X2: X-Men United

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Rating: PG-13

Starring:
Patrick Stewart as Professor Charles Xavier
Hugh Jackman as Logan/Wolverine
Ian McKellen as Erik Lehnsherr/Magneto
Halle Berry as Ororo Munroe/Storm
Famke Janssen as Dr. Jean Grey
James Marsden as Scott Summers/Cyclops
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mystique/Raven Darkholme
Brian Cox as Gen. William Stryker
Alan Cumming as Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
Bruce Davison as Senator Robert Kelly
Anna Paquin as Marie D’Ancanto/Rogue
Kelly Hu as Yuriko Oyama
Aaron Stanford as John Allerdyce/Pyro
Katie Stuart as Katherine “Kitty” Pryde/Shadowcat
Michael Reid MacKay as Mutant 143
Keely Purvis as Little Girl 143
Shawn Ashmore as Bobby Drake/Iceman
Kea Wong as Jubilee
Daniel Cudmore as Piotr Rasputin/Colossus
Connor Widdows as Jones
Bryce Hodgson as Artie
Shauna Kain as Theresa Cassidy/Siryn
Cotter Smith as President McKenna

Special Features:

Commentary

Bryan Singer and Tom Sigel
Lauren Schuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter

History Of The X-Men

The Secret Origin Of The X-Men
Nightcrawler Reborn

Pre Production

Nightcrawler Attack – Multi-Angle Study
Evolution In The Details – Designing X2
United Colors Of X

Production

Wolverine/Deathstryke Fight Rehearsal
The Second Uncanny Issue Of X-Men: Making Of X2
Introducing The Incredible Nightcrawler
Nightcrawler Stunt Rehersal
Nightcrawler Time Lapse
FX2 – Visual Effects

Post Production

Requiem For Mutants: The Score Of X2
X2 Global Webcast Highlights

Deleted Scenes

Extended Wolverine / Deathstryke Fight
Wolverine Kills The Intruder
Mystique In Stryker’s Files
Nightcrawler Bamfs To Save The Students
Jean And Storm In The Jet
Jubilee At The Museum
Pyro Starts The Campfire
One Of The Children Is Sick After Bamfing
Rogue Helps The Children Escape
Professor X And Cyclops Escape
Arriving To An Empty School

Galleries

Characters
Locations And Sets
Mutant X-Rays
Nightcrawler Circus Posters
On Camera Graphics
The Unseen X-Men

Trailers

Trailers A, B, C

Other Info:
Widescreen
Dolby 5.1 Digital Surround Sound
5.1 DTS Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language Tracks
English and Spanish Subtitles

Synopsis:
X-Men 2 (or “X2″ as it is called in the movie) picks up shortly after the first film. Wolverine continues his quest to learn about his past, but he has little luck finding anything. Rogue has also formed a romantic relationship with her fellow classmate Bobby Drake, aka Iceman.

Meanwhile, the President is attacked in the White House by a teleporting rogue mutant. This prompts a public outcry against mutants and authorization of action against them by the President. Stryker, a special operations military official, pushes the President to allow him to attack Charles Xavier’s school for mutants. Believing it is a training ground for secret mutant operations (which it is), the President authorizes the operation. Little does he know that Stryker controls the mind of the rogue mutant, named Nightcrawler, and he has his own reasons for wanting to attack the X-Men’s school. Stryker also happens to hold the key to Wolverine’s past.

When the school is attacked, it’s up to Wolverine and the children to defend themselves alone. As our mutant heroes are sent their separate ways into hiding, Stryker also captures Professor Xavier. To make matters worse, Jean Grey has begun to lose control of her powers and exhibit incredible new abilities. As the X-Men face their darkest hour, their only hope may lie with their former enemies, Magneto and Mystique.

X-Men 2 is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action/violence, some sexuality and brief language.

The Movie:
One of the best comic book movies ever made finally arrives on DVD. X-Men 2 is one of those rare sequels that surpasses the original. It has more action, better effects, better music, cool new characters, and more of the elements that made the first film great. Bryan Singer compared this film to “The Empire Strikes Back”, and that’s an accurate description. Both are darker, and arguably better, than their predecessors. Both have the main characters splitting up for separate adventures. Both have major new revelations about the characters, as well as new romances. Both have a main character basically frozen in carbonite at the end, only to be revived in the sequel.

