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X2 (2003)

The mutants are revolting . . again

Directed by:

Brian Helgeland

Bryan Singer

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 120 minutes

UK Certificate: 12a

Country: United States, United States

Three years after the original movie wowed worldwide audiences, Wolverine, Storm, Cyclops and co. are back – and this time, they've got an even bigger budget.

“X2” picks up more or less where “X-Men” left off, with Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) safely back at his “School for Gifted Youngsters”, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) off on another walk-about in search of his past, and all-round bad seed Magneto (Ian McKellen) still banged up in his plastic cell. The difference this time round is that the two mutant factions, at loggerheads when last we saw them, are now being forced to work together against a mutual threat: us pesky humans.

Mistrust of mutants among the human population has escalated thanks to an attack on the President by a behoofed German teleporter by the name of Nightcrawler (an on-form Alan Cumming). All is not what it at first seems, however, and we soon learn that the real threat to mutant-kind is General Stryker (Brian Cox), a nasty piece of work with a complicated past involving military science (whatever that might mean).

In many ways it's a better film than the original: the plot is deeper, the characters more developed, and the FX even more impressive. The new characters also help to keep things fresh and there are even some new hairdos going around, though you'll be relieved to hear Prof Xavier's resisted the temptation to go for a toupee and Wolverine's still got colossal mutton chops.

If it has a downside, it's that's it's practically impossible to follow if you haven't seen the original, and pretty darn complicated even if you have. At times the underlying prejucdice-versus-acceptance morality of it all sits uncomfortably with the constant stream of violence, and the whole point of the “war” itself veers dangerously close to getting lost amid the confusing stream of sub-plots.

Despite all that, the visuals are at times amazing, and the all-star cast alone makes this one of the must-see movies of the year. It's a hugely ambitious project but you can bet it'll pay off – and, inevitably, that it won't be the last. You wouldn't need to be a mind-reader of Professor Xavier-sized proportions to guess that a third outing for the X-Men is just around the corner.

It's Got: More special powers than you can shake an exceptionally large stick at.

It Needs: Much like the first one, to make more use of Halle Berry.

Alternatives:

Shrek, Wild Wild West, X-Men

Summary

Another Marvel-inspired triumph that’s at least as good as the original, if not slightly better – but be prepared for a deeply confusing couple of hours if you haven’t seen that first one.

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