, the action is ramped up too. I mean, come on, Wolverine won’t be this awesome until ORIGINS… the f***in’ video game! In terms of live-action, LOGAN, but still. Wolverine is at his finest here. What’s his body count in this movie? Who cares? It’s high and it’s satisfyingly where it should be. Mystique continues to be awesome and has a much more inclusive role in this movie, constantly infiltrating and disguising herself, kicking ass, and hey, we actually get to see Romijn without the blue make-up. And yes, my heart skips beats no matter what she’s doing. *slaps myself* No! I’m not doing that! Even Storm’s more bad-ass when the X-Jet gets attacked F-16s, throwing a legion of tornadoes at them, it’s just all great.
But, as with anything that ages, there are some blemishes that are worth mentioning.
As with my complaint from the first movie, the relationship between Wolverine and Jean was totally forced and shared no chemistry. Looking back on it now, the last movie never meant to take their relationship that seriously, but here, they really wanted Jean to basically cheat on Scott. How much screen time do these two share between films? Not much, and half of it is fight scenes or talking scenes that aren’t between just the two of them. So… who was pushing this? Man, Janssen drew the short stick with this role as she barely contributes to the story. Her powers are losing control and she <<<SPOILERS>>> [ is supposed to hint at the Phoenix Force, which this movie shamelessly sequel-baits, but that’s just not making her a good, developed character in this movie, which is a shame because Janssen is such a good actress. In any case, yeah, she kisses Wolverine for no reason. ] <<<END SPOILERS>>>
Jean isn’t the only character who staggeringly gets no development. In the first film, Storm was teased as someone who hates humans, but that goes nowhere, yet again. Cyclops only gets worse as these movies progress too. I know LAST STAND is where he’s just completely done away with unceremoniously, but this was definitely where that downward spiral ended up being the event horizon. He’s barely in the movie, barely uses his powers, hell, it’s a wonder why his visor went through a cosmetic change. As goofy and “Princess Leia-like” as they looked in the first flick, at least we saw more of Cyclops’ powers in that one. This was an opportunity to showcase his leadership abilities and make him a stronger character. But nope, let’s get him out of the way so Wolverine can flirt with Jean, because that was a relationship that needed development! Ugh…
Overall, I would say that this movie’s blemishes are pretty visible compared to when it first came out, but that hardly stops the film from being awesome. Many characters are explored more, the action is great and led to some truly standout scenes for the genre as a whole, and the special effects are top notch for the time and most hold up today. And Kelly Hu is too awesome. As superhero movies go for the time, this was downright great and still holds up as such. I loved it then, I love it now.
My honest rating for X2: a strong 4/5