Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 2:13 - Released 5/2/03

Bryan Singer’s X-2, the continuation of the X-Men saga begun in 2000, marks not only the onset of the 2003 summer blockbuster season, but also the apparent Summer Of Sequels. In store for action lovers this season are the next chapters of The Matrix, Charlie’s Angels, Lara Croft, The Fast And The Furious, Spy Kids, and even another Terminator. Well, I guess the executives at Hollywood are thinking, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Why bother writing new ideas when we can make tons of cash recycling old ones? Hey, it’s hard to come up with new ideas—especially when you’re still busy trying to spend the bazillion dollars you made from your first summer blockbuster!

So Sequel Summer begins non-alphabetically, with the reunion of those Marvel-ous mutants who leapt from the pages of comic books and into our hearts three years ago. After they spent the last film saving the world, you’d think there’d be some well-earned respect for the likes of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Storm (Halle Berry), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Cyclops (James Marsden), and their bald, benevolent, wheelchair-bound leader, Prof. Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). But guess again—the human population of Earth is still suspicious of our multi-talented and makeup-caked heroes, and when a new guy named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) enters the White House and tries to attack the president, things get really hot for them. But Nightcrawler, a purple-skinned, decoratively tattooed, devout Catholic German mutant named Kurt Wagner (who is able to disappear in a cloud of smoke and reappear somewhere else), is not operating under his own will. He’s being controlled by a highly placed presidential aide named Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox), who has it in for the mutants and wants to turn the human population against them.

Before securing his government job, Stryker was a scientist, a kind of Dr. Mengele for mutants who has experimented on them and figures prominently in the dark history of Wolverine—whose memory has been judiciously erased. In order to better control them, he’s devised some sort of drug (administered at the lower two-thirds of the nape of the neck) which renders them dumb, docile, and highly suggestible. Sounds like the perfect date-rape drug, but Stryker has even darker motives. He’s so determined to rid the world of the genetically advanced race of non-humans, he’s copied Prof. Xavier’s mutant-location mechanism, called Cerebro, and plans to find and destroy them all. This development panics Prof. X and his crew so much that they must form an uneasy alliance with his old X- nemesis, Magneto (Ian McKellen, not as pretty as Gandalf but arguably more powerful) and his purple body-suited, sexy-shape-shifting minion, Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos).

This movie is fun like the first one, with our old friends performing their amazing feats with pleasing regularity and some new faces offering their talents too. The trouble is, the story (by Michael Dougherty, Daniel P. Harris, David Hayter, and director Singer, among others) is far too complicated for its own good, and this results in an unacceptably long running time. After about 1½ hours, I thought, “This has been a great movie!” When the 2:00 mark came and went, I was saying, “Is this ever going to end?” The huge cast of characters may make for a veritable cornucopia of interesting talents, powers, and special effects, but there comes a point when all the plot twists, love stories, and predicaments upon predicaments wear too thin for such a non-substantial concept. Comic book characters are not meant to support a storyline of such complexity; if X-2 were a comic book, it would be 2 inches thick.

There are certain diversions (sex, money, ice cream) where one can always rely on the maxim “more is better.” Movie film isn’t one of them. ****

Copyright 2003 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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