"X2" is a much more fleshed out film than the original, the sets are even more lavish, and the characters are more intriguing this time around, giving this film a more fulfilling arc. Similar to the first film in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, it was necessary for "X-Men" to take the time to set up each character while the second film is now able to take off running. I had to go back and watch "X-Men" again, in part because with all the superhero-type films out there, I was having a heck of a time remembering what characters were in what movie. I think my brain was playing tricks on me, mixing a few "Spider-Man" characters and a dash of "Daredevil," with a handful of characters I'd heard rumors about, ultimately creating the jumbled mess that was my recollection of the original "X-Men" movie. If you're not a comic book fanatic, I would definitely suggest renting the original movie prior to seeing this one. You'll be lost right off the bat if you can't readily recall the characters/plotlines from the first "X-Men."
The original "X-Men" movie was released in July 2000 and now, close to three years later, the sequel brings back all of our favorite mutant heroes in full regalia and, fortunately, all the main characters (and most of the minor ones) are played by the original actors. "X2" also benefits from pyrotechnics, CGI effects, and hand-to-hand (or claw-to-claw) combat integrated stylishly into the storyline, in most cases with the desired effects supporting rather than overwhelming the actors.
Writer/director Bryan Singer's determination to remain true to the legions of "X-Men" comic book fans is clearly evident in this second film. This time around, the mutant population is threatened by a new foe, the powerful anti-mutant movement leader, William Stryker (Brian Cox). After the White House comes under attack by a whirling dervish that could put the 'Tazmanian Devil' cartoon character to shame, Stryker is commissioned by the President of the United States to round up all the mutants.
While Wolverine's babysitting the students at The School for The Gifted, Stryker and his military forces attack the campus, laying siege to the school and grabbing up as many young students/mutants as they can get their hands on (with students that can disappear, walk through closed doors, and create ice walls, that's not as easy as it may sound). With many mutant lives at stake, it's up to those who escaped to rescue their captured brethren and defeat Stryker and his mutant-hating commandos. This battle is where the "United" part of the "X2" title comes into play. The Good (Wolverine, Rogue, Storm, Jean Grey, Professor Xavier, et al) must join with The Bad (Magneto, Mystique, etc.) to stop Stryker from wiping their kind off the face of the planet.