Thursday, 23 June 2011

100 days, 100 films; Day 7 - X-Men 2

#94 - X-Men 2

Now I grew up in the 90s so of course I watched the original X-Men cartoon religiously and I bought the Mutant Academy video game. I even watched X-Men Evolution (much better than the 90s series in every possible way). So of course it was brilliant when the X-Men got their own live action movie. I saw the first and third ones in the cinema, and these days I like them but the nostalgia filter is gone. The second one however is still the best one of them all.

The plot is actually pretty complicated since it incorporates a very large dynamic of characters. Okay let’s see...our main villain is William Striker (Brian Cox) who kidnaps Professor X and wants to manipulate him into using a copy of Cerebro to kill all mutants in the world with his psychic powers. Also Striker has some connection to Wolverine who keeps having flashbacks to the experiment that gave him his adamantium claws (guessed the pattern yet?) and of course he wants to reignite his little fling with Jean Grey. Speaking of Jean, she’s going through a bit of a power surge and is sensing something big is about to happen. And at the start of the film the new mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) attacks the president of the US and so Striker is given the green light to ransack the Xavier Institute. Oh and Mystique tries to break Magneto out of his plastic prison, and Rogue, Iceman, Storm, Pyro and Cyclops make an appearance too.

Despite how cluttered the plot seems to be on paper, it still makes for a very exciting and intriguing movie. Compared to the first film, there’s a lot more action in it and the action scenes are much better directed and choreographed. And in comparison to the third film, the pacing is a lot better and it flows a lot more smoothly than either of the other films. The best action scene would probably be when the soldiers attack the mansion and all the students have to escape. It’s basically big continuity porn for fans of the comic since we see cameos from Shadowcat, Colossus, Siryn among other people (I’ve never actually read the comics, I just know these things). 
Probably what sets this film apart from other bad superhero movies is that it focuses just as much on character development as the action. Most of the mutants get pretty decent screen time and lines out of the main cast and you don’t feel like any of the main characters got shafted. All of the performances are pretty good such as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen who are their usual awesome selves (feel free to join me in the regular Buddhist style chants at their shrines every midday). Alan Cumming fits in nicely as Nightcrawler, especially in his scenes with Storm. I was pretty shocked to find out that people don’t like Halle Berry as Storm when I couldn’t imagine anyone else as her. Thankfully she dropped the African accent she had in the first film. Another dark horse in the cast who doesn’t really get enough praise is Shawn Ashmore playing Bobby/Iceman. He’s a pretty talented young actor and I consider myself a fan after watching him in all the X-Men films (I haven’t started Buddhist chanting for him yet though). The scenes with his parents where he has to tell them about his being a mutant are pretty nice to watch with how strong the writing and performances are. Plus Bobby delivers one of the best lines in the film: “Mom, dad, this is professor Logan”

Speaking of whom, Hugh Jackman is still pretty badass in this film. True Wolverine is overhyped and over-promoted in all the X-Men material (except maybe Evolution) but Jackman really is the only guy who could pull him off. His performance is pretty good in the film and it probably helps that he doesn’t have a shirtless scene (apart from a two second flashback to him getting his claws). I thought Famke Janssen was alright as Jean though the hair was really off-putting. I guess every woman goes through the bad hair phase but wigs were invented for a reason. Sadly, despite all the good performances in this, James Marsden sticks out like a sore thumb. His love scenes with Jean just come across really forced and cringeworthy, especially the bit on the jet towards the end. I think I even saw him crack a smile during that scene. 

Okay, the drama scenes first; there are a lot of nice little scenes scattered throughout this film that help to make it more than the average popcorn action flick. I mentioned the scenes at Bobby’s parents’ house before and there’s another nice scene where Bobby and Rogue have their first kiss. The scenes between Storm and Nightcrawler are also pretty well done too. Call me a mushy bastard but I just love the line “someone so beautiful should not be so angry” and there’s another good scene between Mystique and Nightcrawler. He asks her why she doesn’t try to look like a normal person all the time and she replies “because we shouldn’t have to”, which gives her a bit more depth than the typical bad guy sidekick.

As for the action scenes, the best one is definitely the attack on the mansion but there’s also a pretty intense scene where Pyro decides he won’t “come quietly” and proceeds to “go loudly” by throwing fireballs at police cars. This is followed by another intense scene where two fighter jets chase them in the X-Jet and Storm has to conjure up tornadoes to save them all.

So yeah, the public is pretty much divided on superhero movies as a whole and even more divided on the X-Men films. In my opinion, this is up there with some of the better superhero films with a coherent plot, good pacing, exciting action scenes and actual character development. Bryan Singer is definitely the best guy to pick for directing these kinds of films (except maybe Christopher Nolan). So until next time and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter.

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