X2: X-MEN UNITED is a slam-bang comic book movie with surprisingly strong Christian elements and a redemptive worldview. Regrettably, however, it tries to be all things to all people by including other content that evangelical Christians will find highly objectionable, such as some pro-evolution sentiments and brief sensual content.
A sequel to the first X-MEN movie a few years ago, X2 begins where the first movie left off, after a hyperactive opening where the President of the United States is threatened by a blue-skinned mutant human being who can dematerialize at will. As explained in the first movie and in a brief narrated introduction here, the Earth has become embroiled in an apocalyptic conflict when mutant human beings with special super powers have started being born to seemingly normal parents. Many of the normal humans have become fearful of these strange mutants, and some of the mutants have decided that it’s either them or us.
Into this conflict steps Professor Charles Xavier (played by Patrick Stewart), a mutant with amazing telepathic powers who runs a school for mutant children. Professor X wants to teach the children how to control their powers and how to live in peace with the non-mutant humans. He has also started a secret force of superhero adult mutants, nicknamed the X-Men, to make sure that evil mutants and evil non-mutants don’t let their differences get out of hand.
Using Cerebro, his powerful computer that can help him locate all mutants and non-mutants on the planet, Professor X sends two X-Men to locate the strange new mutant who tried to kill the President. The new mutant, Nightcrawler, has run underground to hide out in Boston, which may mean that things are not what they seem.
Meanwhile, an evil military scientist named Colonel Stryker is drugging Professor X’s nemesis, Erik (played by Ian McKellen of LORD OF THE RINGS). Erik is an evil mutant nicknamed Magneto who can control metal objects with his mind but who has been placed in an all-plastic prison cell. Magneto hopes to start a war with the non-mutants so that the mutants can take their “rightful” place as the master race of the planet.
Stryker, on the other hand, wants to find out everything that Magneto knows about Professor X and his X-Men so that he can destroy all mutants everywhere. Using Magneto’s information, Stryker kidnaps Professor X and invades the school, trying to take all the mutant children captive. Stryker only manages to kidnap a few of the children, however. Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman), a mysterious mutant who’s got special self-healing powers but who’s been outfitted with indestructible steel claws in his knuckles, has been babysitting the school that evening. He saves several of the teenage mutants from Stryker and his commandos, and takes the youngsters in search of the two X-Men looking for Nightcrawler.
Stryker, however, has escaped with the secret of Professor X’s powerful computer, which just may be able to give Stryker what he wants: the total destruction of all mutants everywhere. Can Wolverine meet up with his X-Men buddies to save Professor X and stop Stryker in time? And, who is this mysterious Nightcrawler character, and what does he want? The answers to these questions are in doubt almost until the very end, because Magneto has managed to escape from his cell and reunite with the revealingly scaled, beautiful but deadly Mystique, a mutant with chameleon powers who is able to take the form of anyone she wants.
Though a little overlong, X2 takes the X-MEN movie franchise to the next level. It’s one of the few sequels that’s actually better than the first movie. Most of the actors and actresses are allowed to flesh out their characters in many interesting ways. Furthermore, the storyline is able to weave this new depth of characterization into the new characters appearing in the movie, especially the characters of the villainous non-mutant, Stryker, and the mysterious Nightcrawler, who’s played by Alan Cumming.
Many viewers will enjoy the performances and provocative nuances in this story.
As Professor X, Patrick Stewart leads the good guys with a strong, but sensitive, performance. He’s a positive father figure, but still flawed as all men, human or mutant, are. When Stryker kidnaps Professor X and drugs him to trick him into murdering all the mutants, the righteous anger toward this nefarious villain and his evil plan becomes more than palpable. The movie cleverly finds a way to contrast Professor X’s positive father figure with Stryker, who, we learn, has a mutant son whom he has corrupted.
Once again, Hugh Jackman plays the mysterious, but heroic, Wolverine with the kind of panache that a larger-than-life hero needs on the big screen. His scenes with the talented Famke Janssen as Jean Grey, Wolverine’s unrequited love interest, are also highly enjoyable. They add a special romantic poignancy to the story.
Ian McKellen as Magneto also has the kind of panache that a movie villain must have to hold the audience’s attention. His sarcastic asides are deliciously droll. We encourage MOVIEGUIDE® readers to pray for this talented actor so that he may see the errors of his homosexual ways and come to Christ. If God can raise Christ from the dead, then surely He can help and has helped homosexuals overcome their sins.
Happily, the new movie has kept the Christian background of the Nightcrawler character, who not only is given dialogue extolling Christian faith and Jesus Christ, but who also quotes the Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary and Psalm 23 at important points. There are also redemptive elements of self-sacrifice and positive moral values in the script that add to the enjoyment of the frenetic action.
Unhappily, however, the closing of the movie has a strong reference to evolution in it. Supporting this humanist element is a comment which Storm (played by Halle Berry) makes to Nightcrawler, “I have faith in you.” Earlier Nightcrawler had told Storm that Christian faith will help you more than anger, even if the anger you have is a righteous anger. However, it is clear in the movie that every person is flawed, so everyone needs redemption, mitigating the humanist thematic elements which would insist that man is perfectible.
There also seem to be New Age aspects to X2’s pro-evolution humanism. The New Age can seduce people into striving for a “higher state of consciousness” without Jesus Christ and into a belief in seeking special powers in order to manipulate reality. These qualities seem to be a part of the adaptation of the X-Men comics for the big screen in the first two movies.
Of course, many New Agers try to co-opt the story and character of Jesus Christ in creating their neo-pagan, evolutionary visions of mankind and his universe. This kind of syncretism may be an attempt to be all things to all people. On the other hand, the fact that there are strong redemptive qualities to X2: X-MEN UNITED demonstrates that the story of Jesus Christ is the most powerful, most beautiful, truest, and most profound story of all time.
In addition to the mixed worldview messages in X2, parents should note that the movie also contains some foul language, plenty of action violence, a female mutant character who is very exposed, and some sensual elements. They might want to be very careful, therefore, about exposing their older children or younger teenagers to the complex world of the X-Men movies.
(CC, BB, H, EvEv, Pa, LL, VV, S, N, A, DD, M) Light redemptive worldview with strong Christian elements including Christian hero refers to Jesus, prays and quotes Bible verses such as the Lord's Prayer and Psalm 23, and with strong moral elements, marred by humanist themes, strong pro-Evolution elements and New Age elements; 13 obscenities and nine light exclamatory profanities; strong action violence such as lots of martial arts fighting with sharp steel blades, teenagers threaten one another, special forces commandos break into school and threaten children, teenager uses special pyrotechnic powers to hurl balls of fire at people and vehicles, policeman shoots man in head but bullet pops out due to man's special regenerative powers, gunfire, explosions of missiles, woman drugs security guard with big needle, and dam bursts; barely clothed woman tries to seduce two men and teenagers kiss; woman's breasts barely covered by scales and upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking, woman drugs security guard, and military scientist drugs people to carry out plot of genocide and mass murder; and, youthful rebellion and possible pro-homosexual subtext.