Film Review: X2: X-Men United (2003)

Also known as: X2 (original title), X-Men II (working title), X² (alternative spelling)
Release Date: April 24th, 2003 (UK premiere)
Directed by: Bryan Singer
Written by: Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, David Hayter, Zak Penn, Bryan Singer
Based on: X-Men by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby
Music by: John Ottman
Cast: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Alan Cumming, Brian Cox, Aaron Stanford, Kelly Hu, Daniel Cudmore

Marvel Enterprises, Donners’ Company, Twentieth Century Fox, 134 Minutes

Review:

“You know, outside the circus, most people were afraid of me. But I didn’t hate them. I pitied them. Do you know why? Because most people will never know anything beyond what they see with their own two eyes.” – Nightcrawler

When this came out, I was pretty much blown away by it. Seeing it seventeen years later, not so much.

X2 is a film riddled with problems but it’s still good for what it is and for its era. It’s slightly better than its predecessor but after having just watched the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy, it pales in comparison to the first two films in that series. In fact, I like the wonky Spider-Man 3 a hair bit more than this.

That being said, this does still have one of the greatest sequences in comic book movie history and that’s the part where the military squad attacks the X-Mansion, abducting the children and sending Wolverine and a few of the younger mutants fleeing into the night. I especially liked the inclusion of Colossus in this scene but that also made me wonder why he didn’t come back into the picture because he would’ve been helpful during the final battle. But I guess someone’s got to protect the kids hiding out who knows where.

Anyway, this is a film that is too driven by plot convenience and poor execution of those conveniences.

For instance, Storm can unleash dozens of tornadoes on military fighter jets but no one is worried about the innocent people living on the ground? And she does this while flying a high tech jet. Where was this immense wind power when the jet was going to be hit by raging water?

Which brings me to another poor plot convenience moment that saw Jean Grey have to push back a raging river while trying to lift the parked jet in an effort to save her friends. She’s powerful as fuck, why couldn’t she have just lifted the jet? An hour earlier, she stopped a missile with her mind. And getting back to Storm, where’s that wind power in this scene? Did you not pick up your power-ups in the final level?

I know I’m being pretty nitpicky here but these moments could’ve been shot better, explained better and just not been as stupid and devoid of logic. It seems like really lazy writing and if you needed to kill off Jean for the story, there are better ways to do it and they still could’ve had her sacrifice herself for those she loves. It just felt cheap and baffling.

This also must’ve been made in the era where they didn’t sign actors to multi-film deals because they spent so much time developing Nightcrawler but then he’s nowhere to be seen in the third film. His arc from the original X-Men trilogy is left incomplete. That just adds to the overall sloppiness of this film franchise. And it sucks because Alan Cumming was great as Nightcrawler and he was one of the high points in this trilogy.

The overall story in the film is pretty good though. I thought that the big finale was too long and could’ve been whittled down somewhat but it moves at a good, brisk pace.

Also, the set design, cinematography and overall look of the picture was a big step up from the previous one.

Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman kill it in just about every scene but Jackman really is the scene stealer, which is impressive when you think about where he was at in his film career in 2003 versus Stewart and McKellan.

In the end, this is still a decent way to waste a few hours but it’s not the great, epic film I saw it as when I was young and didn’t have such refined taste. Also, its since been overshadowed by the Raimi Spider-Man pictures, Nolan’s Batman movies and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: the other films in the original X-Men trilogy.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Fall of the Mutants

Published: 1988
Written by: Chris Claremont, Peter David, Louise Simonson, Steve Englehart, Mark Gruenwald, Ann Nocenti
Art by: Marc Silvestri, Todd McFarlane, Bret Blevins, June Brigman, Kerry Gammill, Jon Bogdanove, Kieron Dwyer, Keith Pollard, John Romita Jr., Walt Simonson

Marvel Comics, 803 Pages

Review:

This was a story so big that it was collected into two massive volumes. But I figured I’d read both and give the whole thing a single review, as one body of work.

But that may have not been the best approach, as this crossover doesn’t really crossover in a way that makes one big story. This is more like an anthology of events that were going on in all the different X-books at the same time. And weirdly, this isn’t collected in chronological order but as separate stories without much overlap or characters meeting.

This big event also has some short stories focused on Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Black Widow and the Fantastic Four. In those tales, it shows what they’re up to during the events of what is happening in some of the X-books.

The Fall of the Mutants takes place between Mutant Massacre and Inferno. It is also the last of the ’80s X-Men crossovers that I hadn’t read in its entirety.

