X2

Critics Consensus

Tightly scripted, solidly acted, and impressively ambitious, X2: X-Men United is bigger and better than its predecessor -- and a benchmark for comic sequels in general.

85%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 245

85%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 977,444

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Movie Info

Stryker (Brian Cox), a villianous former Army commander, holds the key to Wolverine's (Hugh Jackman) past and the future of the X-Men. This threat re-ignites the call for a mutant registration act. Stryker starts a full-out assault on Professor Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) mansion and school. After escaping his plastic cell, Magneto (Ian McKellen) proposes a partnership with Xavier and the X-Men to combat this new formidable enemy they both have in common.

Cast & Crew

Patrick Stewart
Professor Charles Xavier
Hugh Jackman
Logan, Wolverine
Ian McKellen
Erik Lehnsherr, Magneto
Halle Berry
Ororo Munroe, Storm
James Marsden
Scott Summers, Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn
Grace, Mystique
Brian Cox
William Stryker
Alan Cumming
Kurt Wagner, Nightcrawler
Bruce Davison
Senator Kelly
Dan Harris
Screenwriter
David Hayter
Writer (Story)
Bryan Singer
Writer (Story)
Zak Penn
Writer (Story)
Bryan Singer
Executive Producer
Avi Arad
Executive Producer
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News & Interviews for X2: X-Men United

Critic Reviews for X2: X-Men United

All Critics (245) | Top Critics (52) | Fresh (208) | Rotten (37)

