9 May 2003 - Seoul Backpacker's Inn, Seoul
X-Men 2

One thing you can say about Koreans is that they try to follow the clock. If a bus is meant to leave at 8.15, it'll leave at 8.15. Just about the only time I haven't seen this happen was when the driver thought there weren't enough people on the bus and he didn't want to leave anyone behind.

So when a film theatre says a show will begin at 1.00pm, you'd better believe that it means it will begin at 1pm, and not at 1.05, which is when I actually got in. OK, on the ticket it says 12.50pm, so there's probably ten minutes of adverts, but at the end of the day, I missed the first five minutes.

X-Men 2 is the sequel to hugely successful and stylish X-Men movie which more than did justice to the comic book series. The original managed to potray the charcters as people with emotions and feelings who happen to have super powers, instead of the other way round. X-Men 2 pretty much carries on in the same vein and succeeds, even though it suffers a little as it pulls some punches in anticipation of X-Men 3.

What I missed was probably a wonderful set-piece when Nightcrawler (the improbably cast Alan Cummings) battles secret service agents in an attempt to assassinate the President.

He fails, and Colonel Stryker uses this as an opportunity to persuade the President that something has to be done about the 'mutant menance'. He has managed to interrogate Magneto (who was captured in the first film) and now knows that Professor Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) school for the gifted is, in fact, a safe harbour for mutants to learn how to control their powers.

Professor Xavier is kidnapped and the school attacked. The colonel reveals himself to have ulterior motives and wants to use the professor to accomplish his mission to rid the world of mutants.

Meanwhile, the X-Men, without their leader, have to somehow regroup and in doing so, they make improbable allies to rescue Professor Xavier and save the world (again).

Because of the number of major characters (I make it 12), there are numerous side-plots. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) attempts to find out more about his past; Jean Grey (the scrumptious Famke Janssen) needs to come to terms with both her powers and her feeling for Wolverine and Cyclops (...); Iceman (...) and Rogue (Anna Paquin) attempt a romantic relationship with minimum physical contact (Rogue temporarily absorbs the power and energy of whomever she touches); Nightcrawler and Storm (Halle Berry) learn from one another the meaning of trust; and Magneto attempts to persuade all, including Pyro (...), that mutants are Homo Superior and should rule over the human race. Surprisingly, Professor Xavier's role is confined to being a McGuffin and only exists to serve the plot.

It is to the movie's credit that it somehow manages to keep it all sensible and to make all the sub-plots drive the main plot.

Some of the cast, as in the first movie, are extremely strong. It is impossible to imagine anybody other than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine - broody, moody and extremely mean, he is the quintisential strong, silent type. Ian McKellen continues to make it cool being bad, and Patrick Stewart is up to the task of being his nemesis. Famke Janssen has to play a woman torn by emotions and hints at the stress she carries underneath.

There are also weaknesses, most notably Cyclops. He was a favourite of mine in comic books, but in the movies - let's face it, he's a wimp. Rogue's role in this movie is less important than the last and it's a shame, given Anna Paquin's talents. They also introduce two new mutants as main characters (Iceman and Pyro) but don't really show too much of them using their powers.

A few more are also hinted at, notably Shadowcat (also briefly in the last movie), Colossus and Beast (who has a subtle appearance as Hank McCoy). There is also Phoenix, but only those that know the comic book will get that one. One fears that the menangerie may grow to be too large in the next movie, especially if there is a sizable Brotherhood of Evil.

Anyway all this is just a prelude to the next movie in the series, and this is the movie's weakness. Threads are left hanging, including character development, and this causes some disatisfaction. It's not that it's bad, but you just feel a little short-changed having paid to watch a movie and only see half of it.

Although the first movie did the same (notably with Wolverine's history), there you were left with a feeling of anticipation. Here it's more a case of, "Well? Is that it?". It was slightly reminiscent of the end of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring but that one was excusable simply because it was the first third of a long, long story.

In the end though, this is only a small weakness of what is otherwise a very enjoyable movie.


posted on Sunday, May 11, 2003 - permalink
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