surprise! this movie is actually surprisingly good. i went in thinking it'd be total crap so my expectations were low to begin with, but it turned out to be pretty entertaining, not bad at all for the first salvo of the summertime blockbuster movie onslaught.
i never thought much of the original x-men movie. when it first came out in the theatres, i really wasn't too interested in seeing it, and then it sort of slipped through the cracks and i didn't see the movie until it came out on cable, in which time i thought the movie was okay. x2 however is definitely better than the original. in the first version there was a lot of setup, explaining everyone's backstory, painting that world so the audience can understand the story. in x2 there's a lot less explaining, it's straight into the story, with everyone's power already established, so when cyclops uses his eyebeams nobody's surprised, nor when wolverine shoots out his adamantium claws.
the underlying structure of x2 is three powerful forces coming head to head. in the one camp you have mutants who want to coexist peacefully with humans, like professor xavier and his school of gifted students. in the other camp, there are the mutants who believe they're superior and want nothing to do with humans, which is lead by magneto. thus far, pretty much like the original. but in x2 we have a third element, that of humans who are trying to actively destroy mutants at all costs. overlayed onto this elaborate backdrop of three opposing forces is an overt social message about the oppression of minority classes, and the message that we're all different but also the same. there's one scene where a boy comes out to his family about him being a mutant, and it seems no different than someone coming out about his/her homosexuality. his mother blames herself, and then asks him if he can "try not to be a mutant." this isn't your basic run-of-the-mill comic book adaptation movie, there are definite food for though, so people of all types can enjoy the film. on the surface it's a glossy science fiction action movie, but there's a real social consciousness working in there as well, that's done in such a way that it isn't preachy.
two new mutant characters are introduced in x2, lady deathstrike (kelly hu), who has powers similar to wolverine's, and who doesn't say a word throughout the entire movie except a few painful grunts during her final climatic final scene with her counterpart. then there's nightcrawler (alan cumming), who's power of teleporting is displayed at the start of the movie, and after seeing him demonstrate his powers, the movie has you, you can't turn away, it's pretty cool. other than nightcrawler's "puff of smoke" teleporting, the two other great scenes in the movie are magneto's escape from his plastic prison and his subsequent takedown of a group of commandos guarding a doorway. his escape from prison had the whole audience going "oh...my...god...!" and scream of blessed excrement.
famke janssen looks very hot as jean grey. halle berry on the otherhand as storm, she didn't look very good in the original, and despite winning an academy award last year, the look of her character has not improved. halle berry is very beautiful, but she's not suited to play storm, whom i imagine to be a taller, more graceful type, like an iman or maybe even a less scary grace jones. and that whole thing with her eyes turning white when she controls the weather? that is so children of the damned. i'm not a big dan of anna paquin as rogue either, but not sure would i'd choose to play her instead. james marsden is a charismatic black hole playing cyclops. in the comics he's sort of the leader of the x-men, but in the movie, it's wolverine's show. it's hard going up against hugh jackman. and rebecca romijn as mystique? at least in this movie there's a scene where she actually plays a character that looks like her real self without the blue makeup on, but i think the movie world will forever treat her as an ex-model who wants to play actor (remember cindy crawford in fair game? remember heidi klum in blow dry?), despite her starring role in de palma's femme fatale (don't mention rollerball, she was lucky hollywood didn't chase her out of town for that abortion).
x2, surprisingly good, surpassed my expectations, a good one to start the summer blockbuster movie watching season, and if this film is indicative of what's to come in the subsequent months, it's going to be a very excellent year cinematically.