I’m a long time reader of the Marvel Comics, so I’ll approach this review from the perspective of an X-Men comics fan. Like in the original, there are tons of hidden references to impress you. There are cameos by Hank McCoy (not in Beast form), Colossus (who I wanted to see more of), Siryn, Shadowcat, Artie, and others. I hate to disappoint Gambit fans, but he’s not in this one beyond his name appearing on a text “hit list” of Stryker’s. There are more references to the Barry Windsor Smith Weapon X comics, classic Claremont and Byrne issues, and more. It all comes together nicely. But I must say that the biggest shocker for comics readers is that the Phoenix storyline fully kicks in here. We get a slightly different take of Jean Grey saving the X-Men in the shuttle, but it’s all here. I was amazed at just how far they took it by the end of the film. There’s no question now what will be in X-Men 3.

Fans of the characters from the original movie will still be happy with their incarnations in the sequel. Wolverine gets to go into full beserker mode (Iceman gives a great reaction to this). He also has some romance with Jean Grey that further develops. Jean Grey gets a heck of a lot of screen time while Mystique turns into a more and more interesting character. She’s no longer simply a draw for the male audiences (though she still is, really). She provides some of the cooler and more suspenseful moments in the film. It seems like you could almost create a spy movie around Mystique. Fans of Magneto will be glad to see him return. I thought he’d be a softie in this movie since he teams with the good guys, but I was wrong. He does have a bit of a sense of humor in the movie, but he’s as deadly as ever. His escape from the plastic prison is one of the more ingenious uses of powers in the film.

Amazingly, the new characters more than hold their own against the original characters. Nightcrawler opens the film with a jaw dropping attack on the White House. His scene is one of the cooler action sequences on the big screen this year. The film is really faithful to the comic character. They retain his circus background, his strong Christian faith, his look, and his sense of humor. His teleportation power is stunning and they practically use every trick you’ve seen in the comics to great effect. He has a great rescue scene in the movie that I won’t ruin. He’s definitely going to be one of the favorites from the movie. Iceman is a stud and a great good guy. His role diminishes through the film, but he has some fun romantic moments with Rogue and he has some cool scenes to show off his powers. He’s a great contrast to Pyro, another awesome new mutant. He’s cocky, brash, and an egomaniac. Of course he gravitates to Magneto, and this is done to great effect in the movie. Though Deathstryke doesn’t have many lines, she ends up being more than a match for Wolverine. They have a fantastic battle together that is better than his fight with Sabretooth in the first film. Stryker is also a first rate bad guy. He’s complex and not your typical mutant supervillain. It’s great to see him in action.

The effects in X-Men 2 are a lot better this time around. I only thought one scene looked really CG, and it was so brief that it was forgivable. Overall, everything else looked great. I thought the music was a lot better this time, too. John Ottman does a great job with the music (he even co-edited the film), but there’s still no recognizable “X-Men Theme” like that for Superman or Batman. In the end I just found it a better movie all the way around.

I have little, if anything, to complain about with X-Men 2. Fans of Cyclops may be disappointed that he has little screentime. What little he has, though, he makes the most of. His are some of the most dramatic in the film. Fans of Deathstrike may be disappointed, too. While she has a great fight with Wolverine, she does little else. None of her background is explored at all. However, that, too, is forgivable. There’s only so much they could do with so many characters in such a short amount of time.

X-Men 2 is not only a great comic movie, it’s one of the better sequels ever made. It’s rare to have a combination of great story, cast, effects, action, and attention to character. Hopefully it continues to be a Marvel trademark. The DVD presentation also looks and sounds fantastic. The surround sound from the film will give your home theater a tremendous workout.

The Extras:
As you might expect, X-Men 2 gets the royal treatment when it comes to the DVD presentation. Flashy menus are bypassed for emphasis on content in this 2 disc set:

Commentary – There are two commentaries on this DVD set. The first is with Bryan Singer and Tom Sigel. Singer really keeps the conversation going and hands out all sorts of trivia on the story, filming, and other things. Since Sigel is a friend of Singer’s, the two clown around quite a bit. During the credits they go into a long joke about how X-Men 3 would be a musical. The second commentary features Lauren Schuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter. This is probably the more interesting of the two for X-Fans because the writers go into heavy detail about what was left out of the film, what was cut from the script, how they developed ideas, and more. One of their more interesting comments come during the X-Mansion invasion where they talk about the various powers that they had wanted the kids to show but had to drop. (Multiple Man was considered, Jubilee would show powers, etc.) Their geek status really shines here and you have to love them for it. Donner also gives great insight into the production process and casting. Overall, these are two of the best commentaries I’ve heard on a DVD. They were a little hard to find on Disc 1, though. They were tucked away in the “Languages” portion of the disc. (Hopefully that will change on the final release of the DVD.)

