“Have you ever tried not being a mutant?”
trumps
“Do you know what happens to a toad when it is struck by lightning?”

WARNING: Read the discussion with caution. Someone posted a big honkin’ spoiler in the title of a comment.

Premise: A politically and personally motivated general manipulates the public’s fears to bring about a war against mutants– forcing rival mutant leaders Professor X and Magneto and their followers to band together. The conflict results in a threat to the entire human race, but you knew that was going to happen.

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Bryan Singer
Screenwriters: David Hayter, Daniel P. Harris, Michael Dougherty, Zak Penn.
Cast: Good lord! There are twelve thousand or so characters. Go to the Full IMDB Listing for specifics.

High Points: Obviously, this is a super-hero movie based on a comic-book, and must be viewed as such. You have to be willing to accept such things as, say, a genetic mutation that gives someone control over the weather. X2 delivers an extraordinary thrill ride. The film keeps itself firmly rooted in the comic-book version of reality, so that we don’t get to see a serious consideration of what might happen if people were walking around with this kind of power.

The Mutant-as-[insert oppressed minority of your choice here] theme works well; X2 establishes and use the subtext without calling undue attention to it.

Low Points: Much of the conclusion falls into the genre cliche the film had avoided. The final confrontation between Stryker and Wolverine, where Wolvie has to make a really easy moral decision (while holding a mutant child, no less) while Stryker shouts bad comic-book dialogue is a definite low. In the final scenes, the dialogue is hokier, the sacrifice one character makes, somewhat arbitrary (insofar that reasonable opportunities for rescue were ruled out on dubious grounds), and the last-minute voice-over regarding evolution, irrelevant and silly.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6. I found the film quite exciting, but there’s nothing terribly original about the plot. You know what would be original? A film about really powerful heroes that creates drama and suspense without putting the destruction of the entire human race and/or the planet earth on the table.

Effects: 5/6. While there’s nothing unexpected or even terribly original here, the film integrates the effects very well. (The Hulk trailer shown beforehand looks less promising in this area).

Story: 4/6: The world-threatening menace is less ridiculous than in the first film, and the story moves along nicely. We have an awful lot of characters to follow, however, and anyone who has not watched the first film, or does not know the X-Men, will likely not have a clue as to why anything is happening.

Acting: 4/6. Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen and most of the cast do an admirable job at giving emotional shadings to far-fetched characters inhabiting a script which provides little room for character development. Alan Cumming provides the best performance. His take on Nightcrawler, frightening-looking but frightened of the world, makes him the best poster-boy for Innocent Outsiders since Boo Radley.

Halle Berry has proven herself an outstanding actress elsewhere, but Storm has been written wooden, and Berry’s performance– given her work elsewhere– is disappointing. Ah, well. At least she doesn’t have to ask what happens when a toad is struck by lightning.

Production: 6/6 I can’t really fault many aspects of the production. I do wish Wolverine and his female counterpart’s Mutant Healing Factor hadn’t extended to their leather suits, however.

Emotional Response: 3/6 This is a roller-coaster ride, and not serious drama. The sheer number of characters minimizes the opportunity for serious emotional involvement. It delivers a few moments of plausible humanity; look for the conversation between Mystique and Nightcrawler. Turn that score up by one if you consider sheer visceral thrills to qualify as “emotional response.”

Overall: 4/6 If you’re going for a cinematic thrill ride, this is a good one, and one of the best adaptations of a comic-book around.

In total, X2 receives 29/42.

Useless Detail: Look for a strange cameo by “Dr. Hank McCoy,” Beast in the comic. Whether he is the same character here remains unclear.