X2: X-Men United (2003)

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A bigger budget this time. And a better movie in most ways. This is the one that best captures the adventure and thrill that superhero comics are all about. If you’re not looking for an art film, but want a solid, satisfying, meat-and-potatoes superhero adventure, you won’t find a better one than this.* There are a few bogus moments, as in any film of this type, but they’re pretty easy to get past. (But unfortunately, the one sequence in the film that most needs the audience to avoid thinking too much about the reasons for what happened, is the climax.) There are also some terrific action pieces, much more impressive than those in the first film, particularly the opening sequence.

Colonel Stryker, a “military scientist” who has reason to hate mutants, has come up with a way to control the minds of those he captures, and thereby turn the powers of mutants against their own people. His attack on mutant-kind forces Professor Xavier and Magneto, the enemies of the first film, to join forces...

The Stryker character is a bit too much of a James Bond villain, but for a true comic book plot, sometimes that’s exactly what you need. Halle Berry as Storm is once again a weak point in the cast, this time turning in a performance inconsistent with how she portrayed the character in the first movie — a different accent, for instance. But most of the rest of the cast of mutants is strong throughout, in major and minor roles alike, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine is, more than ever, the rockin’est tough guy in comic-book-film-dom.

One awkward bit is that the film has a high body count yet very little blood. They had to keep the blood out to be safe for the kids to see. Yet some of the scenes, if realistic, would be drenched in it...

* At least, prior to the release of The Avengers.