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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that X2: X-Men United is the action- and violence-packed second film in the X-Men blockbuster movie franchise. The action in the fight scenes is unrelenting and, though cartoonish and rooted in comic books, features moments where the president of the United States is pinned down on his Oval Office desk by a knife-wielding mutant, police officers are burned to a crisp, and soldiers are clawed to death by Wolverine. There's a scene of forced sexual coercion during which Mystique forces herself on a prison guard, where they end up in a bathroom -- the initiation of oral sex is strongly implied. At other moments, characters are kicked, thrown, and shot at. Teens smoke in a mall, and Wolverine is often seen with a cigar in his mouth. There's occasional profanity ("s--t," "ass," "t-t," "d--k," "hell") and some product placement as characters drink Dr. Pepper and Miller Genuine Draft. On a positive note, the X-Men are brave, devoted to their professor and school, and loyal to one another.
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What's the story?
In X2: X-MEN UNITED, the ubiquitous Brian Cox (of Adaptation, The 25th Hour, The Ring, and The Rookie) as Colonel Stryker wants to wipe out the mutants. Stryker and his soldiers invade the school run by wise and benevolent mutant Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart). They capture Xavier and some of the students. Stryker plans to use Xavier's brain and the machine he developed to track down and destroy every mutant. Meanwhile, Magneto (Ian McKellen) is in an enormous plastic prison, unable to use his powers because they require metal. He is able to get out after metal is smuggled in to him, and must work with Xavier's mutants (the X-Men), his former enemies, to defeat Stryker.
Is it any good?
This sequel is bigger, badder, and better than the first film, bringing back the excellent special effects, attractive stars, and fun action sequences, and the perfect popcorn-movie tone. That said, while this movie is all about the action, there are so many characters that it's hard to include them all in anything meaningful, giving parts of X2: X-Men United the feel of a prolonged introduction.
The comic's fans want to see every character up on the screen, and the movie tries to make it happen. But the result is that it's hard for people who are not familiar with the stories to keep everyone straight or develop much of a commitment to any of them. Halle Berry and Anna Paquin in particular are still criminally underused. The most memorable character is Mystique, played by Rebecca Romjin-Stamos, who is so good that she can even act under all that blue paint and those sequin-like scales. Alan Cummings is a welcome addition as Nightcrawler, but his German accent and Biblical references seem out of place and attracted some laughter from the audience. This is handled with more sensitivity in the comic books, where he is portrayed as a devout Catholic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the the mutants' fight for acceptance in X2: X-Men United mirrors the struggle to overcome racism and other forms of bigotry in our society. Is the metaphor effective?
If you saw the first X-Men movie in this series, which do you like better? How are they different?
How well do you think comic books translate to feature films? Which comics-based movies have made the best adaptations?
- In theaters: May 2, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: November 25, 2003
- Cast: Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart
- Director: Bryan Singer
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Superheroes, Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 135 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sci-fi action/violence, some sexuality and brief language
- Last updated: February 27, 2021
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