Movie Article

'X'traordinary

Why ''X2'' is the perfect movie adaptation. When it comes to making a big budget flick from a comic, says Jeff Jensen, others would be wise to follow three important rules

X2: X-Men United | THE NOT-SO-NUTTY PROFESSOR Singer, ''X2'''s director, outdid himself with the sequel
THE NOT-SO-NUTTY PROFESSOR Singer, ''X2'''s director, outdid himself with the sequel

Why ''X2'' is the perfect movie adaptation

Superhero movies usually let me down. Yes, I am a card-carrying fanboy, and I am harder on comic book adaptations than any other film genre: I was one of the seven people on this planet who didn’t get admirably entangled in ''Spider-Man'''s web. In fact, because of that amazing disconnect, I was convinced no superhero movie could ever meet my super-sized expectations.

But then I saw ''X2: X-Men United.'' And, dear readers, unless my Man of Steel aesthetics have gone flabby, I have seen a superhero flick done right. Clearly, director Bryan Singer learned some lessons in 2000’s so-so ''X-Men'' and applied them to his sequel. Future adaptations would be wise to pay heed. For example:

SIZE DOES MATTER. Let’s start with two things that were out of Singer’s control with his flawed first film: running time and budget. At around 90 minutes, which was calculated to engineer a massive opening weekend, ''X1'' was the Kate Moss of superhero movies: painfully lean. And with a budget of just $75 million, Singer couldn’t whip up a feast of plot and visual pop even if he wanted to. Yet with ''X2,'' Fox has taken a cue from ''Spider-Man'': generosity pays. Blissfully, Singer used his expanded resources ($125 million and 120 minutes) wisely. Not on explosions and special effects (though there’s plenty of eye candy in ''X2''), but on weaving in texture that will allow audiences to truly experience the cool grooves of the X-universe. Iceman chilling a bottle of soda. Professor Xavier and Wolverine marveling over the wild vagaries of evolution. Nightcrawler’s heartbreaking soliloquy. These are the moments that give ''X2'' its lift -- the kind of moments that get cut from a screenplay when a director has to solve the problem of diminished cash and minutes.

TRUST THE SOURCE MATERIAL The danger of hiring serious-minded auteurs to helm superhero franchises is that they don’t want to look silly. Singer himself struggled with the standard tropes of codenames and costumes while making ''X1.'' Fortunately, he got over himself. ''X2'' is chockablock with classic ''X-Men'' beats that will delight fans of the comic book adventures -- most memorably (and importantly, since it sets up ''X3''), the emergence of Phoenix. Best of all, Singer incorporates these elements in a way that doesn't alienate newcomers; instead, they enhance the richness and mystery of the story. The solution to solving the silly issue isn’t to run away from it, but to make us believe in it.

IT’S THE YARN, STUPID Why do I think ''X2'' is superior to ''Spider-Man''? Because in ''X2,'' I was lost in the yarn. The key isn’t great acting, which ''Spider-Man'' had. And it’s not great special effects, which ''Spider-Man'' also had. It’s the seamless interweaving of both. And that, ''Spider-Man'' lacked. I seriously believe that after seeing ''X2,'' you won’t go home raving about a scene-stealing performance, special effect, or fight scene. All its ingredients blend beautifully into a singular sensation. Let me illustrate: Watch for the moment in which Rogue gets sucked out of the X-jet and Nightcrawler teleports to save her. Don’t blink -- because in the span of a BAMF! BAMF! BAMF! (Nightcrawler’s trademark sound effect), ''X2'' gives you an exhilarating and moving mix of superhero character, special effects, and fanboy faithfulness, all at the service of the story. An Xtraordinary feat, indeed.

Originally posted May 07, 2003
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