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X-Men 2 - first look and US reaction



Preview by: Jack Foley

THE battle has barely begun for Box Office supremacy this Christmas, yet the first shots are already being fired for next year's blockbusters. Already, we have the prospect of the Matrix sequels, the latest from Harry Potter and, of course, the final installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy - but there is plenty more to look forward to.

In terms of sequels, few come much bigger than X-Men 2, the follow-up to one of the biggest hits of 2000. And the good news is that all of the components which helped to make the original such a success, are largely back in place.

Bryan (The Usual Suspects) Singer is once again directing, while superhero favourites Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Pquin), Storm (Halle Berry), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and, of course, Dr Xavier (Patrick Stewart) will be fighting the evil likes of Sir Ian McKellen's malevolent Magneto and some even nastier villains.

Very little is known about the plot at the moment, but Internet movie site, Movies.com, indicates that the mutants will be faced with even more discrimination after an unforeseen enemy - possibly a mutant with extraordinary powers - launches an attack, prompting renewed support for the Mutant Registration Act.

Enter Brian (Manhunter) Cox's William Stryker, a military leader who is rumored to have experimented on mutants (including, possibly, Wolverine), who plans to eradicate the mutants and begins his own offensive on the X-Men mansion and school.

The offensive forces Magneto, who has escaped from his plastic prison, to form an unlikely alliance with Professor Xavier, while an increasingly angry Wolverine heads north to investigate his past.

According to Singer (in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, recently), X-Men 2 promises to be 'a little more intense than the last one' and has been compared to another dark middle chapter, The Empire Strikes Back. Posters and teaser trailers are already starting to appear, while the official X-Men 2 website is now up and running (and can be accessed via the link above).

As well as featuring most, if not all, of the original cast members, the sequel also boasts a dazzling array of goodies and baddies. Lining up with Wolverine and co, is John 'Pyro' Allerdyce (Aaron Stanford, of Tadpole fame), who can manipulate fire, while appearing for the dark side is Yuriko Oyama (pictured right, and played by Kelly Hu), who is described by Singer as 'part of a new breed of bad... very bad'.

According to the comic source, Yuriko is described as 'Lady Deathstryke' and while the movie has no plans to refer to her in that way, Singer maintains that she will certainly earn that reputation, appearing as a bitter adversary to Wolverine, even though they share a similar trait (that of claws).

Speaking at a recent press conference to launch the movie, Singer went on to promise that audiences will 'get to see everybody's weaker side', much in the same way as they did with the aforementioned Empire Strikes Back, while Jackman (the breakaway star of the first film) maintained that Wolverine's 'personal demons are really investigated'.

US REACTION...

X-Men 2 enjoyed a simultaneous release date in the UK and US and has, thus far, generated some pretty good reviews on both sides of the Atlantic.

Aside from being IndieLondon's movie of the week, it also struck a chord with the likes of Village Voice, which described it as 'funny, reasonably crazy, and unpretentiously faithful to its source'.

Philadelphia Weekly felt that it was 'a significant improvement over the original in nearly every way', while Planet Sick-Boy proclaimed that, 'for once, the trailers don't lie... this is really good – better than the first, actually, and maybe even in the same company as Spider-Man'.

Entertainment Weekly awarded it a near-perfect B+ and wrote that it 'sparkles with a lightness of spirit that was missing from 'X-Men', while E! Online went one better, with a straight A, and the verdict, 'the X-Men franchise … has gone two for two in getting it just right'.

The New York Post, meanwhile, referred to it as 'a lavish, reasonably intelligent, well-acted sequel, with kick-butt effects that outdoes its predecessor … in almost every department'. It awarded the film an impressive three out of four.

And the New York Times felt that it 'succeeds pretty well in rising to the challenge that most sequels face'.

Variety felt that it was 'about twice as good as the original', while Hollywood Reporter felt that it 'explodes with ass-kicking style and sass'.

Less impressed, however, was LA Weekly, which wrote that 'neither [Singer] nor the actors onscreen seem to be having much fun', while Film Threat felt that 'what the movie needs more than anything is a script'.

Worse still, Slant Magazine opined that it 'fails in almost every way you can think of'.

But the negative notices were few and far between, with the majority hailing Singer's blockbuster as the first genuine event movie of the Summer season and a must-see for any fan of the franchise.

Hollywood.com, for instance, furthered the accolades, by writing that 'X2: X-Men United is a thoroughly intriguing sequel in the X-Men series, a pure adrenaline ride. But with a weighty - and very important - message attached, the film also makes you think'.

The Montreal Film Journal, meanwhile, summed it up, perfectly, as 'first-rate popcorn cinema and a superfly awesome kick-off to the summer movie season', while the Washington Post felt that it 'moves with the lightning speed, raw power and athletic grace of, well, a genetically mutated superhero'.

And, finally, the Los Angeles Times draws this round-up to a close, by writing that X2 is 'brisk and involving with a streamlined forward propulsion, it's the kind of superhero movie we want if we have to have superhero movies at all'.

Follow the links on the right of this page to discover our verdict on the sequel.

 

 

 

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