After pleasing both fans and non-fans alike with his realistic and powerful portrayal of the X-men universe, director Bryan Singer returns 3 years later with
an even more potent, fun and exciting look at what Professor X and his team of mutants are up to, and it's good to note that the law of diminishing returns doesn't hold true for this superb comic-book-to-movie adaptation.
The film picks up from where its predecessor left off, with Wolverine searching for clues that will help clarify his muddled past. He is introduced sniffing around the ice drenched Alkali Lake, where figments of his origin come back to him as incoherent images. Back home, the other members of the super team are busy in their tasks as teachers in Xavier's school for gifted youngsters or the very pupils that are taught by them. Fresh faces include Rogues newly discovered beau Bobby, aka Iceman, (the name says it all!) and the wayward John, aka Pyro.
However it is the infiltration of an aimless blue German mutant, the teleporting Nightcrawler, into the White House in a taut introduction that is indeed the pinnacle of the movie's fluid action pieces. This scene also acts as a catalyst to once again set into motion a confrontation between humans and mutants. Singer uses a number of terrific set pieces, such as the one in the food court of a museum or the aforementioned attack at the White House, to showcase the abilities of the newer recruits. As a direct result of the attempt on the president's life, an ex-military colonel, Stryker (the always perfect Brian Cox), obtains permission to infiltrate what he believes is the focal point of all mutant activity, Xavier's school itself.
Having unsuccessfully returned from his sojourn, Wolverine stays behind at the X mansion, and acts as baby sitter, while the others disperse on various assignments. This state of affairs convenes with the raid on the X mansion, where Wolverine's rage gets the better of him. For those who couldn't get enough of his claws in action, there are some very impressive situations that find Logan grinding and slicing the perpetrators of the compound. Its during these frantic moments of intensity that we see the best of Wolverine. Here we witness the first of two disparate circumstances that Wolverine finds himself in, the other being at the receiving end of a thorough thrashing at the hands of Yuriko, or Lady Deathstrike, one of Stryker's cohorts, who also sports an adamantium laced skeleton. Revealing how things take off from there would be ruining the viewing experience of those who haven't seen this, so I'll end with the description of the plot at this stage.
Which is a good thing, since there is so much more to this movie than simply the tale unfolding on the screen. One thing that surprised me about this sequel is how much more humor there is this time (and thats not referring to the cheap one liners that Clooney was relegated to uttering in the Batman and Robin fiasco). The script finds genuine warmth in the relationships, such as the one between Rogue and Bobby, and light moments to loosen up the terseness, such as when a small group of the X-men visit Bobby's house, where Logan pretends to be an art professor. Attentive fans are also rewarded with glimpses referring to other characters from the comic universe as well.
As with any popular sequel, familiar themes are re-treaded including Logan's suppressed affections for Jean Grey and his constant friction with being in the same room as Scott Summers. Singer and his scribes take a certain amount of liberty with the X men universe (Colossus is an American?), but that is both acceptable and expected. Long time readers of the comic book are well acquainted with the multiple worlds that each character can inhabit, so much so that there is a blurring line between the original universe and those that have become extensions of it. It is Singer's good fortune that he incorporates tiny instances of many themes so that a) the movie has its own distinct feel without compromising on the intricacies that make the characters so popular and b) leaves even the most fanatical follower of the comic series wondering which stream from the comic will find its way interpreted onto the big screen.
And then there are the superb action sequences, of which Nightcrawlers introduction and Wolverine's reaction to Stryker's raid I have already hinted at. But watch out for a key sequence where Magneto does what is expected when a person grows impatient in a prison, and you shall realize how much thought was put into achieving perfection. Which this movie does achieve, nearly. I say nearly, because towards the end, the movie becomes a victim of its own success. In an apparent response to viewer's qualms that the first movie was a little short in length, this one seems to go overboard, like some of Spielberg's recent work. There is an opportunity for a decent finish, both shockingly unexpected and in tune with the comics storyline, but an apparent attempt is made to justify its occurrence, which could have been done without. On the whole though, this was a supremely satisfying sequel and it manages to culminate unhinged everything that was setup in the first film, and if the setup enticed you, this will leave you breathless. - Faizan Rashid