X2: X-Men United (PG-13)
20th Century Fox
How did I love X2, sequel to summer-before-last's excellent mutant romp? Let me count the ways.
I got to see more of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and taste more of his torment as he paces the Earth with the instincts of a wild animal, the hairdo of a '50s rock 'n' roll devil, the physique of a G-I Joe doll and the bony anatomy of Edward Scissorhands. In the sequel he has matured nicely, offering sober protection to the wards of Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted while plumbing dark memories for clues to his past and openly expressing his love for Jane Grey (Famke Janssen), the smartest, most elegant, unselfish, kick-ass mutant chick ever.
Mystique, the blue vinyl shape-shifter played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos gets full star treatment as Magneto's (Ian McKellen) sizzling sidekick, morphing herself into a new identity at the most opportune moments. Early on, I thought the director (Bryan Singer) was going for too many mid-torso shots featuring her fabulous scaly breasts and low navel; then I got it. The director was seducing the viewer, reminding us that looks are deceiving and what you see is most often not what you get, at least in the universe of X-Men.
The new mutant character introduced in a frenetic opening attack on the White House, Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler, played creepily by Alan Cumming, brings religion to the mix, raising questions about faith and fervor while bonding with a group who can appreciate his ability to disappear into a thin wisp of smoke. Bravo, Kurt Wagner. Encore!
Anna Paquin's Rogue, a mutant girl who can suck the life out of anyone with a mere finger touch, is sweet, awkward, conscientious and stuck in the adorable early phase of first true love. How can she make out with Iceman, her beloved, without melting his superpower? (It appears that we'll find out in X-3 which will undoubtedly give us more of Rogue, Iceman and their troubled friend Pyro, a mutant kid you don't want flicking his Bic anywhere near you.)
Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart duke it out for the title of Most Intriguing Soon-to-be elderly Actor as Magneto and Professor Xavier -- former friends and intellectual foes who disagree on how mutants should interact with humans in a world that dangerously polarizes anyone who diverts from the mainstream. In a world seemingly devoid of leadership, the mutants have it all -- fiendish dictator and compassionate democrat.
Are you confused yet? If so, do not be deterred. This comic book illiterate has taken to the Marvel Comics-inspired movie series like, well, like a telepath to the future, like Storm to the clouds, like a wolf to its prey. More confused? Just go see the movie. You cannot help but be entertained. If you hate it you should just stay home from now on, nodding at the television, lost in endless mediocrity.
-- Kathryn Eastburn