Summary

  • X2’s opening scene featuring Nightcrawler is still impressive and holds up remarkably well, showcasing the character’s aggressive actions and striking visual design.
  • The practical effects used in Nightcrawler’s opening sequence bring a grounded realism to the scene, highlighting the overuse of CGI in modern superhero movies.
  • The core theme of X2 revolves around the challenges faced by the X-Men as humanity grows bolder in their fear and hatred, posing a tough task for the MCU in justifying mutant persecution within an already superpowered world.


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Fox’s X-Men franchise has incredible highs and disappointing lows, but the Marvel franchise’s best opening scene still remains remarkable 21 years later. While movies like Superman (1978) and Batman (1989) prove that the superhero genre was far from absent before X-Men‘s release in 2000, there’s little doubt that the series paired with Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies and the Snipes-led Blade films to re-usher in the modern age of Marvel movies that would lead to the MCU’s long-running tenure. It’s no surprise that not everything from those early 2000s movies has held up, but one particular X-Men member’s introduction is still a high point in the genre.

While X-Men is a fine movie and a major accomplishment given the lack of successful big-budget superhero movies in the years immediately preceding it, X2 did everything bigger and better, crafting characters and a story that holds up much better decades later. Chief among the movie’s accomplishments is its thrilling opening scene, which sees franchise newcomer Kurt Wagner, aka Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming), fight his way past the Secret Service to threaten the president. While the scene is simple in concept, it’s carried out beautifully and can still act as a mentor sequence for modern superhero projects.

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Why X2’s Nightcrawler Opening Is Still So Impressive

Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler holding up a knife in X2

X2 opens at the White House, where a mysterious figure sneaks in and begins fighting through the Secret Service to reach and threaten the president. The character, Nightcrawler, wasn’t featured in X-Men, and his aggressive actions and striking visual design build mystery, quickly sum up the current human/mutant relations, and still holds up remarkably well in 2023. The reasons the scene is successful are many, but check out the sequence in its entirety below:

X2’s Opening Uses More Practical Effects Than It Has To

With blue skin, a devil-like tail, and the ability to teleport with a puff of smoke, Nightcrawler is a much more fantastical member of the X-Men than more visually mundane heroes. However, despite Nightcrawler’s look and mutant ability, most of the scene, except the teleportation, is done with practical effects. A modern movie may have fully digitized Nightcrawler as he leaps between people and bounces off walls, but having Cumming actually perform the moves with the aid of practical stunt equipment lends a grounded realism to something otherwise quite over the top. Over-use of CGI is a common MCU and DC criticism, and a return to the basics could do both franchises some good.

Despite being a hit in X2, Nightcrawler doesn’t appear in the sequel, X-Men: The Last Stand. It’s explained in X-Men: The Official Game that Nightcrawler didn’t enjoy the violence associated with being on the X-Men and left to live a quiet life in Germany. The real-world reason is that actor Alan Cumming disliked the hours of make-up required each day to play the character.

Nightcrawler’s Opening Assault Perfectly Sets The Narrative Tone

The core of most X-Men stories in movies and in Marvel Comics has always revolved around humanity’s feat of mutants and the unwarranted persecution faced by the group to match. The first X-Men is a slightly more traditional good-vs-bad story, but the Nightcrawler opening makes the brilliant decision to frame the scene from the human perspective, making their fear seem all the more justified. It’s later revealed that Nightcrawler was being mind-controlled, but after single-handedly defeating the White House Secret Service, it makes sense why humanity is on edge.

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X2 Makes Both Sides Of The Fight Competent

It’s not only a superhero movie cliché but an action movie cliché in general to make the larger side of any fight a bit incompetent to give the lone hero a chance. While the perspective of “good” and “bad” is flipped in this particular scene, the entire sequence is all the better for the Secret Service actually acting competent and communicating – yet still being easily defeated by Nightcrawler. Competent enemies who communicate and fight to the best of their ability make Nightcrawler look even scarier and and the scene more effective overall.

X2 Showcases One Of The MCU’s Big X-Men Challenges

Magneto sits in the X-Jet in X2

The core of X2 is the challenges the X-Men face as humanity gets bolder with their fear and hatred of them and starts resorting to more overt political means to subdue and/or kill them. It works incredibly well in the X-Men series, as that franchise has mutants as the world’s first and only superpowered individuals. However, the MCU has a tougher task of giving humanity a reason to fear and persecute mutants. There are already hundreds of superpowered people in the MCU, and without a strong justification for humanity to hate mutants but not characters like Hulk or Spider-Man, the franchise loses its narrative hook.

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However, the ending of The Marvels may tease how the MCU will handle the mutant fear problem. Beast was shown in another reality, and it may be that the X-Men come from another timeline instead of all being born into the main MCU Earth-616. If so, it would make sense to feat people from another reality if intrusions and multiversal conquerors cause more harm. Whether it’s this explanation or another, it’s unlikely that humanity hating the X-Men for no particular reason will be a good enough explanation for the MCU’s incoming heroes and villains.

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