X2: X-Men United – The Road to Dark Phoenix

Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin, James Marsden, Shawn Ashmore, Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, and Hugh Jackman in 20th Century Fox's X2: X-Men United.

X2: X-Men United is the comic book adaptation that set the benchmark for all comic book films until The Dark Knight came calling five years later.

After Alkali Lake was teased at the end of X-Men, the setting plays a larger focus in the sequel.  It’s the base for Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox), who happens to take on a more villainous role than Magneto (Ian McKelllan).  Stryker is no fan of mutants and lets us know it.  It doesn’t even matter that his own son, Jason, is a mutant because Stryker is hellbent on wiping out mutants everywhere.

The action gets started quickly when Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) makes an attempt to assassinate the president.  Things for mutant relations go from bad to worse.  Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Scott Summers/Cyclops (James Marsden) go off to visit Magneto.  Meanwhile, Storm (Halle Berry) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen make a visit to Nightcrawler in Boston.  If not for Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) returning from his Akali Lake adventure, there’d be nobody available to help out the students when Stryker’s team attacks.  Wolverine gets out with Rogue (Anna Paquin), Bobby Drake/Iceman (Shawn Ashmore), John Allerdyce/Pyro (Aaron Stanford).

Even though the team is separated, they’re mostly reunited before learning of Stryker’s operation from Magneto.  It may be a surprise that they find themselves working with Magneto and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos).  The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?  Knowing them, we already know that it’s too good to be true. While Jean sacrifices herself to save the team, Charles must worn the president of the bigger war that looms ahead.

Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr may have disagreements.  One believes that mutants can work with humans.  The other believes humanity must end.  Whatever their disagreements may be, the future of mutantkind is at stake in this sequel.  William Stryker reveals himself to be one of cinema’s greatest villains.  He may not be a Darth Vader but he’s sinister in his own kind of way.  Because of his disgust with mutants and previous workings with Wolverine, he makes for a solid choice to be the sequel’s Big Bad as they say.

What X2: X-Men United expands upon is the rift between mutants and humans.  While there are a gazillion choices of villains to choose from, I feel that Stryker is the best choice.  It also allows for some more of Logan’s backstory in doing so.  The film still focuses on a core group of characters with expanded roles for the next generation.  Some classic X-Men characters are relegated to making cameos for a few seconds or minutes at best.  This is definitely a problem with having a vast collection of characters.  You have to make choices about who you want to use.  It is not an easy decision to make!  Not at all!

X2: X-Men United is better than its predecessor in every way.

DIRECTOR:  Bryan Singer
SCREENWRITERS:  Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris & David Hayter
CAST:   Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Bruce Davison, and Anna Paquin

20th Century Fox opened X2: X-Men United in theaters on May 2, 2003. The film is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital. Grade: 5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.