The X-Men films are strange, you have these mutants with amazing powers but they don’t seem to be able to do a lot with them most of the time. Take Professor X (Patrick Stewart) – according to this instalment able to kill any (non-helmeted) mutant on the planet just with the power of his mind. You wouldn’t know it normally. Storm (Halle Berry) can fly/hover above the ground but seems unable to use this power to save herself (or anyone else) when in a crashing plane. Cyclops (James Marsden), might as well just be a man with a gun because that’s mostly all he uses his eye beams for – shooting the odd person. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) – incredibly powerful when the plot requires it but most of the time she uses her telekinetic powers in a very limited way.
All this neatly sums up most of the early X-Men films – interesting but unspectacular. (compare one of the X-Men films to The Avengers for example). The movies do have other strengths however and I will get to those later.
For now back to the story: William Stryker (Brian Cox) has captured Professor X and is planning to to trick him into using his aforementioned lethal mind power to kill all the mutants on the planet. This is as much a concern for the X-Men’s arch-enemy Magneto (Ian McKellen) as it for the X-Men so the one time enemies become allies as they team up to combat this deadly threat.
This is much better than the first X-Men film. It has a more gripping plot and is generally better executed. There’s still the problem that the X-men have to spend as much time saving the (mutant) children as they do battling the bad guys. Although even without the children there is always a reason why they are never to able to fully open up with their powers – some restriction or obstacle that’s stopping them. In a way though this what makes the series clever. It’s all about, getting the right X-Men into the right place so they can then use their combined powers to work around these restrictions. When everything does work it’s like a big satisfying puzzle, when the pieces finally click together to produce a solution.
I find most of the early X-Men films a bit lightweight, lacking in impact – and this is no exception but it’s intelligent (for the superhero genre) especially so with it’s layered commentary on attitudes and discrimination toward minority people and groups. More importantly though it has good action sequences.