Out of all the tales here, I thought the X-Factor one was probably the best as it concludes the Apocalypse and Angel storyline, as it introduces Archangel for the first time. Also, the X-Factor arc showcases Cameron Hodge turning on the team, revealing his true agenda to set up what would eventually be the superb crossover event X-Tinction Agenda.

The New Mutants part was the weirdest but it also featured Hodge’s heel turn and kind of sets things in motion for X-Tinction Agenda and Inferno. This is also where the New Mutants dump Magneto as their teacher and return to the ways of Charles Xavier.

Ultimately, this was kind of a mess when read as one body of work. But it does do a proper job of bridging the gap from Mutant Massacre and the next two big events to follow.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: other major X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: X-Men: Mutant Massacre

Published: 1986
Written by: Chris Claremont, Louise Simonson, Walter Simonson, Ann Nocenti
Art by: John Romita Jr., Walter Simonson, Sal Buscema

Marvel Comics, 319 Pages

Review:

Well, not all giant X-Men crossover events can be created equal.

This one started off with a bang though. Sadly, it withered away in the second half, as it crossed over into non-X-Men-related titles and became a narrative clusterfuck that slowed down the story’s momentum to a complete halt.

The main reason I wanted to read this was to have a bit of background context before jumping into the following big event The Fall of the Mutants. While I had never read either crossover in their entirety, I had read parts and I knew that the stories had a very close association.

The focal point of the story shows the Marauders invading the Morlocks’ sewer hideout where they murder the shit out of them. Only a few actually survive and that’s mostly due to the X-Men, X-Factor and the New Mutants involving themselves in the ordeal.

As this collection rolls on, the story spins off into issues of Thor, Daredevil and Power Pack. This is where the narrative starts to become a mess. And once we get to this point, a lot of the issues rehash some of the same shit, over and over.

What I was excited to see was Apocalypse show up and the actual breaking of Angel. I thought that he would actually be turned into Archangel in this story but I guess that happens just after, which was kind of disappointing, as I’ve never got to read that actual story. I assumed it would happen here once Angel had his wings destroyed and was nailed to the sewer wall with about half the story left.

There were a lot of deaths in this but none that really hold any weight or matter to the bigger picture.

But I guess this helped plant the seed for The Fall of the Mutants and the introduction of both Archangel and Mister Sinister.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossover events from the ’80s and ’90s.

Comic Review: House of X/Powers of X

Published: June 24th, 2019 – October 9th, 2019
Written by: Jonathan Hickman
Art by: Pepe Larraz

Marvel Comics, 400 Pages

Review:

Let me preface this review by saying that this is the best new comic book story that I have read in ten years.

That’s absolutely a bold statement but let’s be honest, Marvel and DC haven’t really been bringing their A game for awhile, other than a few things, here and there.

Overall, modern comics just aren’t great anymore. But this is in a league of its own, as Sean Gordon Murphy’s recent Batman work at DC Comics is also on its own plane of existence when compared to what else is coming out from its publisher the last few years.

That being said, it’s been a really long time since I’ve been engaged by X-Men stories. That’s kind of depressing, as the X-Men pocket of the larger Marvel universe is one of my favorite franchises of all-time.

Jonathan Hickman has made me care again.

In fact, this made me care so much that I added every new X-comic to my pull list, as I am hoping that this carries over into something larger, richer and more spectacular. This sort of prologue to the larger X-universe is going to be a hard thing to beat or live up to over the long haul but it’s obvious that Hickman has a plan and I want to see how this all unfolds.

There are some things in this story that seem weird and out of place and I believe that these things are intentional. Primarily, many of the characters are acting uncharacteristic. I don’t think it’s an oversight or the product of a writer that doesn’t know what he’s actually writing about, as many modern writers seem to do.

If I’m wrong, I’ll be pissed and heartbroken but there is real intelligence to this writing and Hickman has a fantastic track record.

Also, this is a great jumping on point. You don’t really need to read what happens before. This is a true starting point for new readers or old readers that tapped out on the X-Men books long ago.

Plus, Pepe Larraz’s art is some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: old school X-Men mega crossover events.

Comic Review: The New Mutants: War Children – One-Shot

Published: September 25th, 2019
Written by: Chris Claremont
Art by: Bill Sienkiewicz

Marvel Comics, 32 Pages

Review:

Being an old school fan of The New Mutants, this was a pretty cool one-shot that took my brain right down memory lane in the best way possible.

This re-teams the creative duo of Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz, who were the guys that gave us so many New Mutants stories from their original run.

