When William Stryker (Brian Cox), the man responsible for giving Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) his adamantium skeleton, arrives at the mansion to steal Cerebro, the X-Men must find out why he wants Cerebro and stop him.
Like Spider-Man, my first exposure to the X-Men was the animated cartoon series of the 90s. It featured many classic X-Men characters, including Wolverine. Even though he was part of a team, Wolverine still received episodes focused on him. His mysterious past and complex personality is ripe for storytelling possibilities. X2: X-Men United takes a similar approach. While this is an ensemble movie, much of the story’s focus is on Wolverine and his past. When your movie has someone like Hugh Jackman who completely embodies your franchise’s most popular character, why not take advantage of it?
In X-Men, Jackman did well as Wolverine. However, we only get a peek of what he could do in the role. This time, he fully gets into the character, truly feeling like he is Wolverine. After leaving Xavier’s mansion at the end of the last film searching for answers about his past, he returns at the start of this film and it feels like he just went to the grocery store. He slides back in with the rest of the characters, and even acts as a guardian for the younger mutants, with ease. Whether it is the ferocity of Wolverine’s aggressiveness or the protective nature he displays, Jackman completely and effortlessly pulls it off.
The main cast from the last entry returns: James Marsden, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, and Rebecca Romijn. Shawn Ashmore also returns and receives a much larger role this time around, even becoming the emotional pulse for the non-Wolverine parts of the story. Between Ashmore, Paquin, and new addition Aaron Stanford, X2 provides a great look at the next generation of mutants in the ideological struggle between Professor Xavier’s X-Men and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants. Each of these three younger stars each do wonderful bringing across their characters’ outlook to life.
However, of the new cast members, hands-down the best addition is Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler. Cumming’s Nightcrawler brings a balance to the team. His strong religious beliefs and outsider’s perspective adds another ideological wrinkle to the story. Cumming himself fits in with the rest of the cast, providing a good blend of awkward humor and emotion.
While X2 is very much a Wolverine-centered film, it doesn’t shove the other characters to the side; they still receive plenty of their own development. The love triangle between Cyclops, Jean, and Wolverine comes to a head. Jean is certainly coming into her own character and we see glances of her hidden potential and Storm is moving into more of a leadership role on the team. One of the best side-stories of the film is actually when it focuses on the three younger X-Men: Rogue (Paquin), Iceman (Ashmore), and Pyro (Stanford). Their story offers a narrative for being different when everyone expects you to be “normal,” a very relatable experience for many.
But of course, the focal point of the story is Wolverine’s past in the Weapon Plus program and how he came to have adamantium bonded to his skeleton. The story, loosely based on the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills, which is actually not centered around Wolverine, introduces us to William Stryker, the man responsible for giving Wolverine his adamantium skeleton. We’ve seen two sides of Wolverine: a violent, animalistic side and a softer, caring side. Outside of his interactions with Rogue, we didn’t see him with the younger X-Men in the previous film. In this film, even though he is violent and has a violent past, as we see through Stryker, Wolverine is willing to be a protector and mentor to the younger generation of mutants. Not only was his backstory expanded upon in this movie but so was his character, experiencing the most growth of any of the adult X-Men.
Nightcrawler is one of my favorite X-Men characters. The opening scene showed exactly how powerful he can be if he didn’t have his morals. What’s more, after the opening, which does a great job of starting off strong and capturing your attention, this film never feels dull. Throughout the entirety of the film, I always felt engaged. Even during the quieter moments, there was something worth paying attention to or something interesting worth concentrating on. Many superhero films stumble when they aren’t focused on the action but this superhero film does not land in that pitfall.
I thought X2: X-Men United was GREAT 😀 Much like Spider-Man 2, with the characters’ origins out of the way, this sequel is free to jump right into the story without needing much exposition. Almost every character experiences some sort of growth and the film remains exhilarating the whole way through. Back in the early days of the superhero genre boom, before it really blew up, the second entries were apparently the entries of note.
Cast & Crew
Bryan Singer – Director / Story
David Hayter – Story / Screenplay
Zak Penn – Story
Michael Dougherty – Screenplay
Dan Harris – Screenplay
John Ottman – Composer
Hugh Jackman – Logan / Wolverine
Patrick Stewart – Professor Charles Xavier
Famke Janssen – Jean Grey
James Marsden – Scott Summers / Cyclops
Halle Berry – Ororo Munroe / Storm
Anna Paquin – Rogue
Shawn Ashmore – Bobby Drake / Iceman
Alan Cumming – Curt Wagner / Nightcrawler
Aaron Stanford – John Allerdyce / Pyro
Ian McKellen – Eric Lensherr / Magneto
Rebecca Romijn – Mystique
Brian Cox – William Stryker
Kelly Hu – Yuriko Oyama / Lady Deathstrike
Cotter Smith – President McKenna
Bruce Davison – Senator Kelly