Summer Moviethon 2016: X2: X-Men United

June 17: #5, X2: X-Men United

Does X2 still rank as one of the best superhero films ever?

What seems like a few decades ago, X2 came out and was immediately hailed as perhaps the best comic-based superhero film yet. The next year, Spider-Man 2 came out and gave it a run for its money, followed by other instant classics such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Avengers. There have even been a couple of really strong X-Men sequels to challenge X2, such as X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

I'm happy to say that for me, X2 still holds up. The Nightcrawler opening is still awesome, as is Wolverine's first on-screen rampage at the X-Mansion and Magneto's escape from his plastic prison.

Beyond such memorable set pieces, the film simply improves upon the original in just about every way. Halle Berry dropped the puzzling accent she used as Storm in the first installment, the fight scenes are much better choreographed (Wolverine vs. Lady Deathstrike stands out), and the new additions to the hero and villain rosters include more hits than misses.

Goodbye silly accent, hello silly haircut.

Mystique is much better here, with a particularly memorable escape scene that really sells her as someone being worthy of such a high rank in Magneto's organization. The film is paced well, which is a good thing since at over two hours, this isn't a short film. The finale isn't as dynamic as in many superhero films, but seeing William Stryker get his is satisfying and Jean Grey's demise is well executed (no pun intended).

As with most of the X-films, the movie works as social commentary, with Patrick Stewart's Professor Xavier and Ian McKellan's Magneto both having plenty of thought-provoking things to say during their exchanges. The parallels to the struggles of gay people are pretty obvious and a little heavy-handed, but they still work. When Bobby's mom asks him, "Have you tried not being a mutant?," it's both brilliant satire and a wonderful point.

"No, Mom. Have you tried not being an ignorant slut?"

While I don't think X2 is the greatest comic-based superhero film ever any longer, it's still an amazing effort that holds up very well after 13 years. Hugh Jackman really comes into his role as Wolverine here, while Stewart and McKellan ground the film with their continued greatness as the series' iconic frienemies. This is still one of the best superhero films ever.

Grade: A-

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