History Of The X-Men

The Secret Origin Of The X-Men – This is a short documentary on the creation of the X-Men comic. Stan Lee and Chris Claremont both appear and talk about the origins of the characters, then some of the movie cast and crew talk about what it took to get it made into a film. This documentary seems to use a bit of interview footage from the first film, but it’s still quite interesting.

Nightcrawler Reborn – Chris Claremont and one of the writers of the Nightcrawler prequel comic talk about the origins of the character. They discuss different aspect of his character, how he’s changed over the years, and more. Many of the extras on this DVD are focused on Nightcrawler and this is the first of them. It’s pretty cool especially if you’re not familiar with the comic books.

Pre Production

Nightcrawler Attack – Multi-Angle Study – This shows how the elaborate opening sequence was developed. You can look at animatics of the scene, shots without effects, and the final footage. Hitting the angle button on your remote will toggle between them. It’s interesting to see how close the final product was to the original animatic.

Evolution In The Details – Designing X2 – The set designer from the film gives a guided tour of the sets and locations from the movie. From the mansion to the museum to the plastic prison, you’re shown every nook and cranny of where they shot. The fine attention to detail is amazing and you are shown things you wouldn’t have otherwise spotted in the movie including fiber optic cameras in Magneto’s cell, exhibits on mutation in the museum, and more.

United Colors Of X – The costume designer from the movie gives you a close look at the main costumes from the film. I didn’t realize it, but Jean Grey’s costumes and jewelry all featured phoenix symbols. Nightcrawler’s coat, splattered with shiny paint, is also shown. Again, the attention to detail is very apparent and appreciated.

Production

Wolverine/Deathstryke Fight Rehearsal – In order to prepare for this major fight scene, two stunt doubles act out the entire thing on video camera without effects. It certainly gives you greater appreciation for how much work they put into it.

The Second Uncanny Issue Of X-Men: Making Of X2 – This is the major featurette among the DVD extras. At about an hour long, it’s your standard behind the scenes feature. It has interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more. It also has the only blooper / gag scene (that I found) on the whole DVD. As the X-Men stare imposingly at the President from the dark Oval Office, Jean Grey runs in and says, “Sorry I’m late! I had to park the jet.” Then she, Cyclops, and Wolverine joke back and forth. It’s a funny way to end the feature.

Introducing The Incredible Nightcrawler – Continuing the emphasis on the fuzzy elf, this video talks about the makeup for the character, casting Alan Cumming, details on the costume, the tail, and more. Alan Cumming is shown training in full costume with a motion acting coach. It’s quite an in-depth looking at the character and his creation. Nightcrawler fans will be especially pleased.

Nightcrawler Stunt Rehersal – This shows the stuntmen practicing the entire opening fight scene on video camera. It’s odd to see it played out by people not in costume, but it’s still quite impressive on its own.

Nightcrawler Time Lapse – This is a time-lapse look at the application of the Nightcrawler makeup on Alan Cumming. It becomes quite apparent that it’s a time intensive and laborious process. Cumming repeatedly says he was going to go mad through it and you can see why. Now if we can only get a Mystique time-lapse feature all would be right with the universe.

FX2 – Visual Effects - This is probably the second longest feature on the DVD. All of the major effects sequences are explained in great detail. These include the “Bamf” effects, the X-Jet chase, Magneto’s escape from prison, the dam breaking, and more. The creators go into incredible technical detail explaining the bamf effects and the tornadoes. In fact, I can’t recall ever having heard a more technical explanation on a “Making Of” feature, and it’s quite interesting. My only wish is that they had shown the creation of the Colossus effects.

Post Production

Requiem For Mutants: The Score Of X2 – Fans of John Ottman will be quite pleased with this feature. The composer talks extensively about the music in the film and the themes for each of the characters. We see behind the scenes footage of the recording of the music and a visit to the recording sessions by Patrick Stewart and Bryan Singer. Ottman makes many references to John Williams, James Horner, and others and it’s quite inspiring to hear that he’s as much a fan of their work as I am.

