X2′ slices its way into theatres tommorrow

“X2: X-Men United”, the much anticipated sequel to 2000’s blockbuster hit “X-Men”, hits theatres this Friday.

Much of the cast returns, including Halle Berry (Storm), Hugh Jackman (Wolverine), and Patrick Stewart (Professor X). This time around, the band of outlaw mutants must join forces with its ideological rivals, The Brotherhood of Mutants, to face an even larger threat – the U.S. government.

Sen. Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison) is now president in the sequel, and after a failed assassination attempt by a mutant, Gen. William Stryker, played by Brian Cox (“The Ring”), a plan is set in motion that will raid the Xavier Institute, the secret headquarters of the X-Men themselves.

The assassin is none other than fan favorite Kurt Wagner, a.k.a. “Nightcrawler”, played by Alan Cummings (Zero Effect).

Another blue mutant rejoins the cast, as Mystique, played Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, has survived the first movie, and returned to rescue the leader of the Brotherhood, Magneto, a role reprised by Sir Ian McKellan.

Wolverine, on the other hand, has a large role in the movie as he continues to search for clues about his past and his origin.

Through the course of the movie, Wolverine discovers that his past and his present hold a common thread, in the form of Gen. Stryker. Wolverine also learns he is not one of a kind, as Kelly Hu plays Lady Deathstrike, a female version of Wolverine.

And as if returning Director Bryan Singer hadn’t provided enough reason for X-men fans to quiver with delight, the cast of mutants grows even larger by inclusion of many teenage mutants, many of which we met in “X1”. Pyro (Aaron Staford), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Sean Ashmore), Jubilee (Kea Wong) and Kitty Pryde (Katie Stuart) all return in this chapter, in much expanded roles.

In true Singer fashion, this movie promises more surprises than the first, as rumors abound as to what cameos this one will feature. Speculation insists that Beast, Siryn, Sebastian Shaw, and the ever-popular Gambit all make appearances in “X2”.

There are also rumors of unrevealed story elements that make a THIRD X-movie all but inevitable. And you know what they say about a rumor that doesn’t go away…

Early reviews for “X2: X-men United” are already praising it as completely eclipsing the first one in scope and quality, drawing comparisons to such films as “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Road Warrior”, and the “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”. Many attribute this to the nearly doubled budget of $100 million.

Ain’t-It-Cool-News, the popular movie news Web site, has been following the development of the film since day one, describing it as “[undeserving] to be categorized as a ‘comic book film.’ It’s better than that. It’s just a great piece of escapist art.”

The entertainment magazine, The Empire, describes “X2” as not only bigger, better and badder, but surprisingly heartfelt as well.

“X2 is one of the finest comic book movie to date, and a film that in every conceivable way improves upon its predecessor. ‘X2’ is also possessed of an emotional complexity that won’t surprise comics fans, but will delight connoisseurs of the summer blockbuster.”

The film clocks in at a whopping 137 minutes, over half an hour longer than its predecessor. And from the look of things, Singer needed every minute to pack the movie full the most mutant mayhem possible.

“X2” has also proved itself to be one of the first comic flicks to adhere to the story lines and direction that the comic books intended, which in turn pleases Marvel fans everywhere.

“X2: X-men United” hits theatres Friday.. Check local listings for show times and ticket prices.

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