Friday, May 02, 2003


Never underestimate the X-Men
Posted: 11:17 AM (Manila Time) | May 02, 2003
By Reymundo Salao, Contributor
Inquirer News Service
link to the article on

(also published in The Guardian, May, 2003)


CRITICS often misjudge films adapted from comic books.

It is in this sad manner of criticism that we see that there is bias, among the so-called "film critics". Truth is, though, that film adaptation of comic book stories has the same footing as with films adapted from good science fiction books like "Dune" or "Minority Report".

After all, what differs between the comic book and the novels was too little to make a hasty comparison. If the story in a novel is good, why not a story in a comic book? And at this point, no other comic book-film-adaptation can compare to the sequel of the "X-Men" movie, "X-2: X-Men United".

The story continues the saga of the X-Men, a team of mutants, banded together by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), training and educating them to hone their gifts for a noble purpose: to use it for the goodwill of mankind and mutant-kind alike.

The world is faced with great awareness with the existence of mutant-kind. Such existence has brought about hatred and discrimination among the society, fearing and loathing them for their unusual nature. As such, the government likewise was growing cautious of mutant threats, as many mutants have the capability to violate the law with the crudest of means (some mutants can go through walls, some can read minds, etc…).

In the light of recent events, a twisted military chief, William Stryker, has been authorized to set its sights upon the activities of Professor Charles Xavier and his school for gifted youngsters, which was the institution where mutants were trained, educated, and likewise, housed the X-Men. With events complicating one after the other, remaining survivors of the X-Men find themselves allying with their former nemesis Magneto (Sir Ian Mckellen) to stop Stryker and saving mutant-kind.

You may be familiar with the comic books, or the two animated series (which pretty much sucked). X-Men have become quite popular, with its appealing characters like Wolverine and Storm. And although this film was more than enough, a high-impact action movie, it has the depth and the makings of a true science fiction classic. Because X-Men was popularized here in the Philippines via the animated series, many were a bit frustrated with the first movie, complaining that it lacked the action they expected. What they may have failed to comprehend was that X-Men had many messages to tell. The one about mutant discrimination, for instance, may be a metaphor for racism and discrimination.

The first X-Men movie was too wordy. But it actually laid the groundwork for this sequel "X-2", so this film did not require much explanation and did not elaborate upon many issues. That doesn't mean though that in order to appreciate this movie, it is a requirement to watch the first film.

This film can indeed stand alone by itself, for the explosions and special effects did not hinder the actors and actresses to shine with their human touch of drama. It succeeds in delivering the sentimental aspect of the film, giving it a more human touch. It also had the best punch lines that made the audiences chuckle now and then, never failing to make the audience entertained visually, emotionally, and even intellectually as well.


Unlike many other films like "Batman Forever" and that "Spawn" movie, producers have learned their lesson in choosing the director and the concept for adapting a comic book. In the past, many comic book films were created with great insistence that it be a family-oriented movie, understandably that it would be more profitable.

But in the long run, it just deteriorated the concepts, Warner Bros. tried to remake the Batman concept, turning him into a goody-two shoes, commercially-friendly figure, giving the directorial helm to Joel Schumacher, and transformed the dark avenger into this boyband-generation version of him, with matching shimmering nipples on his body armor.

It failed miserably making "Batman and Robin" one of the worst movies in history, and Arnold Schwarzenegger into a doofus with a silly Mr. Freeze costume. The entire movie reminded me of the Power Rangers. Warner Brothers had to remake the Batman concept, planning to make him yet again the dead serious dark knight that he really is.

This is where X2 succeeded perfectly. Brian Singer, one of the youngest and finest directors (The Usual Suspects, Apt Pupil) did take the concept seriously. And made it even better. While being truly faithful to the original was good enough. It really doesn't work literally.

For, indeed, if we have had the film version of the X-Men wear the brightly-colored X-Men costumes, it would look like a costume party-fashion party mix-up. The same goes with the many concepts that needed to be altered to fit a good movie version (In the comicbooks, Rouge acquired the cosmic powers of Ms. Marvel, another superhero. This could only make the movie look ridiculous).

As expected, the actors and actresses here shined with effective brilliance. Hugh Jackman is as menacing and as savage as what Wolverine ought to be, especially in situations that confronted him in this movie. The fatherly Patrick Stewart as Professor X is as strong as Sir Ian McKellen, as Magneto, Famke Jansen (Jean Grey), James Marsden (Cyclops), Halle Berry (Storm), Anna Paquin (Rogue), and Shawn Ashmore (Iceman), and Aaron Stanford (Pyro) fit their roles like a comfy jacket.

But it was the introduction of Nightcrawler, played by Alan Cumming, which with his humor and appeal, portrayed a character that can match Wolverine's "cool-action-hero" factor. Rebecca Romjin Stamos (Mystique) had more acting to her role this time, proving there was more to her acting career than a fine body figure. Kelly Hu (Yuriko/Deathstrike) may look like a cool villainess, but she's actually playing a mere bodyguard of Brian Cox (William Stryker), who makes for an impressive villain. Although the former Hannibal Lecter may have been deprived of the fame that he might have gotten from Anthony Hopkin's place, his role here certainly gives him something that X-Men fans will surely remember.

A good sci-fi is as fantastic as it is realistic. This is what X2 did. It crosses the line between what may be far-out to what is acceptable and plausible. The ending promises a sequel, and it seems we cannot wait for that to happen.

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