Fox // 2003 // 134 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Roman Martel (Retired) // July 3rd, 2011
Fox releases on Blu-ray what many people have called the greatest superhero film yet made. Let's see how that little blast of hyperbole stands up after another viewing of X2: X-Men United.
X2 is a direct sequel to the first film, and it carries the themes and plotlines forward toward the definitive climax that occurs in X-Men: The Last Stand. But this film manages to avoid middle movie syndrome and tells a complete and satisfying story on its own.
Just when Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Gnomeo and Juliet) and his mutant pals thought things were going to calm down, especially with Magneto (Ian McKellen, Apt Pupil) behind plastic bars, a crazed mutant attacks the President of The United States. Before you can say suspicious, William Stryker (Brian Cox, The Bourne Supremacy) advises the President to take action against the mutants, specifically the ones at Xavier's school.
The school is attacked while nearly all the members of the X-Men are on various missions, leaving Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, Happy Feet) watching the kids. Wolverine is able to get many of the students away from the attack squad, but several are captured in the obviously military operation.
Now the hunt is on, as Stryker executes a plan to wipe out all the mutants from the earth. The X-Men have no choice but to join forces with Magneto and his crew to stop Stryker and prevent an all out war between humans and mutants.
While Singer and his team were able to balance exposition and action fairly well in X-Men, the fact that it was the first film forced them to keep things simple and on a smaller scale. With X2 they were able to loosen the reins and focus on plot and action. It was also great to have the same creative team return, cementing the tone and atmosphere of the franchise.
The results are pretty effective. There's plenty of action, including highlights like the attack on the President, the raid on the school, and the deadly one on one battle between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu, The Scorpion King).
Halle Berry (Things We Lost in the Fire) continues to be the one miscast actor in the series. She's given a bit more meat this time, and it only enforces the fact that she does not have the presence required to play Storm. In nearly every scene she is just not convincing, especially compared to Famke Janssen (House on Haunted Hill) as Jean Grey who she shares the most time with.
As entertaining as the film is, I feel it runs just a bit too long. I'm not able to put my finger on what could be cut, but I think the main problem is that there are too many characters and not enough depth to them. When the film slows down to give us character moments they come across a bit heavy handed.
The finale also bashes us over the head during Xavier's ordeal, cutting back to it time an time again, in an effort to keep the audience aware that time is running out. I understand the mechanics of these scenes are to raise the tension, but I felt they actually slowed the finale down when it needed to remain fast paced.
In spite of this, the end of the film works fairly well, with the final battle claiming the life of a main character and setting up events for the next film. Fans of the X-Men Universe were very excited with the final shot of the movie, and while it cribs a bit from the end of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan it ended the film on a high note.
X2 is a good sequel, worth seeking out and enjoying if you were a fan of X-Men. It still falls a bit short, only because the characters are pretty thin. But with the vast amount of characters crammed into these films, it does the best job of balancing action, plot, and themes.
Disc One contains the movie sporting a nice 1080p transfer. Black levels are sharp and I didn't catch any noise in some of the more busy visual sequences. The DTS track adds a nice bit of punch to the film, but unfortunately it's balanced poorly. John Ottman's score and the sound effects are much louder than most of the dialogue and I ended up spending a lot of time adjusting the volume. I did a quick check of the English 5.1 dolby digital track, and the sound balance is much better, even if many of the sound effects lack the added depth that DTS delivers.
There are plenty of extras to explore over the two discs. Disc One sports two audio commentary tracks: one with director Singer and cinematographer Sigel, the other features the writers and producing team. Disc Two contains a whole slew of behind the scenes featurettes as well as a history of the franchise. You'll also find deleted scenes and still galleries. The theatrical trailers for X2 in high definition are icing on the mutant cake.
Fox delivers the movie and all the special features that appeared on the original DVD release of the film, so the upgrade is pretty seamless. If you don't mind blowing away your neighbors while listening to the DTS track and still making out the dialogue, I can easily recommend the upgrade.
Not the best superhero movie I've seen, but certainly not guilty.
Review content copyright © 2011 Roman Martel; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 134 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Deleted/Extended Scenes
* Photo Galleries