4X2: X-Men United

Rated 4.0 In an age of industrialized summer movies, when the two-fisted glitter of Raiders of the Lost Ark or The Abyss has given way to Scooby-Doo, this superior sequel makes the world safe for meaningful spectacle again. It’s a joy to moviegoers yearning for the return of film’s outsized power to thrill.

Starring Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Anna Paquin, Halle Berry and a score more, X2 is based on the Marvel Comics world where mutants with superhuman abilities and ordinary humans live in an uneasy and unraveling peace.

In the first film, Stewart’s Professor X pled for tolerance, facing off with McKellen’s Magneto, intent on freedom by any means necessary. Following the near assassination of the president, this entry finds a temporary truce between them as Brian Cox, the blackest of black-ops agents, is intent on killing every last mutant.

Director Bryan Singer has assembled more Oscar winners and nominees than any comic book film is likely to see again. And he puts them to good use. These two hours are filled with real humor, broad and bold characters, dry irony and the kind of emotive action that left the genre when Cameron and Spielberg became “respectable.”

The makers had the courage to give as much credibility to McKellen’s sinister philosophy as to Stewart’s idealism; characters are taken as seriously as action.

Granted, the ambiguities don’t exert the undertow of, say, Gangs of New York. But then Gangs doesn’t have the giddy thrill of lasers blasting from Daniel Day-Lewis’ eyes.