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X2: X-Men United
Fight for your right—to have genetic mutations

Reviewed By
Kate Dalke

Movie Review

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Alan Cumming is Nightcrawler.

Mutant war is brewing, again. Yet this time the powerful, diverse and misunderstood super heroes of Marvel Comics aren’t shooting optic beams and lightening bolts at one another.

In X-2: X-Men United, the X-Men and other mutants join forces to combat a villainous human named Stryker, who is bent on manipulating and eventually destroying all mutants. There are some new mutant faces, as well as old favorites, in the action-packed sequel to X-Men, which was also directed by Bryan Singer.

Wolverine, played by Hugh Jackman, is back with his volatile temper, razor-sharp claws and healing powers. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) has more slithery tricks under her skin as she morphs into anyone she touches.

But most impressive is Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), who invisibly and instantaneously teleports himself to other locations. Brought up as a circus performer—with blue skin and blue hair to boot—Nightcrawler makes an odd but endearing addition to the X-Men team.

As the movie opens, an estranged mutant attempts to assassinate the President of the United States, and a backlash against all mutants ensues. There are anti-mutant protests and talk of rounding up mutants “by the truckload.”

More threatening still, Stryker has sabotaged the leader of the X-Men, Professor Charles Xavier, in order to find and destroy all mutants. Make sure your popcorn and soda are refilled for the rest of the movie: the fight scenes are long, too long.

Jean Grey (Famke Janssen, left) and Storm (Halle Berry) pilot the X-Jet.

I was thoroughly entertained and impressed by all the X-Men’s super powers. But by the time the X-Men make their final getaway in their jet, I was exhausted—a lot goes on in the day of a mutant superhero.

The X-Men made their first appearance in comic books in 1963, and there’s a lot of history to cover in two and a half hours. The film leaves much of the history and introductions behind. This will come as a relief to comic book aficionados, who already know the cast of characters.

For everyone else, X-2 assumes too much. It assumes we know and care about X-Men and their plight. There are so many characters, you may find yourself asking: Now, what powers does that mutant have? Be sure you see the first X-Men or get a Marvel comics fan to fill in the gaps for you.

The film explores the themes of intolerance, prejudice, diversity, and plain old good versus evil, as did the Marvel Comics series on which the movie is based. It also reveals something about mutant biology. X-Men, and other super-powered mutants are called Homo superior. Mutations in their DNA give them special powers that are “awakened” during puberty or stress.

These superpowers are hard for mutants and non-mutants alike to understand. Xavier, the world’s most powerful telepath, becomes a mentor to these awkward adolescents by founding a school for gifted children in New York. There, mutants learn to control and hone their special powers in safety and seclusion from the rest of the world.

A war of genetics is underway as Homo superior fight Homo sapiens for their spot in the universe. There is fear, misunderstanding, and blame. For instance, Iceman’s mother, upon witnessing her son freeze objects, asks, “Have you tried not being a mutant?”

Iceman’s powers, like those of other mutants, come from his DNA. X-genes can be passed down from normal humans to their children, but fathers actually carry the mutant genes in their genome. An environmental stimulus, like stress or tragedy, can turn these genes “on.”

The super-powered special effects in X2 are cool enough to keep you stimulated during a movie that, to a non-Marvel enthusiast, may seem confusing at times.

See GNN’s Review of X-Men
»Genetic Super Heroes Save the World

Science of Science Fiction
The Science of the X-Men By Link Yaco and Karen Haber

The typos and grammar are atrocious. But if you’ve ever wondered if humans could really move matter with their minds, run at 175 mph, or grow adamantium claws, then this could be the book for you.

The Science of the X-Men is a reference book for comic-book lovers. In the “official guide to the scientific reality of the mutant world,” authors Link Yaco and Karen Haber theorize on the potential science and technology behind the powers of the various X-Men.

Each chapter is devoted to one super hero, including a synopsis of their powers and an analysis of how they rise above the laws of science that govern mere mortals.

Wolverine probably has as many as 1,000 separate receptor proteins in his olfactory neurons that give him his superior sense of smell. Angel’s genes may produce a “carbon-based, entirely organic material” in his bones that allow him to stay afloat in the air when he spreads his wings.

For some, the science of the book won’t satisfy. Besides the sloppy editing, you have to ignore the outdated estimate of 100,000 genes in the human genome (there are about 30,000). At times, the science doesn’t correspond with the characters at all.

How do extremophiles living on methane at the bottom of the ocean relate to Blob, a mutant that grows so fat he is virtually immoveable?

What do the authors mean when they write, “genes themselves are just genes,” in their description of the alien race Brood?

But it’s a reference book about science fiction, after all.

As the authors explain in the introduction, X-genes were “implanted in mankind’s prehistoric ancestors by the mysterious, space-faring race known as Celestials.” To keep turning the pages, you’ll need a little faith in exotic molecules and mysterious forces.

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