Audience Reviews for X2: X-Men United

  • Aug 04, 2017
    It's easy to forget that in the so-called dark ages before the Marvel Cinematic Universe existed, comic book film franchises were not always planned out in infinitesimal detail before the first instalment had a chance to break even. The mid- to late-1990s were a dark time for superhero films, with everything from Tank Girl and The Phantom to Batman and Robin and Steel pointing to a tired genre and an increasingly spandex-weary public. In this context the success of X-Men was a pleasant surprise, with a sequel being given the go-ahead shortly after its release. It's completely logical that Bryan Singer would want to use X2 to expand the X-Men universe on screen; with less time being needed to set up the world from the first film, there is more scope for introducing some of the more complicated elements of the X-Men mythos. But while this film does deepen the existing relationships between the characters established in the first instalment, it ultimately becomes a little too cluttered and lacking in focus to either equal or exceed it. The big mistake that Singer makes with X2 is trying to introduce too many different characters or aspects of the canon at once. The film's alternative title, X-Men United, should be taken with a hefty slice of irony, since while the characters are uniting against a common goal, our attention is getting endlessly sidetracked by the new characters and sub-plots, some of which aren't given the room they need to grow. While The Two Towers incrementally brought in new characters by working hard to explain the culture in which they found themselves, X2 gives us lots of people we are supposed to care about but not enough individual conflicts to justify our attention. Sticking with The Lord of the Rings for the moment, there is the issue of the different mutants' powers. One of the great successes of both X-Men and Peter Jackson's trilogy is that it introduced its characters' fantastical capabilities very gradually. Once the opening sequence in The Fellowship of the Ring is out of the way, we have a sufficient understanding of the power and threat of the Ring to see us through, with more information being built upon this firm foundation. In the case of X2, we are effectively told to assume that everyone we meet will be in some way magical, with less effort being expended into not defining them around their powers or abilities. Put simply, there's only so many people with special effects coming out of their hands that we can take before it all feel like sub-par Harry Potter. Introducing a new band of mutants would be all well and good if we were given sufficient time to understand their motivations and see their flaws, in the way that the first film did with Wolverine and Rogue. The most egregious shortfall in this regard is Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), who gets a couple of good action scenes before his characterisation is boiled down to that of a stereotypical religious fanatic who physically self-flagellates, like Paul Bettany's character in The Da Vinci Code. Notwithstanding the laziness of the writing - most Catholics and Protestants grew out of that sort of thing long ago - his arc is resolved by Storm in a very unsatisfying way. After a somewhat chaotic start, X2 does eventually settle down into being more of an ensemble piece, with the plot being held together by the MacGuffin of the second Cerebro device and Wolverine's ongoing quest to discover his creator. The film becomes much more comfortable from thereon in, blending elements of Frankenstein in the latter plot strand with the tension generated from the uneasy alliance between Professor Xavier and Magneto - both of which would be subsequently revisited in X-Men: First Class. There are still false steps here and there - such as Wolverine's utterly overhyped showdown with Lady Deathstrike - but it's a more rounded and confident package once its character introductions are out of the way. Where X-Men saw one group of mutants try to manipulate Rogue's powers to mutate humanity, the central idea of X2 is that of humans going on the offensive and using mutants' powers against them. The first film saw humanity completely on the defensive, faced with the prospect of forced mutation by Magneto and with the talk of mutant registration being a knee-jerk response to something that they didn't fully understand. With Stryker, we have someone obsessed with the science and technology that mutation offers, but with a more overtly malignant message. While Magneto at least believed that he was doing good by making all mutants like him, Stryker is a genocidal maniac who is driven purely by fear and hatred of those different to him. The film in general, and Stryker's character in particular, reflects Singer's ongoing interest in the dynamics of fascism, and the inherent contradictions present within its adherents. The psychoanalyist Wilhelm Reich, in his seminal 1933 work The Mass Psychology of Fascism, argued that fascism was characterised by sadomasochistic desires. It combined, he reasoned, the sadistic desire to suppress those who were weaker and less desirable with the masochastic need to submit to the control of a greater power - whether that be the leader or the perfect Aryan image they promoted. Comparing Stryker to Adolf Hitler may seem trite and adolescent, but it's a comparison that holds water because both man are driven by this internal contradiction between hubris and self-weakness. Just as Hitler wanted to create a society of blonde-haired, blue-eyed Aryans while being anything but that himself, so Stryker hates mutants and wants to wipe them out despite the fact that his own son is a mutant. Brian Cox was cast on the basis of his performance in Manhunter, and he does a great job at creating a man who is at turns repulsive and perversely fascinating. Away from its heady political themes, X2 also does a good job of moving on the love triangle between Jean Grey, Wolverine and Cyclops. The latter still doesn't get as much to do as he may have liked, spending much of his time under the control of Stryker with less resistance than you would expect. But the writing is generally solid, with Hugh Jackman doing particularly well during the tenser moments where he has to suppress his growing desire to work for the team's goal. Famke Janssen again puts in a fine performance, which sets things up very nicely for the character's more dominant role in the third instalment. X2 also looks pretty decent, though despite scaling up the set-pieces it occasionally lacks the grandeur of its predecessor, which was filmed with anamorphic lenses. Frequent Singer collaborator Newton Thomas Sigel returns following his work on the first film, and offers up an intriguing colour palette with murky shadows and intimidating blues. Singer and Sigel are said to have used Road to Perdition as a reference point, and there is evidence of this in the scenes on the alkali flats, which have a somewhat distant, existential quality to them. X2 is a solid if somewhat cluttered sequel which carried on a lot of the good work of the first film. It's a great deal baggier than its predecessor, even once it has moved on from its shaky start, and newcomers to superhero films may continue to find it over-stuffed even as things come together. But in other aspects it builds on the characters and strengths of the first film, tackling mature subjects in a thought-provoking way - something you can't say about every comic book film being made in this period.
    Daniel M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 05, 2017
    With more confident direction, a more ambitious story, and impressively realized action set pieces, X2 is the rare sequel that improves on every aspect of the original - while also working as a great stand alone movie in it's own right.
    Matthew M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 20, 2017
    The first X-Men is a fine film but it follows a similar formula than plenty of other comic-book adventures. It felt original and fresh at the time, but it doesn't hold up as well on repeated viewings as X-Men 2/X2/X2: X-Men United does. In fact, X2 gets better every time I watch it. Exceptionally directed by Bryan Singer with just the right amount of action and timely emotion, X2 is one of the best X-Men films to date. I'll always contend that the X-Men films are best when Magneto and Professor X aren't necessarily on opposite ends. Magneto has never been a cut and dry villain. There's always a grey area to him, and I think X2 nails that as well as any other X-Men film. Just like in Days of Future Past, he doesn't have an agenda until he's brought back into chaos. This time, the chaos is brought on by none other than William Stryker. Stryker is in charge of the facility which keeps Magneto captive, and is also the one who holds the answers to Wolverine's past. That in itself boasts some fascinating prospects for the film. But what's more impressive is how well this film once again balances all of its story fighting the "bad guy" while also having the ultimate antagonist (humans) feature so prominently in the story. It's not to the extent that the original deals with it (registration act), but at its core you know this film is about humans vs mutants. The two butting heads has always and will always be the way to take the X-Men's story. We get introduced to a few new mutants, and an extended look at Pyro and Iceman, but it's Nightcrawler that makes the biggest impression. The opening sequence at The White House is known as one of the best comic-book scenes to date, and rightfully so. It's terrifying and thrilling, which doesn't really describe his presence throughout the rest of the film, but it's quite the opening. Iceman is used more as a love interest for Rogue than anything else, but Shawn Ashmore is charismatic enough to verify his presence. Pyro, however, feels like the prototypical kid who was inevitably going to turn on his friends. You never truly believe that he's going to stick it out on the good side. With much higher stakes than the first film as the human race is at risk, it's no wonder the runtime is significantly longer than 2000's X-Men. There is rarely a second wasted, but having the entire last hour of the film take place at Alkaline Lake was risky. With so many mutants running around, it's easy to find someone to take up screen time, but that's a long time to spend at one particular location. So I can see where it may feel a little long and dragged on by the time we leave the place. The important thing here is that Singer keeps us on track with the story he wants to tell. It has more action, characters, and surprisingly more heart than I expected. X2 is a triumph on almost every front and set the franchise up for limitless possibilities and adventures. Unfortunately, we all know what happens in X-Men 3. +Balanced +Magneto blurring the lines +Emotionally resonant +Higher stakes -Could have done without Pyro 9.0/10
    Thomas D Super Reviewer
  • May 12, 2016
    X-Men 2, is a sequel that not only expands on the universe of the first X-Men film, it's a vastly superior comic book movie sequel in general. Once again bringing back many of our favourite faces from the first movie, along with many other new characters and actors ready to face up to an even bigger challenge. What makes this film stand out is it's layered characters, brewing conflicts and multiple compelling plot-lines structured throughout the script. There's also plenty of drama for our very colourful cast of characters to carry the film's subject matter among many of Bryan Singer's exciting action set pieces. Even for a film on this scale it's length and pacing really helped build the momentum for these characters putting them in more desperate and dire situations. Hell, even for a film that has a much more bigger scale than it's predecessor, it's special effects certainly hold up to this day and age as a small piece of the continuing rise and impressive trend of the "Comic Book Movie Boom" of the early Noughties. I guess it would have only taken an even more impressive film to really beat the quality of this film the franchise, sadly we didn't get that almost ages later.
    Luke E Super Reviewer

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