Time for the concluding chapter to our look back at X2 (also known as X2: X-Men United).
When we left off, the X-Men were in Canada, teamed up with Magneto and Mystique to rescue Professor X and Cyclops from the underground base at Alkali Lake. They had discovered an underground spillway entrance, with gates that needed to be opened from the inside. Wolverine volunteered to go alone, but Magneto objected that Mystique should go. Who won the toss?
Moments later, we see that it is indeed Wolverine entering the spillway and shouting to the security cameras for Stryker to let him in. Guards appear from hidden doors and shackle Wolverine before leading him inside.
Once Stryker gets a look at him, though, he realizes it’s not Wolverine and orders his soldiers to shoot, just a hair too late. Mystique shape-shifts out of the shackles, beats up a few soldiers, and escapes through another bulkhead door. Oh, and for all you folks who thought that was really Wolverine?
She’s such a dainty creature (full disclosure: I do mostly minimal processing to screen captures, normally just adding a little contrast or sometimes doing a high-pass filter for clarity, but this one time, I popped the eyes up just a little bit, for effect).
While Stryker’s men are trying to blow their way through the heavy bulkhead to the controlÂ room where she’s locked herself, she opens the spillway doors to let in the rest of the mutants (well, the grown-ups, at least; Iceman, Rogue and Pyro all stay on the plane).
Stryker decides it’s time to move forward on his plan. He leaves two men to break into the control room and takes the rest to the Bad Cerebro. And although I like this movie overall, I have trouble with this one bit.
Yes, the door looks grungy and crusty and evil, but I’m having trouble believing it would look that bad. Supposedly, this is fairly new construction, built for Stryker’s current plan with parts he JUST STOLE from Cerebro a day or two ago at most. This looks like it was built in ancient Egypt and crusted over with the grime of centuries.
Anyway, if you hadn’t figured it out already, Stryker’s plan is to have Jason (his mutant illusionist son who is now mostly mindless after being lobotomized and who knows what else) manipulate Professor X into using this ersatz Cerebro into locating, and then killing, every mutant on Earth. Bad news.
In the control room, Mystique briefs the group–Storm, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Jean, and Magneto–on the situation. Storm noticesÂ a monitor showing a group of kidnapped students being held in another chamber (Stryker had planned to test the Death Cerebro on them before going global). Jean says she’ll accompany Magneto to save the Professor, while Storm and Nightcrawler rescue the kids.
And Wolverine? He has gone off by himself after seeing Stryker on another monitor. He’s out for revenge.
On the way to the Bad Cerebro, Magneto and Mystique share some covert looks. They obviously have a hidden agenda they don’t want to bring upÂ in front of Jean. And conveniently, they don’t have to, because Cyclops ambushes them, leading Jean to stay behind and deal with him.
One of the things a good sequel needs to do is show you more of what you didn’t get to see enough of in the first movie. And we get that here. Cyclops, sporting a neck nipple that shows he is under the effects of Jason-juice, doesn’t hold back, blasting Jean to the full extent of his powers.
But she throws up a telekinetic shield with her newly enhanced strength and not only fends off his attack, but pushes back hard enough to send them both flying, knocking him sober and breaking her leg. Oh, and the dam.
Storm and Nightcrawler save the kids from the cylindrical chamber where they’re being held, and Singer even throws in a tiny Easter Egg referring to Nightcrawler’s long-forgotten power of turning invisible when he enters a shadow. Or maybe he just thought it looked cool to have him emerge from blackness, but I’m holding out for Easter Egg.
Back at the plane, Pyro gets tired of waiting and sets out for the base on foot, while Rogue and Bobby stay behind.
Wolverine, meanwhile, discovers the room from his nightmares, the room with the bubbling tank where he was injected with molten metal by faceless green men. Claw marks in the concrete lead him to another flashback showing his escape, nude and bloody, from the wicked place.
As a side-note, we also getÂ a close-up of his gloves, showing the way they’ve been designed to let his claws extend out; a small detail, but a welcome one. Oh, and Â speaking of Easter Eggs, check out the x-rays on the wall.
The shots show various enhancements, like the armor-plated head to the left there. Don’t know if that is referring to any particular comics character, but at top right, we see Archangel’s enhanced wing. Top center right is Wolverine’s hand and forearm, showing his claws sheathed in his forearms, and top center left is, um, her.
Stryker shows up with Yuriko (known in the comics, but never named in the movie, as Lady Deathstrike), and after taunting Wolverine for a moment, leaves them to fight alone.
And seriously, although the fight is pretty cool–it’s basically a reprise of the Wolverine/Sabretooth bout from the first film, only faster and more savage–from a dramatic standpoint, I just drop right out of the movie here. Because you’ve got two people who are established as being able to heal from pretty much any normal wound, and their attacks consist basically of stabbing. So I’m not really seeing the point of this fight. The wire-fu is pretty fast and furious, and the multiple stabs look painful, but dramatically speaking, the only tension here is how long they’ll continue this pointless claw waving before someone tries something that will actually work, like, oh, injecting their opponent with a whole tankful of molten adamantium.
Okay, that didn’t really take long at all.
By this time, Professor X’s death wave is starting to affect all the mutants in the world, except Magneto, thanks to his telepathy-blocking helmet. Magneto dispenses with the guards in front of Faux-rebro by remotely pulling the pins from all their grenades. Messy, but efficient. Â Then he shuts down the Bad Cerebro and saves the mutants. Happy endings all around.
Oh, wait. Magneto’s a bad guy. He repurposes the machine by magnetically shifting some panels around (not sure why this is necessary, but it looks cool).
Then Mystique disguises herself as Stryker and tells Jason there’s been a change of plans. Magneto and Mystique leave, and Jason orders the professor to use Cerebro to kill all the humans on Earth, sparing only the mutants.
Storm, Nightcrawler, Cyclops, Jean and the kids arrive at the fake Cerebro. Nightcrawler teleports Storm inside (a risky move when he can’t see where he’s going) and she drops the temperature until Jason loses his hold on the professor. The world is saved, and just in time, too, because the dam is breaking.
Wolverine leads the group to safety through another secret exit he discovered by following Stryker. But Stryker’s escape helicopter is not where Wolverine left it (Magneto and Mystique took it, along with their newest recruit, Pyro). All looks lost until their plane appears, flown erratically by Rogue (no clue how she knew they needed help or where to find them).
Everybody gets on board and prepares to take off, but now the plane won’t start. Rogue broke it. And time has run out, because the dam has broken.
Which is when Jean sneaks out of the plane and telekinetically starts it and lifts it while shielding it from the oncoming water. She telepathically possesses Professor X to give Cyclops a tragic goodbye, and then her power flares brighter than ever, just before she lets go and disappears under the rushing waters.
But there’s no time to mourn, because the President is about to go on live TV and announce his response to the mental death wave that nearly killed everyone on Earth. But just after he begins his address, the power goes out, a storm blacks out the windows, and everybody freezes except the President.
Then comes the lightning, and with it, something else.
Professor X tells the President that they want to live in peace, although there is a subtle threat in his words as well. But he gives the President the file on Stryker’s activities so that the President can give the public a scapegoat instead of starting a catastrophic civil war.
And that’s it, with the exception of the obligatory mourning for Jean, at the end of which Professor X suddenly senses something and smiles. And what does he sense?
It’s hard to make out when the image isn’t in motion, but that’s the faint image of flaming wings under the waters of Alkali Lake, suggesting that maybe Jean has somehow survived (and if you’re a fan of the comics, you know what this means). Professor X says he thinks everything will be all right.
Join us next week to see just how wrong he is.