MOTW: Why "X2" is one of the best Superhero Movies.

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
June 3rd, 2013

What Makes "X2: X-Men United" One of the Best Superhero Movies?

"X2: X-Men United" is an American superhero film released in 2003. The principal characters in the film are from the X-Men comic book series, and the plot was inspired by "God Loves, Man Kills," a graphic novel based on the series. The all-star cast in the film includes Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, and Patrick Stewart. "X2: X-Men United" has extensive action scenes that have received wide acclaim from fans and film critics.

The primary plot in the film involves the X-Men joining forces with their usual enemies, The Brotherhood, to defeat Colonel William Stryker in his attempt to destroy all mutants on Earth. The film opens with visitors taking a tour of the White House, and one of them falls behind the rest of the group. The straggler turns out to be the mutant Nightcrawler, who fails in his attempt to assassinate the President of the United States. He stabs a note to the President's desk demanding freedom for mutants before teleporting away.

Meanwhile, Wolverine searches for Stryker at Alkali Lake, but he only finds an abandoned base. He returns to the Xavier Institute to meet with fellow mutants Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Storm, and Professor Xavier. The X-Men plan to use the Cerebro device to locate Nightcrawler and ascertain his intentions. Xavier and Cyclops visit Magneto in prison to determine if he played a role in the assassination attempt on the President, but Stryker captures Xavier and Cyclops.

Stryker conducts a raid on the Xavier Institute to capture its students, but they manage to repel the attack long enough for many of the students to escape through underground tunnels. Wolverine interrogates Stryker about his past, but Stryker fails to provide any useful information. Stryker's forces are finally able to sedate some of the students and break into the room with Cerebro. 

Mystique helps Magneto escape and also learns of Stryker's plans to build a second Cerebro. He plans to force Xavier into using Cerebro to locate and destroy all of the mutants. Meanwhile, Wolverine, Iceman, Rogue, and Pyro visit Iceman's parents to tell them about his powers. Iceman's brother calls 911, and the police attempt to apprehend the mutants. A struggle ensues, and the mutants escape in the X-Jet. The X-Men must then foil Stryker and expose his plans to the President.

"X2: X-Men United" is remarkable because of the large number of action scenes involving many principal characters. The film was made in 38 locations with 64 sets total. The crew had to produce a large amount of fake snow in Kananaskis, Alberta, when the area experienced unseasonably warm weather. The scene in which the X-Men fight the Boston Police Department nearly resulted in the death of two stunt drivers and cinematographer Newton Sigel.

The original cut of "X2: X-Men United" received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America. This was primarily due to the scenes at the Xavier Institute, in which Wolverine kills Stryker's men. Several seconds of this scene had to be cut to get a PG-13 rating.

The visual effects are also a major factor in the effectiveness of the film's actions scenes. The first film in the "X-Men" series was almost nominated for an Academy Award in this category, but visual effects supervisor Mike Fink wanted to improve upon his work in this sequel. He commissioned a total of 800 special effects shots in "X2: X-Men United," whereas "X-Men" only used 500. Rhythm and Hues, a digital animation company, created the dogfight scene in the tornado storm, which was one of the most technically challenging scenes. It required a new computer program to handle all of the digital animation. Special effects firm Cinesite used a twenty-man crew to create the set for the Cerebro room. The miniature set of the Alkali Lake Dam was 25 feet high and 28 feet wide. 

"X2: X-Men United" received critical acclaim for the final action scene, which provides a cliffhanger ending to the film. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) dies in this scene, but is resurrected in the third film of the series. Director Bryan Singer was highly secretive about this part of the storyline and didn't inform Janssen until halfway through the filming of "X2: X-Men United." Wizard magazine rated the ending in this film as the 22nd greatest cliffhanger in film history. Rotten Tomatoes rated this film as the 5th greatest comic-book-based film of all time.