X2: X-Men United (2003)
X2: X-Men United (2003)

Genre: Superhero Running Time: 2 hrs. 14 min.

Release Date: May 2nd, 2003 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Bryan Singer Actors: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Aaron Stanford, Shawn Ashmore, Kelly Hu




egarded with fear, suspicion, and hatred, mutants have caused consternation among the masses. Across the planet, a debate rages on, struggling over whether or not the world should be shared with these supernatural persons. It’s a sticky situation, made even more complicated when a mutant dubbed The Incredible Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) breaks into the White House and nearly kills the President of the United States.

Meanwhile, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) continues his quest to uncover his past, which takes him into an abandoned military base in Canada. At Professor Xavier’s (Patrick Stewart) school for mutants, life goes on as usual, though that consists of the younger students (such as Rogue [Anna Paquin], Ice Man [Shawn Ashmore], and Pyro [Aaron Stanford]) getting into a bit of trouble, while the teachers, including Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and Storm (Halle Berry), work to keep them in line. “The next time you feel like showing off … don’t.”

Though enemy mutant leader Magneto (Ian McKellen) – responsible for the Liberty Island fiasco, and now contained in a maximum security plastic prison – might have had something to do with the White House breach, unanswered questions abound. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is still masquerading as a prominent senator; Jean has been dealing with troubling issues concerning her telepathy; and military scientist Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox), a shady, anti-mutant bureaucrat with a penchant for manipulation, is plotting to use Magneto’s knowledge about mutant-tracking facility Cerebro. Locating Nightcrawler, uncovering Stryker’s connection to Wolverine, and getting to the bottom of a powerful serum that turns people into mere puppets will be essential for the X-Men to stall the seemingly inevitable war between mankind and mutants.

Once again, there’s plenty of action, though the overdependence on wirework and computer-augmented fight choreography grows ever more grating. Despite skilled martial artists and intermittent spurts of creativity, the filmmakers’ insistence on overusing unreal – and therefore unconvincing – acrobatics and movements only dulls the effectiveness of fast-paced combat. The PG-13 rating is also curiously prohibitive (a darker edge is nonetheless noticeable), especially when Wolverine’s claws are such violently destructive weapons, yet they rarely even draw blood.

Computer graphics are comparatively problematic when they pop up unnecessarily and copiously, occasionally having difficulty looking top-notch. Nevertheless, this sequel not only faithfully maintains the style and tone of the original, it brings a handful of fascinating new mutants into the fold, boasting innovative superpowers. And, amusingly, former villains gain opportunities at momentous redemption and transitory collaboration (or extra duplicity).

Unfortunately, with these boons come bad one-liners, slow spots for redundant drama, and inadequate comic relief. The scope may have increased, but so too has the running time and pacing deficiencies, particularly in the third act, where excitement is continually hindered by obvious stalling tactics. But John Ottman’s music (readapting and expanding upon Michael Kamen’s spectacular prior score) has grown more exciting and significant, while details about Wolverine’s creation are finally revealed. Smartly, this middle chapter manages to function as a reasonable whole, telling a mostly complete tale, even if it’s a weaker one than before.

– Mike Massie

  • 5/10

The X-Men Franchise

X-Men (2000)

X2: X-Men United (2003)

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)

X-Men: First Class (2011)

The Wolverine (2013)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)

Deadpool (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016)

Logan (2017)

Deadpool 2 (2018)

Dark Phoenix (2019)