|X2: X-Men United (2003)
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Brian Cox, Halle Berry, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Alan Cumming, Famke Jansen, James Mardsen
Director: Bryan Singer
Comic books have made immensely successful jumps to the big screen with the releases of both "X-Men" and "Spider-Man" the past few years. Now Marvel is expanding its film universe with last February's "Daredevil" and this summer's release of "The Hulk." While the increase in movies and characters is always a good thing for film and comic fans alike, sometimes all we need is a reminder of how good the first films were. Director Bryan Singer gives us this with "X2: X-Men United," a bigger and better sequel to the 2000 original.
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is still journeying through Canada looking for answers to his past, while the serene Prof. Xavier (Patrick Stewart) continues running his school for the gifted alongside his mutant veterans Storm (Halle Berry), Jean Grey (Famke Jansen) and Cyclops (James Mardsen). This sequel features a younger generation of mutant all-stars as well, led by Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford).
We're also introduced to a slew of cameos only recognizable by fans of the book, most notably Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), a demonic mutant who finds salvage in religion and has the ability to teleport from one place to another in an instant. "X2" opens with Nightcrawler invading the White House in what he fails to realize is an assassination attempt against the president. While Magneto (Ian McKellan) is locked up in his plastic prison and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) is running around in the form of Senator Kelly, a new human villain takes the stage in an attempt to destroy the entire mutant race. Brian Cox plays Stryker, an ex-Armed Forces officer who uses the events that took place in the White House to push his plans to invade the school.
"X2" provides plenty of action, wit and off-the-wall special effects that overpower the original in every way. While everyone brings to the table great performances with their respective characters, it is the fresh faces of Cumming and Cox that make this sequel a true gem. While only fans of the comic or the early 1990s cartoon will recognize the ending's set-up for the next installment of this series, "X2" is a great kick-off to the rest of the summer season.