X2: X-Men United is a large step up from the first film. There's very little to complain about with this rare superhero sequel that somehow manages to exceed the standards set by its predecessor. Hardly any sequels are capable of doing so, action films in particular, but X2 did! The action is bigger, the characters are more developed and emotion is even brought into the gist of it all.
Bryan Singer is more confident in the director's chair this time around. In my review for the first X-Men (here) I was already exclaiming how great a job Singer did with directing, but with X2 he's able to be a bit more creative which, of course, makes a much better film when done right. X2 just goes to show that Singer should always get the final say (cough cough Last Stand).
Like with the first film, there's plenty of character development to go around as well as backstories to be unfolded. With the first X-Men movie there was little discovered about the majority of the character's origins, but with X2 we get to understand more about where they come from and how there powers came to be. This origin also leads onto a change in their present day selves and how they react to many of the situations and dilemmas that they're faced with.
I always love a good joint forces movie and with X2 they show how to get it done right. There's only a small group of films that go for the good guys must team up with the bad guys sequel and when this can be done well I love it. X2 will probably slot in at number 1 spot because it shows how to do it right. Throughout the entire series there's always an aspect of good teaming with bad, the Professor X and Magneto storyline, but X2 has it for the majority of the film. When good and bad get together almost anything can happen and it does!
To sum up, X2 is a large step up over the first film with more confident directing, bigger action, added backstories and character development, many scenes with great emotion and an example of good teaming with bad done right.
4 1/2 Stars