Super Movies – X2: X-Men United

Since Out of the Vault was late, I thought I’d drag this by a day as well, to give people time to read the other thing. Continuing our coverage of the X-Men series of films, we visit the second film in the series, X2. Posters and ads for the movie actually called the film X2: X-Men United, but as you can see, that is not the title that appears on screen.

It begins much like the first film, with the same trailing fade of the X in 20th Century Fox, followed by Professor Ex-avier giving a voiceover about mutants. This time, though, instead of following nerve pathways inside a human body for the titles, we follow electronic circuits until we arrive inside the big spherical Cerebro chamber. Could this be an omen for the movie?

You know what you need in a good sequel? Bigger scope. The first film centered around a threat to New York City. This film opens in the White House, so it does indeed look as if everything will be bigger this time around. Some tourists are getting the official tour of the White House when one man breaks away from the tour and wanders the hallways alone. A Secret Service agent confronts him and gets the idea he’s up to no good when he notices the man’s pasty white, scarred face and, um, tail.

Cue the action scene! The intruder is a fierce fighter, bounding around the hallways on all fours, bouncing off walls, kicking the stuffing out of Secret Service agents, and that’s not even counting the cool thing. He teleports in a burst of dark vapor.

Not quite as demonic as the comic, but cool

For those in the know about the comics, this guy is obviously Nightcrawler, but I’ll talk in more detail about him next week. He takes down dozens of agents while fighting his way into the Oval Office, a whirlwind of fists and CG smoke. Finally, there’s just the President, whom Nightcrawler pins to the desk and prepares to stab with a knife he pulls from his boot.

But he is shot in the arm by a lone conscious Secret Service agent and teleports away,  leaving behind the knife with a “Mutant Freedom NOW!” banner attached. And I know I just said I would wait till next week, but one thing about Nightcrawler is that, in the comics, he teleports in a burst of smoke and brimstone, so I wish that, after he wastes all the agents in the Oval Office, there were a haze of smoke in the air. It would really add to the atmosphere, so to speak.

Ah, well. Meanwhile, Wolverine is in Canada visiting that abandoned base that Professor X sent him to. It’s still abandoned, not to mention in pieces and the pieces buried under snow. So Wolverine turns around and comes home.

Where the X-Men are not. They are leading a field trip to the Museum of Natural History. Cyclops is concerned for Jean; she was affected by the mutant machine on Liberty Island in the first movie, somehow (perhaps also by her unauthorized use of Cerebro). Her powers are stronger, and she’s having trouble controlling them.

One guy who’s not having trouble controlling his powers is John Allerdyce, a.k.a. Pyro. We saw him briefly in the first film (played by a different actor), where he made a ball of fire in class to show off for Rogue. This time, he’s screwing around with a couple of human bullies, until one of them takes his lighter. So he sets the guy on fire. He’s a loose cannon. That’s him on the right, with Rogue and Bobby Drake, a.k.a. Iceman. The dude in the jean jacket at center left is just one of the bullies.

Professor X uses his mental powers to freeze everyone not in his group and scolds Pyro for using his powers foolishly. Then they all see a TV news broadcast that the President was attacked by a mutant. Time to go.

Back in the Oval Office, the President is being visited by William Stryker (Brian Cox, who does a really good villainous turn here), whose job description seems to vary from scene to scene. He is referred to as Colonel, and the President mentions Stryker’s “department” which investigates mutants and also devised Magneto’s plastic prison.

Stryker briefs the President and Senator Kelly (who died in the first film and is now being impersonated by Magneto’s former henchwoman, Mystique) on a sinister school for mutants that has a secret airplane that comes up out of the basketball court. The President authorizes a raid, but only to detain. “Senator Kelly” tries to dissuade Stryker and his hot, but emotionless bodyguard Yuriko, from their mission, but fails.

At the school, Bobby and Rogue are getting romantic when Rogue is distracted by the sound of a motorcycle. Wolverine’s back! Bobby is chopper-blocked! Storm and Jean pass by long enough to say that they’re on their way to Boston to pick up the mutant who attacked the President.

Oh, BTW, Magneto? Still in prison and reading The Once and Future King, not that that’s foreshadowing or anything. He is assaulted by a guard and held down while Stryker comes in and drips some mysterious drug onto a weird neck “nipple.”

Magneto enters an almost hypnotic trance, and Stryker interrogates him some more about Xavier’s school and Cerebro in particular.

Back at the school, Wolverine catches Xavier just as he is firing up Cerebro. In a slightly different visual approach from the first movie, we see everyone in the world represented by glowing dots on a map, and then the normals are filtered out, leaving only the mutants as red dots.

Xavier mentions that he can kill people by concentrating on them too hard while in Cerebro. Good to know. And then we see him tracking a mysterious dot that is skipping its way up the Eastern Seaboard, finally coming to rest in Boston. It’s Nightcrawler!

But wait: I thought he had already tracked Nightcrawler down. Otherwise, why did he send Jean and Storm to Boston? Anyway, Xavier asks Wolverine to babysit at the school while he and Cyclops go to visit “an old friend.”

In Washington, Mystique drops her Senator Kelly disguise and breaks into Stryker’s offices after hours by assuming the form of Yuriko. She breaks into Stryker’s computer by mimicking his voiceprint, and opens up a world of Easter Eggs.

Seriously, this single scene has more hidden Marvel comics Easter Eggs than any other Marvel film. For instance, this list of names that consists entirely of characters from the various X-comics.

I could detail the characters on this list, but if you’re a fan, you already know them, and if you’re not, you won’t care. This list is not what Mystique’s after, anyway. She pulls up a list of guards at the plastic prison (including B. Singer and T. DeSanto, the film’s director and one of its exec. producers) and copies a personnel file of the sadistic one we saw before.

But then she notices a file (among many other files which are all named after entities in the Marvel Universe) named “Cerebro.” She opens it up and sees plans for a second Cerebro being built at Alkali Lake, the “abandoned” base Wolverine just left. And just to show you how quickly things have changed in ten years, instead of loading all this data onto a flash drive, she prints out hard copies and smuggles them out under the nose of a just-returned Yuriko by disguising herself as a janitor taking out the trash.

In Boston, Jean and Storm find Nightcrawler hiding out in a cathedral. Storm flushes him out with a lightning bolt, and Jean immobilizes him with her telekinesis (which also apparently shuts down his teleportation). He tells them that he remembers the attack vaguely, but could not control his actions. And just by coincidence, I’m sure, he has a weird neck nipple, just like Magneto.

Speaking of Magneto, Xavier has come to the prison to ask him if he knows anything about the attack on the President. And look, we get a “blink and you’ll miss it” cameo by the director himself, pushing Xavier’s wheelchair into the antechamber.

Magneto taunts Xavier about the coming backlash to the attack, and also about Wolverine. It seems that both Xavier and Magneto know more about Wolverine than they’ve ever mentioned to him.

But we won’t be getting any details, because the chamber is pumped full of knock-out gas. Cyclops, waiting in the antechamber, tries to help, but before he can mount a rescue, he is knocked silly by Yuriko, who is as tough as Wolverine, apparently.

And speaking of Wolverine, he’s restlessly pacing the halls of the school. He runs into a kid watching TV and changing the channels by blinking at them, then he goes into the kitchen to bond with Iceman over a beverage that is sadly not beer. Meanwhile, the TV-watching kid meets a mysterious figure wearing night vision goggles who shoots him with tranquilizer darts.

The raid on Xavier’s school has begun! Join us next week to see how that works out. And join us Saturday for Out of the Vault, when I take a look at God Loves, Man Kills, the graphic novel that this film is (very loosely) based on.

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