X-MEN UNITED - 2003
20th Century Fox
Rating: USA: PG
Everyone has their own way of judging a movie. You have your criteria and I have
mine. There are certainly differences between our opinions on the matter
but my guess is we have more agreement than disagreement. For example,
Im sure you'd agree that there is one factor that stands out
as a means to improve the first X-MEN movie:
more Halle Berry. I mean that's obvious, right?
X2 was directed and co-written by the very capable Bryan Singer (APT PUPIL, X-MEN [all]) and co-written by
Daniel P. Harris (THE KILLING OF CANDACE KLEIN), David Hayter (X-MEN, THE SCORPION KING), Michael Dougherty, and Zack Penn, based of course on characters created by Stan Lee, among others.
The story picks up where the last movie left off, with the mystery of the origin of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman: X-MEN), a mutant and therefore a member of an oppressed minority.
Wolverine has the ability to heal almost instantly and someone took advantage
of that. An unknown organization performed a great deal of experimental
surgery (that would have been fatal to a normal
human) and now Wolverines skeleton is lined with adamantium,
an unbreakably strong metal.
Wolverine can only remember brief flashes of this horrific, painful operation. It
was established in the first movie that he has no memory of anything before
that. This is gradually established in this movie, too, but the fact is
if you havent seen the first movie (you havent?
Are you Amish or something?) youd have a hard time understanding
So just in case: The movie is about a time in the not too distant future when
mutants have begun appearing. Each seems to be unique and all have unusual
abilities. The X-Men are a group of mutants organized by Professor Charles
Xavier (Patrick Stewart: STAR
a powerful mutant his own self. In fact I had no idea just how powerful
until I saw this movie. The Professor runs a school for the gifted
in Westchester, New York.
Other subplots from the first film are continued, like Wolverine's romantic interest
in fellow mutant Jean Grey (Famke Janssen: DEEP
RISING, THE FACULTY, HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL , X-MEN). Jean is involved with Cyclops
(James Marsden: DISTURBING
BEHAVIOR, THE X-MEN), and has other problems besides
being the focus of a love triangle. Her mutant abilities, telepathy and
telekinesis, have been growing stronger lately and she doesnt know why.
Mutants are feared by most normal humans and there are those who want mutants
rounded up and confined, but even so tensions have been somewhat reduced
since the first movie. All that changes when a very unusual mutant attacks
the president in the White House! The mutant, known as Nightcrawler (Alan
Cumming: GOLDENEYE), has the ability to teleport, making him difficult
Of course, public opinion and government action swing wildly against the "mutant
problem". The president calls for ideas and General William Stryker
(Brian Cox: the ORIGINAL Hannibal Lector in MANHUNTER, THE RING)
steps forward. He has satellite photos proving that Professor Xaviers
school for the gifted is more than it seems.
Arguing against action is Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison: APT PUPIL, THE X-MEN, DAHMER)
who those of us who saw the first movie remember is dead. The lovely and dangerous metamorph known as Mystique (Rebecca
Romijn-Stamos: THE X-MEN)
has taken his place and I must give kudos to actor Bruce Davision here.
In several scenes some very subtle female vibes are generated by the way
he walks or gestures, like a woman doing a not-quite-perfect imitation
of a man.
WHOA! OH! I GET IT! YOU WANT ME TO PUT MY GUN DOWN! NO PROBLEM! NO PROBLEM! SEE? GUN GOING DOWN!
Mystique is a mutant but she's not a goody-goody like the X-Men. She belongs to
a different organization headed by the currently imprisoned Magneto (Ian
McKellan: APT PUPIL, LORD OF THE RINGS, THE X-MEN). Magneto believes that mutants
are superior and simply cannot co-exist with inferior humans.
Lots of characters, right? Wait, theres more. The teen mutants are here
too, including Rogue (Anna Paquin: DARKNESS, THE X-MEN), her boyfriend Iceman (Shawn Ashmore:THE
X-MEN, WOLF GIRL [TV])
and their troubled friend Pyro (Aaron Stanford:
25th HOUR). They aren't official "X-Men" yet but
they become involved in various adventures.
There is, of course, one more character of great significance: Storm (Halle
Berry: THE X-MEN).
Storm is a mutant of tremendous power with the ability to control the
weather. She calls up tornados and thunderstorms whenever the mood strikes
her. The things she does are almost as awesome to behold as the beautiful
Halle Berry is herself. I was looking forward to seeing more of her and
learning more about her character in this movie but that was not to be.
There are just too many characters and too much focus on Wolverine. In
fact the Oscar winning Ms. Berry has publicly stated that she was disappointed with her small role and wont be playing Storm again.
That complaint aside, there is a lot to like here. Circumstances force the X-Men to work
with Magneto and Mystique and we almost forget that Magneto's agenda
is just as evil as Stryker's. Magneto's escape from his metal-free
prison is a lot of fun to watch and Mystique's character is given
some more depth. But before I say any more I think it's time for
I want to say something about physics and biology (which,
like all sciences, is a mere subset of physics).
Biology first. Narration and conversation at several points make references
to mutants being the next stage in evolution and they compare
their situation with the conflict between Neanderthals and
Cro-Magnons. Both points of view are inaccuracies based on the common
misconception that evolution is some mysterious force driving life toward
greater intelligence and that we (and now mutants)
are the pinnacles of that achievement. In fact, evolution could care less
how smart you are. All evolution cares about is how good you are at reproducing.
If being dumber helped, then each generation dumber people would produce
more offspring until the human species was gradually replaced by a less
intelligent breed (Hey, wait a minute
For more information, read THE SCIENCE
Back to the movie. As I've hinted it's ultimately a mixed bag of good
and bad, but mostly good. The worst moment comes when an actor who shall
remain nameless has to portray grief at a great loss and comes off as
theatrically challenged. But the many awe-inspiring scenes and fascinating
characters make up for a lot. I give X2 a rating of three out of five on the shriek girl scale.
copyright 2003 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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