X2 Global Webcast Highlights – On the eve of the release of the film, the official website for X2 hosted video chats with each of the major cast and crew. It included Bryan Singer, Hugh Jackman, Alan Cumming, Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, Famke Janssen, and many others. There are so many people interviewed that that each gets in little more than one question and answer, but by the end you definitely feel like you got the highlights. Some of the responses are good, like Jackman talking about how he was the victim of a practical joke on the set that left him naked in front of the entire female crew. Other responses are rather boring. Some online fans asked what the cast would do if they met a mutant. Anyway, it’s nice to still have this included on the DVD.

Deleted Scenes

Extended Wolverine / Deathstryke Fight – To be quite honest, there’s not a whole lot that was cut from the original fight scene. What is put back in here, though, does add to the brutality of the fight. Wolverine gives Deathstryke a few more vicious stabs with the claws, but that’s about the extent of it. Most people aren’t going to notice a difference between this and the theatrical version.

Wolverine Kills The Intruder – This scene is almost identical to the theatrical version. The only difference is that we see Wolverine give his primal scream a little longer.

Mystique In Stryker’s Files – Comic geeks will love this. While 95% of this scene is exactly the same, there is one brief, major difference. Mystique pulls up a file on Nightcrawler. When she does, she basically does a double take and then starts going through the file in detail. It hints much more that she is his mother.

Nightcrawler Bamfs To Save The Students – This is almost identical to the original scene as well except that we see Nightcrawler teleport into the room where the prison cell holds the kids.

Jean And Storm In The Jet – In this cut scene we see Jean try out her powers to fly the jet. She lets go of the controls and begins flying it with the Phoenix force. It’s a cool moment that’s ruined a little later when Storm teases her about Wolverine returning. Is he the source of her loss of focus? “Not!” declares Jean. It’s cheesy and well left on the cutting room floor.

Jubilee At The Museum – At the museum, Jubilee breaks away from the other kids to check out an exhibit on mutants. There are all sorts of interesting displays showing hideous genetic mutations. (You can even spot an x-ray of Angel’s wings.) She then briefly tries out her powers and wee see electricity zap between her fingers. It’s a cool moment for Jubilee fans.

Pyro Starts The Campfire – This is an ever-so-brief scene at the campsite where we see Pyro torch the campfire and singe Rogue and Iceman. It’s the first sign of his resentment towards them.

One Of The Children Is Sick After Bamfing – After Nightcrawler “bamfs” one of the children from Stryker’s prison, he proceeds to barf on the floor. The scene is gross and is also better left from the final cut, but it is faithful to the comic. Characters would often become physically ill from teleporting with Nightcrawler, a fact otherwise not mentioned in the movie.

Rogue Helps The Children Escape – During the X-Mansion invasion, Rogue shows one group of kids an escape route. She gives them directions on where to go for help, then returns to Bobby and Pyro. It answers the lingering question of where the kids went to after escaping.

Professor X And Cyclops Escape – Cyclops didn’t get much screentime in the movie, but we see a little more of him in the deleted scenes. Here, Xavier breaks the control of Mutant 143 and then proceeds to take over the mind of one of the guards. He breaks out Cyclops and they escape back to the X-Mansion. Unfortunately, it’s all just another illusion to get Xavier to cooperate. The scene probably would have thrown off general audiences and is probably better left out.

Arriving To An Empty School – Cyclops and Xavier, still under an illusion, arrive back at the mansion. This leads into Xavier’s encounter with the “little girl”.

Galleries – The galleries hold a great collection of production art from the film. They include concepts for the characters including Deathstryke, Nightcrawler, Wolverine, and others. Also included are the x-rays from the Alkali Lake facility. You can see x-rays from Angel, Wolverine, and other unknown mutants. The collection of movie images is so in-depth that they even include stencils used to paint the X-Jet, the underground base, and other locations. Nightcrawler’s circus posters (featuring his comic costume) are also shown. The real highlight is in the “Unseen X-Men” section. In this we see concepts that weren’t used in the film including Danger Room artwork, Danger Room storyboards, concepts for Archangel, and even the Sentinels. The Sentinels look like odd combinations of Transformers, the Destroyer Droids from Star Wars, and the Sentinels from the comic book. It will be interesting to see what they look like when they are eventually seen in a sequel.

The Bottom Line:
Not only is X-Men 2 one of the best movies of the summer of 2003, but it’s one of the best comic movies ever made. Between the amazing extras features, incredible sound, and stunning picture, this is a required addition to your DVD collection.

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