**½/**** Image A Sound A+ Extras A-
starring Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry
screenplay by Michael Dougherty & Dan Harris
directed by Bryan Singer
by Walter Chaw Where the first film opened with a Holocaust backstory, the second instalment begins in the White House with a quote from Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address and a cool doubling of Aaron Shikler's pensive portrait of John F. Kennedy. X-Men is setting itself up as a high-minded comic book franchise, one unusually committed to relating its empowerment panel soap-opera with solid performances, decent scripting, and direction from a filmmaker, Bryan Singer, interested in the sanctity of narrative. The problems with X2's (a.k.a. X-Men 2 and X2: X-Men United) premise and its wrangling of so large an ensemble are fairly obvious: there are no real limits placed on the powers of the "X-Men" mutants and there is little time afforded to the proper establishment of relational conflict.