X-Men 2

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Ian McKellen
20th Century Fox
RRP 15.99 (single disc), 22.99 (two-disc set)
Certificate: 12
Available now

An attack against the American President by a teleporter named Nightcrawler renews political and public ill-will against mutants. Former army commander William Stryker is determined to turn this event to his advantage as he sets out to capture or destroy all mutants, including the students at Charles Xavier's school for the "gifted"...

Am I the only reviewer in the world who thinks that the original X-Men film was better than X-Men 2? There may be bigger bucks on screen this time, with an array of exciting set pieces including Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler's (Alan Cumming) assault upon the White House, John Allerdyce/Pryo's (Aaron Stanford) fiery display of temper, and a vicious battle between Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Yuriko Oyama/Deathstrike (Kelly Hu). However, the overall plot is somewhat less satisfying.

This is largely because the threat to humanity - and to mutants - is not as clearly defined this time around. It is a mental threat rather than the more tangible one posed by Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto's (Ian McKellen) mutation device in the first movie, which had the added advantage of being demonstrated for the audience's benefit. Another disadvantage is that poor old Ian McKellen is stuck behind bars for the first half of this movie, though his eventual escape is admittedly ingenious.

The previous film had hinted that Magneto's plastic prison wouldn't contain the villain forever. It also warned that Professor Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) school might one day face an attack from hostile forces. Both of these events come to pass in spectacular fashion.

We were also promised some resolution concerning Wolverine's origins. At first, Logan's search for clues appears fruitless, and I was a little concerned that writers Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter were trying to back out of the situation that had been set up (a bit like the beginning of Back to the Future - Part II in which Jennifer is hastily written out). But fear not, this movie does not renege on its predecessor's promise of answers, but merely postpones them until later on in the story.

The full cast of good guys from X-Men return, with the young students Ice Man (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro playing more substantial roles this time around. However, Patrick Stewart is once again written out for large chunks of the story, as the Professor falls foul of the Cerebro apparatus for a second time.

I'm very pleased to say that Magneto's scantily clad accomplice, Raven Darkholme/Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is also back on the scene. She comes across rather more sympathetically this time, tending to only lash out at characters we dislike. The shape-shifter seems quite honourable as she explains why she chooses not to simply live her whole life in disguise - she doesn't believe that she should have to hide who or what she is. Watch out for a brief glimpse of Romijn-Stamos in her true form, without the blue make-up.

X-Men 2 can be viewed with a choice of two audio commentaries on disc 1, which is available individually for 15.99.

The movie is also being released as a two-disc set, with an array of features on the second disc. There are numerous featurettes and longer documentaries on every stage of the production, from the concept's comic-book origins to the composition of John Ottman's score. Not surprisingly, many of the features concentrate on the new character Nightcrawler, including a multi-angle view of the White House attack and time-lapse footage of the lengthy make-up process that actor Alan Cumming had to endure. There are also 11 deleted or extended scenes, though none of these is very long, and, disappointingly, cannot be "branched" into the movie, as was possible with the X-Men and X-Men 1.5 DVDs.

As both a movie and as a DVD product, X-Men 2 is not quite as x-cellent as its predecessor... but it's still pretty darned x-citing.

Richard McGinlay

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