X2: X-Men United, by Albert W. Vogt III

One of my favorite comic book characters is Kurt Wagner, more widely known as Nightcrawler. My interest in him started with the early 1990s X-Men arcade game. It was always better when you could get a group of people together to play it because that made defeating the legions of sentinels easier. Yet playing with others meant that there could be competition for your favorite avatars, and you could get stuck with the underpowered Dazzler. I liked controlling Nightcrawler because with the push of a button he could clear a room of your robot foes. Convenient. He does this because he has the ability to instantaneously teleport from one place to another with his trademark “bamf.” I will talk more about his character later on, but it was disappointing as a fan of the Nightcrawler to not see him much in the X-men animated series that came out shortly after the game. That feeling deepened when he did not appear at all in X-Men (2000). But then I recall seeing the preview for X2: X-Men United and was jazzed to see that he would be in it. As for the rest of the movie, well. . . .

At the end of X-Men, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), or Professor X to the X-Men and his students at his school, gave Logan (Hugh Jackman) a clue to the mysterious dog tag he carried around that proclaimed him to be Wolverine. It leads him in X2: X-Men United to an abandoned base that offered him no answers to his true identity. Meanwhile, Rogue (Anna Paquin) is settling into being a student at the school, and has started a relationship with Bobby Drake (Shawn Ashmore). He can make things freeze, giving him the moniker Ice Man. Original, I know. The school is on a field trip to a museum when news breaks of a mutant attack on the president (Cotter Smith), which is actually the opening scene. The mutant who had carried out this attack is my favorite little blue skinned demon look alike Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming). When a tussle breaks out in the museum canteen between the fire wielding John Allerdyce (Aaron Stanford), calling himself (of course) Pyro, Professor X intervenes and gets everyone out before further trouble can occur. The attack on the president emboldens William Stryker (Brian Cox), a quasi-military guy with a vendetta against mutants, to get the president to authorize Stryker to begin targeting people with special abilities. His goal is to discover the secrets of Professor X’s Cerebro machine, a device that allows Xavier to see and touch the minds of everyone on the planet, mutant and human alike. Problem is, if he were to concentrate on either group too much, he would kill them all. Hey, scripts have to be followed! At any rate, the bad guy from X-Men, Eric Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen), or Magneto (I am sure you can guess his powers), is freed from his plastic prison by his main henchwoman, the shapeshifting Mystique (Rebecca Romijn). His escape is fortuitous because Stryker leads an attack on Xavier’s school that results in several of the students being captured and key parts of Cerebro taken. Xavier had been kidnapped previously during one of his visits to Eric. Logan leads a group of those who were able to escape the school, and they are later picked up by Ororo Munroe (Halle Berry), or Storm (take a wild guess at what she can do) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). This last one is not just a random person, but instead a mutant with telekinetic powers similar to Professor X. They had gone to find Nightcrawler. Once together, Magneto and Mystique catch up with them, and thanks to a little sleuthing on Mystique’s part, they know where Stryker’s secret lair is and what he plans to do with Xavier and Crebro. Punch, punch. Kick, kick. Mutant fights. Blah, blah, blah. Of course, the day is saved. However, as the X-Men try to escape, their famous jet will not take off, having suffered damage. But Jean Grey, who had been experiencing trouble with her powers, is able to step outside of the plane as a wall of water from a broken dam (got to love the destruction of public property that results from these comic book battles) threatens to overwhelm them, hold it back, and turn the jet on so it can fly away. She sacrifices herself. Why she could not do that while sitting on the plane, I do not know. Also, Magneto and Mystique go their separate way. At any rate, everyone is sad, but they still manage to sneak into the Oval Office to convince the president not to go forward with anti-mutant measures.

X2: X-Men United is . . . whatever. It is not bad. It is not good. It is just . . . whatever. It is certainly a movie, with a beginning, middle, and end. None of the characters really learn a great deal about themselves. It does address the tried and true X-Men theme of bigotry against the mutants. It is all quite standard, nothing special. But as I said at the outset, I want to concentrate on Nightcrawler. Despite the fact that he looks like an imp from the hot place, pointy tail and all, Kurt Wagner has always been portrayed in the comics and various other formats as being a devout Catholic. Call me predictable, but naturally I would gravitate towards such a character. In the animated series, we see him actually living with monks in Europe, though the X-Men show up and uncover a plot by one of his brothers to get rid of him. During that episode Kurt manages to convince the normally gruff, areligious Logan to read the Bible and pray. In the film, Storm and Jean find Kurt in a church, which was pretty cool. There are also fun moments when you see him praying the Rosary, or saying a Hail Mary in times of distress. Going along with that, he also makes the point that Faith can save you. What a simple but beautiful point. People can look at a person about to be executed, probably praying that something might happen that would allow them to live, and when that does not happen they say the prayer went unanswered. Untrue. Interestingly, they also depict Nightcrawler with geometrical scars all over his body. When asked about them, he says they reflect all the sins he has committed, adding that there are many. If that were actually a thing, how many scars would we all have? And yet, Kurt knows, as we all should, that God loves us still, no matter how we look or act. Understanding that is part of Faith, and why it can, indeed, save you.

X2: X-Men United is available on Disney +, so have at it if you want. It is rated PG-13. I think that, and its predecessor, are rated as such because of Mystique’s default form. In them she is basically naked, a skin tight costuming choice that leaves little to the imagination. Granted, it is blue and scaly, but that might be a little much for younger audiences. Still, I do know too many X-Men fans, myself included, who watch these films and are truly satisfied. I like this one because it has Nightcrawler in it. Is he in any of the others? Nope. But maybe you are a fan of Colossus (Daniel Cudmore)? He is in it for like two-seconds. Otherwise, it is a vanilla version of some of the most beloved Marvel characters.

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