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X-MEN 2

SYNOPSIS:
A spectacular and daring attack on the US President apparently perpetrated by mutants triggers an outcry and calls for a Mutant Registration Act. Ex-military William Stryker (Brian Cox), who is rumoured to have experimented on mutants, is given the task of searching for the attackers, but his anti-mutant zeal drives him on a search and destroy mission, with his ultimate objective the total destruction of all mutants on Earth. Magneto (Ian McKellen), newly escaped from his plastic prison, proposes a partnership with the X-Men, to combat their common and formidable enemy – Stryker – while Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) searches his amnestic brain cells for clues to his origins, leading him towards Stryker. Even Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is made to play a crucial role in the deadly strike against mutants.

Review by Louise Keller:
Stylishly dark and visually thrilling with turbo-charged mutant action, X-Men 2 is a spectacle that delivers on every count. More violent and with a darker undertone than the original, this ‘evolution’ (as described by director Bryan Singer) takes the Marvel Comic book characters into a new level of adventure, allowing the X-Men universe to develop and grow along with the characters. Singer certainly has the magical X-factor when it comes to juggling the balance of spectacular effects with storyline, characters and music. The result is a complete and satisfying work that engages and excites from its rollercoaster opening credits to its impressive closing stunts. All our favourites are back with Hugh Jackman rippling with Hollywood muscle (literally), and offering the film’s romantic and sexually spiked moments. Halle Berry’s Storm exudes more electricity than ever – I am sure that as her eyes clouded over, a chilly breeze crept up in the cinema and lowered the temperature by 10 degrees! Ian McKellen’s commanding presence, beautifully counteracted by Patrick Stewart both act as weights to the whole saga, while Brian Cox’s tyrannical racist adversary Stryker makes a complex and strong villain, standing out from the rest because of his lack of showy, outstanding characteristics. The blue-skinned metamorph Mystique is blatantly sexual this time around, clad only in an eye-boggling body-paint costume, morphing at will into anyone and everyone. So too Stryker’s side-kick part-mutant Deathstrike, with actress Kelly Hu’s black-belt proficiency displayed by an exhilaratingly choreographed, climactic showdown with Wolverine. The newly introduced blue mutant Nightcrawler with elf-like ears and a prehistoric tail makes an interesting addition, as he mutters constantly in German and hides under his cloak of insecurity, while Anna Paquin reinforces her appealing character of Rogue. Admittedly, there may be a few too many ‘Are you okay?’-type phrases scattered throughout, but let’s face it, this is an experience that relies heavily on character establishment and effects, rather than verbal eloquence. The scale of the special effects is awesome and we are immersed in sensory exuberance. Great attention has been paid to detail and the production design is immaculate. Even the score – a resounding, dense musical bombardment – concludes at the same precise moment as the conclusion of the myriads of end credits. And there are many credits. If you sit through them all, you will notice that there is a different crew for each sequence – this is indeed moviemaking on a big scale. The X-Men franchise is alive and well – now we just have to wait for the next in the instalment.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Bryan Singer is right: this isn’t a sequel, and yes, it IS an evolution. X-Men 2 has evolved the Marvel characters to a new level of cinematic genes, where they are …er….more human. Of course they are also superhuman, and their powers provide the pyrotechnics (literally, in the case of Pyro) that Singer harnesses for the film’s spectacular action sequences. Being flights of fancy and wish fulfilment material, X-Men nevertheless touches on issues that can be taken seriously – gawd forbid, of course, we’re just here to be entertained. There are enough of these hooks to keep the film aloft, hovering somewhere between top-end science fiction and high-end action/adventure, with touches of personal drama to give the film a sense of real dimension. The extensive effects are powerful magic, and always in service of the story. The two familiar oldies in the cast, McKellen and Stewart, add gravitas (and solidly rounded Queen’s English) while the young newcomers add teen angst to balance things out. The pace is fast but never so hectic that we lose the plot, which is at once accessible and awesomely formidable, as it should be in Marvel-land. Incidentally, you don’t have to be a mutant-ite to get this film, but it may help with backstories, like why it is that mutants are almost indestructible (self-healing for the most part, anyway) yet senior X-Man Prof. Charles Xavier is wheelchair bound. Look it up. Singer’s direction is a seamless result of his overall vision for a film that can teleport its audience from exterior locations to intimate duets at will, supported by a great score, clever editing (score & editing by John Ottman) and X-ellent performances from mutants like Hugh Jackman (Huge Jackman, actually, looking at his torso), Halle Berry, Famke Jenssen, and Alan Cumming in the important support role of Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler, while Brian Cox delivers gripping work in his supercharged role as the deadly, powerful baddie - and all of them brilliantly lit and shot. If nothing succeeds like success, then let’s hope the X-Men will mutate again, in Singer’s film lab.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 2
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

The X-Men universe is designed to expand REPORTS Andrew Urban
TRAILER

X-MEN 2 (aka X2) (M)
(US)

CAST: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davison, Anna Paquin, Kelly Hu

PRODUCER: Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter

DIRECTOR: Bryan Singer

SCRIPT: Daniel P. Harris (Story Hayter, Zak Penn; Comic book/characters: Stan Lee)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Newton Thomas Sigel

EDITOR: John Ottman, Elliott Graham co-editor

MUSIC: John Ottman

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Guy Dyas

RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Fox

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 30, 2003







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