"X2" is about as perfect a science fiction feast made from comic-book ingredients as I could have hoped for.
"X2," the sequel to "X-Men," is about as perfect a science fiction feast made from comic-book ingredients as I could have hoped for. Granted it may not have the cultural impact of the first (a challenge for sequels, especially those adapted from comic books), and it may be too long by about a half hour, but there are intriguing themes like acceptance of differences (mutants) and the equality, maybe superiority, of women (Some of the most powerful mutant activity comes from women).
Although the old "good versus evil" motif is a staple of most successful sci-fi, "X2" Director Bryan Singer ("X-Men," "The Usual Suspects") has the good fortune of Brian Cox as the very evil William Stryker, dedicated to revenging himself on head mutant professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and destroying all mutants. The government is determined to neutralize the mutants by putting forth the "Anti-Mutant Registration Act," which would effectively eliminate any peaceful co-existence. The parallel with John Ashcroft's ambitious "rounding up all the usual Mid-Eastern suspects" comes immediately to mind.
The special effects in "X2" are as good as the best out there, the minor women as smart and versatile as any "Avenger" or "Charlie's Angel" (for example, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mistique, the shape-shifter with a brain and a memorable shape), but the leads are ever the watchable pros. Besides the always-interesting Stewart, Ian McKellan is the wicked but loveable Magneto, and Alan Cumming is the satanic teleporter, Nightcrawler. Even Anna Paquin in a minor role as Rogue is able to establish a presence. Hugh Jackman as the irresponsible but attractive Wolverine should remain the audience favorite and the most human of the mutants.
Casting always plays a significant role in sci-fi flick success: Stewart and McKellan are the examples here. But more than their presence are the themes, the imagination, and the energy to make it all distinctively "X." As always, the Bard says it best: "If this be magic, let it be an art . . . ."