X2: X-Men United
- compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2003 1 Jan
The first blockbuster action movie of the year,
Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) , and the meddlesome bad guy Magneto (Ian McKellen) are back on the big screen, continuing the saga of supernaturally talented mutants who are persecuted by a society they're trying to protect. This time, the kind-hearted heroes find themselves in trouble when the elusive Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) attacks the President of the United States. A brilliant bigot named William Stryker (Bryan Cox) takes advantage of the incident, convincing the President to support military action against the mutants. But even the President does not suspect Stryker's genocidal intentions.
Stryker is causing trouble for more than mutants. He has offended a portion of
Anti-Islamic content? When Stryker is shown signing a document that will further his wicked agenda, the camera catches a glimpse of his ring, which bears the Arabic symbol for "Allah."
The fuss over this inflammatory detail is not hindering the film's success with audiences or critics. According to imdb.com,
Singer clearly had successful sequels on his mind as he structured his follow-up to 2000's
One thing that sets this franchise apart is the way it lends itself to varying interpretations, all relevant and timely. The story focuses intently on the plight of minorities. The mutants can represent persecuted Jews, alienated teens, sexual minorities, or Christians.
(One Christian movie critic interrupts his
Singer works his concerns about intolerance, violent revolt, and peace-seeking diplomacy cleverly into the film's almost nonstop action. He grounds familiar social dilemmas in strong characters and snappy dialogue, so that focus remains where it should be: on plot rather than preaching.
Numerous plot threads, more than a dozen central heroes and villains, and the high-speed storytelling prove dizzying and, for some, confusing. Still, it is remarkable how well Singer acquaints us with his large cast of unusual characters. They are quirky, endearing, and interesting. Each mutant's talents and troubles becomes a different metaphor.
Many critics claim the movie will please only comic book fans. I disagree. I have never read a single issue of
Not every religious press critic agrees. (My full review is at Looking Closer.)
J. Robert Parks (The Phantom Tollbooth) says the movie "doesn't have time to do more than hint at character development. I found this rushing between characters, with little serious storytelling for any of them, frustrating." He adds, "My Christian friends were thrilled that we see a genuinely religious character join the band … but here there wasn't enough time to have him do more than say the Lord's Prayer."
Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) agrees: "There simply isn't enough time to explore any character or situation fully. The film is a loud, explosive, eye-catching sensory overload that immerses us into its world for over two hours but leaves us relatively unchanged by the experience."
But Steven D. Greydanus (Decent Films) writes, "Larger in scope and darker in tone than its predecessor, as rich in invention but expanding on it,
He too finds something lacking (and I agree on this point): "The main thing that keeps
David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) finds moral significance in the storytelling: "The X-Men's commitment to protecting others—even those who consider them deviants and actively seek their destruction—echoes Christ's mandate to 'love your enemies, and do good to those who persecute you.' One of the heroes even pays the ultimate price, illustrating the Christian ideal of laying down one's life for one's friends. The film is replete with religious imagery and allusions. [Nightcrawler's] faith comes across as genuine and is treated with a reverence rare in Hollywood fare."
"I enjoyed this movie," says Holly McClure (Crosswalk), "and can safely say it won't disappoint the fans who like plenty of action, special effects, interesting characters and unbelievable stunts."
Bob Waliszewski (Focus on the Family) disagrees: "The director describes
Deanna Marquart (Christian Spotlight) argues, "The inclusion of Nightcrawler's faith was a wonderful surprise and hopefully it will serve as a light in the darkness to viewers who need the Savior. On the other hand, those with reservations about violence and other worldly displays and themes can expect to see their fears realized on the screen. Parents should certainly exercise their best discretion."
By "worldly displays," Marquart is referring to the film's emphasis on evolution. The characters talk about mutation as a form of evolution, but how strong an evolutionary message is a film sending when its boldest act of "evolution" is an act of Christlike sacrifice rather than "survival of the fittest"?
Most mainstream critics express admiration and praise for