X2 (often promoted as X2: X-Men United) is a 2003 superhero film based on the fictional characters the X-Men. Directed by Bryan Singer, it is the second film in the X-Men film series. It stars an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Alan Cumming, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Brian Cox, Rebecca Romijn, James Marsden, Halle Berry and Kelly Hu. The plot, inspired by the graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills, pits the X-Men and their enemies, the Brotherhood, against the genocidal Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox). He leads an assault on Professor Xavier’s school to build his own version of Xavier’s mutant-tracking computer Cerebro, in order to destroy every mutant on Earth.
Development phase for X2 began shortly after X-Men. David Hayter and Zak Penn wrote separate scripts, combining what they felt to be the best elements of both scripts into one screenplay. Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris were eventually hired for rewrite work, changing characterizations of Beast, Angel and Lady Deathstrike. Sentinels and the Danger Room were set to appear before being deleted because of budget concerns. Filming began in June 2002 and ended that November. Most of the filming took place at Vancouver Film Studios, the largest soundstage in North America. Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas adapted similar designs of John Myhre from the previous film. X2 was released in the United States on May 2, 2003 and became both a critical and financial success, earning eight nominations at the Saturn Awards and grossing approximately $407 million worldwide.
Nightcrawler, a teleporting mutant, attempts to assassinate the President of the United States in the White House, but he fails and escapes. Wolverine reappears after discovering nothing at Alkali Lake, while Storm and Jean find Nightcrawler with the help of Professor Xavier and Cerebro. Cyclops and the Professor visit Magneto in his plastic prison to see if he had any part in the attack on the president. Reading Magneto’s mind, the Professor discovers that a covert government operative, William Stryker, has been extracting information from Magneto. A trap is sprung and Cyclops and the Professor are captured by Stryker and his assistant Yuriko Oyama. A military raid of the X-Mansion begins, with the soldiers sedating every student they find. Wolverine confronts Stryker, who makes several interesting comments on their past together: however, Wolverine is forced to flee before he can gain more information.
Impersonating Senator Robert Kelly and Yuriko, Mystique gains information about Magneto’s prison and provides a means for him to escape by injecting iron into a guard’s bloodstream. Wolverine, along with Rogue, Iceman and Pyro, head to Iceman’s (Bobby Drake’s) parents’ home in Boston. After a 9-1-1 call the police arrive just as the group is about to leave. The X-Jet arrives to pick them up, but they are soon attacked by a pair of F-16s. Using Storm’s ability they are able to evade the jets but not before one of them is able to fire two missiles. Despite Jean’s efforts one of the missiles hits them and they go down. They are rescued by Magneto who catches them before they crash- they subsequently team up with him and Mystique. Magneto has learned Stryker orchestrated the attack on the president and has been experimenting on mutants, using a drug injected directly into the back of the neck to control them. Jean reads Nightcrawler’s mind and determines that Stryker’s base is located at Alkali Lake, inside the dam where he plans to kill the world’s mutants by building a second Cerebro.
Through his son, Jason, Stryker gains control over the Professor. His son is able to project powerful visions in the mind, blinding a person to reality and through this the Professor is brainwashed to use Cerebro to find and kill all mutants. Mystique is able to infiltrate Stryker’s base by impersonating Wolverine; the X-Men enter and Storm and Nightcrawler search for the kidnapped students. Jean, Magneto and Mystique are attacked by a brainwashed Cyclops while trying to rescue the Professor and in the process cause damage to the generators that keep the dam from collapsing. The force of Jean’s telekinetic blast awakens Cyclops from his brainwashing and at the same time Wolverine finds Stryker in an adamantium smelting room along with Deathstrike, who engages him in a furious duel to the death. Wolverine manages to defeat Deathstrike and then finds Stryker on a landing pad, where Stryker attempts to bargain Wolverine for his life with stories of his past. However, Wolverine refuses, and returns to save his friends from the collapsing dam, leaving Stryker chained to the helicopter.
While disguised as Stryker, Mystique uses Jason to convince the Professor to kill all humans and Magneto and Mystique use Stryker’s helicopter to escape Alkali Lake, chaining Stryker to concrete rubble. Meanwhile, Nightcrawler teleports Storm inside of Cerebro where she creates a snowstorm to free the Professor from his telepathic illusion. The group flee to safety, and Wolverine encounters Stryker one last time: in spite of Stryker’s taunts, Wolverine chooses to stay with the X-Men, and leaves Stryker to die. The dam bursts, flooding the facility and drowning Stryker, but a malfunction aboard the X-Jet prevents it from taking off. As the flood gets stronger, Jean leaves the jet and creates a telekinetic wall in order to stop the wave and raises the jet above the flood waters. Jean activates the X-Jet’s primary engines, before releasing the torrent of water down on herself.
The X-Men are able to supply the President with files from Stryker’s private offices, and the Professor warns him that humans and mutants must work together to build peace or they will destroy each other through war. The film ends with a voiceover by Jean Grey on the process of evolution (a speech originally made by the Professor in the introduction of the first film). The camera floats over Alkali Lake, showing a vague shape of a Phoenix in the lake.