The story here fits well with their work from thirty years ago. I’m not sure where this would fit, as I don’t remember the details from issue to issue but this is in that great period between the debut of Magik and her eventual (but not permanent) death in the Inferno mega crossover event. This certainly takes place well before Rob Liefeld came in and changed the direction of the title, evolving it into X-Force.

I’m assuming that this was made because The New Mutants are being relaunched in a few weeks on the heels of Jonathan Hickman’s pretty beloved House of X and Powers of X miniseries.

And while I look forward to the new New Mutants comic series, I’d rather just have more of this. I wish that this wasn’t a one-shot and could have been expanded into a miniseries. But the quality of this would have been difficult to pull off in multiple issues on a schedule.

Sienkiewicz’s art has never really fallen off. He’s not a guy that’s been phoning it in later in his career like some of the other greats have done. This is a stunning and beautiful book to look at. Additionally, I thought that Claremont penned a good story that was a throwback to his glory days writing multiple X-comics.

I don’t want to say too much regarding the plot, as I’d rather people pick this up but it mostly revolves around Warlock and Cypher and the fear that Warlock has about losing himself to his nature and hurting his friends.

Old school New Mutants fans will probably dig the shit out of this. I did. And as I said, I just wish there was more.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: the original New Mutants comic book run.

Comic Review: New Mutants, Vol. 2: Necrosha

Published: September 8th, 2010
Written by: Zeb Wells
Art by: Niko Henrichon, Diogenes Neves, Paul Davidson, Alvaro Lopez, David Lopez

Marvel Comics, 148 Pages

Review:

I wasn’t super big into the volume before this one. That could also be due to me not really liking the Legion character, who had a major presence in that book.

This volume finds its footing a bit more and I enjoyed both stories that were collected here.

I like this team, overall, and their dynamic. There are interesting twists to the story but the first half of this collection ties into a crossover event where some of the context is lost, due to this not featuring the parts of the story that weren’t specifically published as New Mutants issues. Also, this volume leads into the big Second Coming event.

Regardless of this being tied to and setting up other stories, I like the chemistry within the group and how the characters are written and how they’re evolving here. In fact, I assumed I’d give up after this volume but I think I’ll give the third one a read too.

I’m a big New Mutants fan and always have been. I just haven’t been very satisfied with their comics since the original run in the ’80s and early ’90s. Zeb Wells’ run seems to be carving out its place in the larger mythos though.

Plus, I dig the art.

All in all, not a bad book, better than most New Mutants collections after the original run and I’m at least interested in sticking with it beyond this chapter in the series.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: the volume before this story, as well as most New Mutants stories featuring some of the key original members.

Comic Review: X-Men: Second Coming

Published: June 22nd, 2011
Written by: Craig Kyle, Christopher Yost, Matt Fraction, Zeb Wells, Mike Carey
Art by: David Finch, Terry Dodson, Ibraim Roberson, Greg Land, Mike Choi, Rachel Dodson, Sonia Oback

Marvel Comics, 360 Pages

Review:

I went into this thinking that I would like it for the most part. The events that precede it were pretty good reads. What I didn’t expect was to be blown away. But in the end, I have to say, this was one of the absolute best X-Men crossover events that I have ever experienced. Seriously, this was nothing short of superb.

More than anything, this story made me love Cable more than ever and it got me to love Hope Summers, who I would say is one of the best characters to come out of the last decade, even though she previously appeared as a baby before this in Messiah Complex.

This had a lot going on in the story but there was room for it all. Plus, all the key players were well balanced throughout and it gave most of the top characters a real purpose and mission.

There are real consequences in this story, as some key X-Men figures die. Granted, one could argue that those consequences are never real because no one truly dies in comics and the two biggest victims of this story are already alive and well, once again. But despite that, it felt like a real blow within this narrative. It didn’t lose its impact knowing that they’d eventually be back.

Second Coming carries all the doom and gloom of Messiah Complex over and it brings more doom and gloom but it ends in a way that finally sees a glimmer of “hope” appear in the darkest time of the X-Men franchise. I don’t want to spoil too much because I’d rather people give this a read.

Being that this is a crossover event, there is a mix of art styles. All of it works for me though, even if there are noticeable style shifts from chapter to chapter. Ultimately, the tone stays about the same from beginning to end.

This is a fairly long read but none of it is boring or filler. It moves at a brisk pace, keeps you engaged and makes you cheer for these heroes in a way that you haven’t since the early ’90s.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: the stories that precede it: Avengers Disassembled, House of M and X-Men: The Messiah Complex, as well as the one this leads up to: Avengers Vs. X-Men.