Movie #48 2021: X2 (2003)

With absolutely no Marvel movies over this past year (except The New Mutants, which received poor to average reviews), you can probably tell that I’m trying to fill the superhero movie void by catching up on ones I missed in the past. Of course there’s WandaVision, but having to wait a whole week in between episodes feels like we’re back in the nineties.

To follow up on the first X-Men movie that I reviewed the other day, I bring you the less-than-originally named sequel, X2! We rejoin our heroes pretty much exactly where we left off. Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is continuing to teach new mutants at his school for the gifted, when all of a sudden, a new threat arises. This time, Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox) has reared his ugly head, confessing that he’s so anti-mutant that he and his troops vow to kill every single last mutant they come across. Wolverine, Jean Grey, Storm and the rest of the gang regroup, plotting their own scheme to stop him.

There’s something about X2 that feels more like a classic comic book movie than its predecessor. In part, that’s probably due to the sequel being based on an actual comic rather than simply coming from the minds of a writer. However, it’s most likely that it comes down to the significantly higher budget also. And I’m not mad about any of that. Even if capitalism sucks.

The coolest (if not most horrific) part? Magneto (Ian McKellen) extracting a cop’s blood using the iron components in it. Gruesome but so inventive. The action scenes in general (specifically the combat sequences) are much improved in comparison to its predecessor, but whilst the CGI is really ambitious for 2003, it could have done with a little bit of ironing out. Regardless, it’s still very impressive for its time. 

Though mostly entertaining, the plot is a little lengthy and convoluted. However, there is a lot of story to get through so that’s unsurprising. It was fun to see the X-Men join forces with Magneto to fight a common cause in spite of the script issues, and there’s enough excitement involved to get you through it all without complaint. 

As with X-Men (2000), the cast do an excellent job once again. Anna Paquin especially showed a maturation in her performance for the sequel, but the real standout addition is Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler. His presence is haunting and creepy yet vulnerable, and even though he looks insane, he acts the hell out of his ultimately insignificant role. 

To summarise my personal opinion? I wouldn’t say I prefer this second instalment more than the first, but it’s definitely just as good. I’ve heard less good things about the rest sadly, but I’ll be damned if I don’t watch every last one of them.

X2 is available to stream on Disney+ in the UK.

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