Wolverine returns from a failed attempt to discover his origins to find the X-Men under siege from a shadowy organisation bent on the extermination of mutant kind.
As a long time fan of the comic books, the original X-Men film was a disappointment. Its superficial realisation of the characters and their relationships and an all but absent plot was wholly unsatisfactory, but what it succeeded in doing was laying the groundwork for a sequel that could take the ideas presented and run with them to glorious effect; and that’s exactly what Bryan Singer did with X2. Wolverine – who was always by far the most intriguing character – rightfully takes centre stage and his exploration of his past seen here is far more interesting (and accurate) than his own cinematic vehicle X-Men Origins: Wolverine that came seven years later. The sophisticated, multi-layered plot beautifully ties together many threads and disparate characters to perfectly capture the best themes of the books; namely prejudice, divided loyalties and moral ambiguities and each character is given just enough room to shine. The action sequences are also a huge improvement. The opening sequence features more thrills than the entire first films combined and every set piece is a perfectly pitched combination of excitement, plot development and characterisation; the assault on the mansion and Magneto’s escape being the pick of a brilliant bunch. X2 predates Batman Begins by two full years and at the time was easily the most “adult” superhero film around and contains the formula of the intelligent blockbuster that Christopher Nolan would go on to perfect.
If only Brett Ratner hadn’t fumbled the ball so badly for the third instalment, I suspect that this film would be rightfully recognised as the coming of age of Marvel Studios and the beginning of the Renaissance of the superhero genre.