Marvel Movie Madness! Part 11: X2: X-Men United

The series hits its most entertaining heights.

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.


Part 11: X2: X-Men United (2003, 88% @ 222 reviews)
Directed by Bryan Singer, starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

Alex: X2 comes out and makes $30 million more opening weekend than X-Men's. Suddenly, everybody realizes the box office potential of the superhero. X2's story picks up directly after the original: Wolverine returns to the mutant campus after a fruitless Weapon X origin search, just as Magneto gets involved with a plan to neutralize all non-mutants on Earth.

A government raid on Xavier's school puts the children in danger but the movie is never cheap or exploitative about it. X2 takes the time to show daily school life and scenes of Wolverine getting to know the kids at school feels authentic. Wolverine's resulting savage defense of the children becomes much more thrilling. Wolverine kills humans, Magneto fatally pulls iron out of a guard, and Pyro rains destruction on the police at an idyllic suburban home. The first movie was about living in fear and oppression, this one is about lashing out when the blood boils over.

After the raid on Xavier's school, Singer juggles three separate stories (Jean, Wolverine, and Professor X), sending them towards a snowy showdown in Canada. I like how Singer uses no more establishing shots after this point as to keep the proceedings chaotic and tightly wound. The last 50 minutes of this movie is like a single breathless action scene.


Luke: X2 is every bit of a satisfying piece with the first film. It's weighty without being ponderous, philosophical but full of great action sequences (Wolverine vs. Deathstrike, for one), moves at an engaging clip like a chase movie and boasts the same brand of humour among the characters, which works here organically because we already know and love them. Much more than its predecessor, the real villain here isn't so much Magneto as it is intolerance and government interference, and the film builds sympathy for Erik (one of the few things I think the third movie carried through on) by having him team up with the X-Men to foil Stryker (the always excellent, and here deceptively menacing, Brian Cox.) Some things feel more like seeds planted for the future -- the teenage mutants don't have enough to do in the film's second half -- and new characters -- teleporter Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming, amusing) seems to exist as a plot device to bust Xavier out in the climax -- are there more or less to expand the universe in the films. But the core bunch are as good as always, with the Jean-Scott-Wolverine love triangle heightened nicely and Magneto and Xavier's battle for the sympathies of humanity extended to strong effect (I still wanted Storm to do a little more again, but at least she gets to pilot that fantastic jet.)

What's interesting revisiting X2 is how the emotional impact develops from Stryker's manipulation of Wolverine's memories: ironically, the brief flashbacks to Logan's creation hit harder than anything in X-Men Origins: Wolverine did in its limp entirety. Watching it again I also found Jean's sacrifice to be pretty moving, which makes me curious to revisit The Last Stand to see if her resurrection as Phoenix capitalizes on any of that feeling (from memory they kind of fudged it). Again, Singer composes this one handsomely (and has his own bit of fun with Iceman's "coming out"), John Ottman's score has an even richer classical thump to it, and the thing builds to a pretty deftly cross-cut finale that balances spectacle with character. Visually, the X-Jet's pursuit through the twister clouds was a highlight; comedically, I loved the moment when Wolverine viciously extends his claws... only to have a house cat tenderly lap at them.


Tim: You guys pretty much said everything I was thinking about this one. X2 is an outstanding sequel, deepening the world established in the first film while adding some interesting wrinkles. The uneasy alliance between the X-Men and the Brotherhood of Mutants makes for a very tense second half, with allegiances shifting seemingly from moment to moment. I also loved Nightcrawler -- playing the haunted, lonely mutant, Alan Cumming's performance is terrific, and the character is interesting enough to warrant his own movie, so it's a shame he wasn't back in The Last Stand. It's too bad Lady Deathstrike got killed off -- I'd love to see her and Wolverine battle it out some more, since they seem evenly matched (and seem to relish their one fight together). Still, the climactic escape is thrilling and moving, and offers further proof that this is a franchise that knows what it's doing.

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Comments

algreen99

AL Green

Loved the Night Crawler white house infiltration scene. That was about it. In fact that is the only scene I liked out of all 4 Xmen based movies.

Jun 1 - 04:41 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

If there's one thing I've learned from both of Singer's X flicks, is that the man knows how to do one hell of an opening sequence ... and that's about it.

Jun 1 - 05:44 PM

Murdoch

Murdoch +

And the opening of SR when Superman saves the plane from falling

Jun 1 - 05:48 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Singer does great openings indeed. Unfortunately after the openings you begin to wait for something that never comes. The guy went through two xmen movies with no Gambit. Who was advising him?

Jun 1 - 06:12 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

Gambit's the dude with the playing cards and that long, purple stick, right? I remember him from the cartoon.

