After the pretty solid debut that was the first "X-Men" film with its praiseworthy earnings and critical success, it was pretty damn obvious that a sequel was needed. Although with the horrid title that is "X2: X-Men United", this second flick in the franchise ups the ante on all of the things that made the first film a good time and refines most of the flaws it had into a cohesive piece of entertainment art. This in turn creates not only the best "X-Men" film of the franchise, but one of the best comic book films out there.
William Stryker (Cox) has made it his own personal goal to wipe out every mutant on the planet. Using his military prowess and sheer muscled firepower, Stryker comes up with a plan to use Professor X (Stewart) and his Cerebro machine to find and destroy all mutants in a scheme of vengeance. This, of course, does not sit will with our resident heroes, the X-Men, and Magneto's (McKellen) somewhat vile Brotherhood. So the two sides of mutants must join forces to stop this military madman, whom somehow has the ability to mind control mutants for his will, which take them all the way to Alkali Lake...which remarkably seems familiar to X-Men antihero, Wolverine (Jackman).
The one thing that makes "X2" seemingly better than its predecessor is the fact that it doesn't feel quite as held back. With its great story concept (based on the graphic novel "God Loves, Man Kills") that deftly blends the sociological side of the prejudice mankind has against that which is different and the personal sides of many of the characters (most predominately that of Wolverine, although each one gets there day here) this film balances quite a bit better on the story and script side of the coin. With Singer's sleek ability to balance the many characters without leaving any feeling underdeveloped, "X2" does it right with taking a great comic story and transferring it to film without alienating its audience.
"X2" also ups the action percentage in the film too. Whether its the very artsy and chaotic Magneto jailbreak sequence, Stryker's attack on Professor X's school, or the finale siege on Alkali Lake (which includes the very awesome Wolverine vs Deathstrike fight) this baby is packed to the punches with awesome and adrenaline pumping action sequences. The only one that remotely came off as somewhat out of place was the jet fighter sequence with the tornadoes that comes off as way too CGI on home video (it looked cool in theaters though). Otherwise this film will quench your appetite for destruction nicely too.
It must also be mentioned that once again the cast is superb in this film. We already knew how good they did in the first film, but additions of Cumming as Nightcrawler and Cox as Stryker make for an even larger more able cast that only add to Singer's nice visuals and well crafted story.
The first "X-Men" may have kicked off the new comic book film craze but its "X2" that might have made it a genre truly worth noting. Since then we have seen plenty of awesome comic adaptions made into films, but to this day "X2" might be one of the best and certainly still entertains to no avail.
BONUS TRIVIA: Originally, "X2" achieved an 'R' rating due to Wolverine's viciousness in some sequences. To cut it down to a PG-13, they cut out several SECONDS of footage to tone down his brutality. Oops. Guess they didn't play it quite safe enough originally.
Written By Matt Reifschneider