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X2: X-Men United (****)
Directed by Brian Singer
Written by Michael Doughty and Dan Harris, from a story by David Hayler, Zak Penn, and Brian Singer, based on ideas and characters stolen from Wilmar H. Shiras, Jack Kirby, Len Wein, Chris Claremont, and Barry Windsor-Smith
Principal Cast
Patrick Stewart -- Professor Charles Xavier
Hugh Jackman -- Logan/Wolverine
Ian McKellen -- Erik Lensherr/Magneto
Halle Berry -- Storm
Famke Janssen -- Dr. Jean Grey
James Marsden -- Scott Summers
Rebecca Romijn-Stamos -- Mystique/Raven Darkholme
Brian Cox -- William Stryker
Alan Cumming -- Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler
Bruce Davison -- Senator Robert Kelly
Anna Paquin -- Rogue
Kelly Hu -- Yuriko Oyama
Aaron Stanford -- John Allerdyce/Pyro
Shawn Ashmore -- Bobby Drake/Iceman
Katie Stuart -- Kitty Pryde
Ratings are based on Rick's four star system.
One star - the commercials are more entertaining than the viewing.
Two stars - watch if you have nothing better to do.
Three stars - good solid entertainment.
Four stars - you never dreamed viewing could be this good.
Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rick Norwood

X2: X-Men United The three greatest fantasy novels of the 20th Century (not counting children's fantasy) are The Lord of the Rings, Gormenghast, and The Once and Future King.

Director Brian Singer pays tribute to The Once and Future King -- we see both the villain Magneto and the hero Professor X reading that book.

X2: X-Men United, easily the best movie so far this year, is a long way from making the best of the century list, even if we limit ourselves to the less than three years of the 21st century. However, it is a lot of fun, full of clever bits, skillfully told.

Except for one big dumb moment in the middle, the plot is nicely handled. In the A story, we have a well crafted three-way struggle between the good, the bad, and the ugly, featuring the adult mutants. Neatly woven throughout is a B story involving the younger generation of X-Men, especially Pyro, whose story arc is the inverse of Nightcrawler.

Nightcrawler is particularly well handled. He is a Christian mutant, though presumably not of that peculiar flavor of Christianity that denies evolution. A mutant who denies evolution would be like the proverbial Christian Scientist with appendicitis. In the opening, Nightcrawler bamfs spectacularly through the Oval Office, and at the end he saves the day with an act of faith.

The film is uncompromising. If you don't already know who all of the X-Men are and what their powers are, you are wasting way too much time on getting a life. I particularly enjoyed Kitty Pride -- maybe in the next film her name will be spoken out loud -- or not. How do you sell to an audience of muggles a character named after a sanitary product for cats?

And I enjoyed the bashful Beast's blink-and-you-miss-it cameo.

Trivia question: What is Cyclops' secret identity in the first issue of X-Men (it changed by issue #3).

The big dumb moment in the middle comes when Magneto knows in advance, inexplicably, within a few yards, where the X-Plane is fated to crash. Aside from that, the plot almost seems to make sense. Although I'm not sure what power Rogue uses to pump the life force out of Pyro into the dead policemen without killing Pyro in the process. And then there's Cyclops' all too timely recovery from Stryker's hypno-juice. Well, there I go, with my lean and hungry look, thinking too much.

The ending of X2 will seem strange to the majority of the audience, who have not taken X-Men 101. I wonder if they will think X2 is imitating Star Trek: Nemesis. I hope not. You can only get away with killing Spock once. Those of us who have read issue 101 of X-Men know that the ending of X2 is really a teaser for X3, a suspicion confirmed by a careful reading of the credit crawl.

And if X2 sends you to to buy a copy of The Once and Future King, it will have turned you on to an even greater entertainment than Marvel Comics.

Copyright © 2003 Rick Norwood

Rick Norwood is a mathematician and writer whose small press publishing house, Manuscript Press, has published books by Hal Clement, R.A. Lafferty, and Hal Foster. He is also the editor of Comics Revue Monthly, which publishes such classic comic strips as Flash Gordon, Sky Masters, Modesty Blaise, Tarzan, Odd Bodkins, Casey Ruggles, The Phantom, Gasoline Alley, Krazy Kat, Alley Oop, Little Orphan Annie, Barnaby, Buz Sawyer, and Steve Canyon.

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