Jun 1 - 06:57 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

Soooo, the fight scene in the mansion and Wolverine vs. Deathstrike were crap?
One of the reasons X2 is one of the best of the 4 Xfilms is that it has truly gripping fight sequences (unlike anything in X3).
The only thing that comes close is Magneto stopping all those missile in First Class

Jun 28 - 04:17 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

Soooo, the fight scene in the mansion and Wolverine vs. Deathstrike were crap?
One of the reasons X2 is one of the best of the 4 Xfilms is that it has truly gripping fight sequences (unlike anything in X3).
The only thing that comes close is Magneto stopping all those missile in First Class

Jun 28 - 04:17 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

Soooo, the fight scene in the mansion and Wolverine vs. Deathstrike were crap?
One of the reasons X2 is one of the best of the 4 Xfilms is that it has truly gripping fight sequences (unlike anything in X3).
The only thing that comes close is Magneto stopping all those missile in First Class

Jun 28 - 04:20 PM

Matthew T.

Matthew Thomas

The Nightcrawler fight still holds up 8 years later.

Jun 1 - 09:28 PM

James N.

James Nickerson

WOOOOOHHHOOOOOO Nightcrawler the best thing about that movie and most likely the reason why i don't like the any of the movies except the first one because their wasn't enough nightcrawler. Oh wait i mean *clears throat* Xmen 3 last stand, being directed by someone other then singer made that director have a huge load to carry and sadly through the chaotic action the sad thing people call a plot and overall lack of emotional deep as well as the fact that a dozen new mutants where sprang upon on us and unless you knew the comic book would have know idea who they where the director sadly dropped the entire load before even climbing up the hill and left the mess their as he trudged back home for his evening tea. Leaving us fans have to scrabble and sift around looking for what we where hoping would be the final and greatest chapter to our beloved trilogy but sadly NA.

Jun 3 - 04:29 AM

THEREWOLF

Markus Arbutina

Same problem as the first movie, way too much Wolverine and not enough XMen. The scene where Wolverine takes out the army guys at the school was pretty cool though.

Jun 1 - 04:42 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

i did not like the first xmen and gave it a 40% but this one in my opinion was far superior to that one, as it had MUCH better special effects, more better character development on most of the characters and the direction was good.
The acting was also pretty good and I really liked how the film focuses alot more on the racial themes. Also action scenes were pretty kick ass. This is probably the only bryan singer flick I actually liked...

70%

Jun 1 - 04:47 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

You don't like The Usual Suspects??

Jun 1 - 05:45 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Now this^ is the only Singer movie I like.

Jun 1 - 05:52 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

haven't seen the usual suspects and lool sorry for my bad grammer, i was very tired and just wrote the first thing that came to my mind .

Jun 1 - 06:55 PM

Murdoch

Murdoch +

not to be a grammar nazi, but what the hell does "more better" mean?

Jun 1 - 05:52 PM

ballermat982

ballermat 982

This is my second favorite superhero movie behind the dark knight. I actually saw this before the first xmen and i liked this one more.

Jun 1 - 04:57 PM

Alejandro Damon Gonzales

Alex Gonzales

Really, really enjoyed this movie. The first X-men was good this one blew me out of the water. Can't wait for first class.

Jun 1 - 05:24 PM

David

David Roberts

It's hard to match that opening scene of Nightcrawler running rampant in the White House.

The one thing that I never fully understood when revisiting this film is how Professor Xavier was able to essentially "freeze the moment" so to speak. Not being too far into the comic book aspect but always a huge fan, was this something he would do?

I know he's not stopping time but it seemed almost overpowered to have that kind of control in a film that was aware of not going overboard with the potential everyone's powers carried.

Jun 1 - 05:31 PM

bamb0o-stick

Jonathan Y

I think that scene illustrates what kind of person Xavier is, a man with great power but doesn't use it to harm anyone. He doesn't want to harm any normal humans, but does what he needs to protect mutants as well. I know that Xavier can literally mind-control anyone, or even wipe their minds clean if he wants to, but he very responsible and its what he doesn't do that shows who he is.

Jun 1 - 06:08 PM

Pterodactyl

Danjel Hall

You can see when one of the students nudges a 'frozen' civilian and they move an inch that they aren't frozen or out of time. I think Xavier merely put them in selective comas while also keeping their muscles rigid so that they wouldn't all collapse. This is quite a psychic feat if you think about it. He probably also messed with their short term memories a little so that the wouldn't spend too much time wondering about the mutants who had all vanished by their perception.

Jun 1 - 07:03 PM

David

David Roberts

Yea Xavier is a really fascinating character purely from the perspective of how much power he has but how calculating he is in using it. And it's a good point about how he's having to wipe some short term memory given a room full of people just had half of them disappear. I'm really interested to see McAvoy's take on a younger Prof X.

Jun 2 - 03:38 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Studio: The kiddies will love it! There's only one problem.

Screenwriter (aka Solid Snake): Oh yeah, what's that?

Studio: We need these "X" Men fighting other mutants.

Screenwriter: Hmm, well it says right here in my contract that I'm not actually being paid for character development.

Studio: Well how about we have Strykers son turn out to be a mutant with mind control powers and have him control a menacing adversary. *Pulls a name out of a hat. How about this "Lady Deathstrike"? She sounds formidable. Best thing is we can just kill the poor woman off instead of giving explanations and the kids won't be the wiser.

Screenwriter: Won't we still have to develop Strykers son?

Studio: Oh, right ?

Screenwriter: We can have him lobotomized?

Studio: Genius! See Larry, I told you this guy was right for the job.

Jun 1 - 05:37 PM

David

David Roberts

I'm a little rusty on my X2 plot but wasn't the Lady Deathstrike control and Nightcrawler in the White House for that matter tied to something Stryker was using? Like an implant on their neck and not his son? I only remember the back shots of a mark or something to signify the control.

Jun 1 - 05:42 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Stryker uses a chemical compound he extracts from his son as a form of mind control.

Jun 1 - 05:51 PM

David

David Roberts

Ah ok, thanks for clarifying that. I was always curious how Stryker was "controlling" them in those situations since it was never actually explained.

Jun 2 - 03:33 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

This one's my favorite of them all. I'm sure almost everyone else can agree with me on that.

Jun 1 - 05:37 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

After Batman Begins, this is my favorite superhero movie of all time, with the Dark Knight and Kick-Ass rounding up the top 4. Fantastic movie where simply everything works; the pacing is fantastic, the characters are brilliantly developed, the story is interesting and the acting is superb.

Jun 1 - 05:39 PM

David

David Roberts

I'm a little rusty on my X2 plot but wasn't the Lady Deathstrike control and Nightcrawler in the White House for that matter tied to something Stryker was using? Like an implant on their neck and not his son? I only remember the back shots of a mark or something to signify the control.

Jun 1 - 05:42 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Stryker uses a chemical compound he extracts from his son as a form of mind control.

Jun 1 - 05:51 PM

David

David Roberts

Ah ok, thanks for clarifying that. I was always curious how Stryker was "controlling" them in those situations since it was never actually explained.

Jun 2 - 03:33 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

If there's one thing I've learned from both of Singer's X flicks, is that the man knows how to do one hell of an opening sequence ... and that's about it.

Jun 1 - 05:44 PM

Murdoch

Murdoch +

And the opening of SR when Superman saves the plane from falling

Jun 1 - 05:48 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Singer does great openings indeed. Unfortunately after the openings you begin to wait for something that never comes. The guy went through two xmen movies with no Gambit. Who was advising him?

Jun 1 - 06:12 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

Gambit's the dude with the playing cards and that long, purple stick, right? I remember him from the cartoon.

Jun 1 - 06:57 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

Soooo, the fight scene in the mansion and Wolverine vs. Deathstrike were crap?
One of the reasons X2 is one of the best of the 4 Xfilms is that it has truly gripping fight sequences (unlike anything in X3).
The only thing that comes close is Magneto stopping all those missile in First Class

Jun 28 - 04:17 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

Soooo, the fight scene in the mansion and Wolverine vs. Deathstrike were crap?
One of the reasons X2 is one of the best of the 4 Xfilms is that it has truly gripping fight sequences (unlike anything in X3).
The only thing that comes close is Magneto stopping all those missile in First Class

Jun 28 - 04:17 PM

Lion O

Larry Oliver

Soooo, the fight scene in the mansion and Wolverine vs. Deathstrike were crap?
One of the reasons X2 is one of the best of the 4 Xfilms is that it has truly gripping fight sequences (unlike anything in X3).
The only thing that comes close is Magneto stopping all those missile in First Class

Jun 28 - 04:20 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

You don't like The Usual Suspects??

Jun 1 - 05:45 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Now this^ is the only Singer movie I like.

Jun 1 - 05:52 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

haven't seen the usual suspects and lool sorry for my bad grammer, i was very tired and just wrote the first thing that came to my mind .

Jun 1 - 06:55 PM

Murdoch

Murdoch +

And the opening of SR when Superman saves the plane from falling

Jun 1 - 05:48 PM

algreen99

AL Green

Singer does great openings indeed. Unfortunately after the openings you begin to wait for something that never comes. The guy went through two xmen movies with no Gambit. Who was advising him?

Jun 1 - 06:12 PM

The.Watcher

The Watcher

Gambit's the dude with the playing cards and that long, purple stick, right? I remember him from the cartoon.

Jun 1 - 06:57 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

This was a good movie, but I agree with those above that there was a little too much Wolverine in this movie, just like the first. It was still good, though, too bad the third is crap.

Jun 1 - 05:49 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Stryker uses a chemical compound he extracts from his son as a form of mind control.

Jun 1 - 05:51 PM

David

David Roberts

Ah ok, thanks for clarifying that. I was always curious how Stryker was "controlling" them in those situations since it was never actually explained.

Jun 2 - 03:33 PM

Alan Smithee

Alan Smithee

Now this^ is the only Singer movie I like.

Jun 1 - 05:52 PM

Alexson Philip

Alexson Philipiah

haven't seen the usual suspects and lool sorry for my bad grammer, i was very tired and just wrote the first thing that came to my mind .

Jun 1 - 06:55 PM

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