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X2: X-Men United
  • Composed by John Ottman
  • La-La Land Records / 2012 / 112m

After the (deserved) success of Bryan Singer’s X-Men, a sequel was inevitable and X-Men United duly arrived, and was almost as entertaining (and successful, ensuring life would continue in the franchise).  John Ottman was unavailable for the first film but Singer got to work with his favourite composer (and editor) second time around.  The score that Michael Kamen provided for X-Men was produced in very trying circumstances but was actually very impressive; so while Ottman is curiously dismissive of Kamen’s work in the interview extracts in the liner notes for this album, he did actually have something to live up to.  Sadly, he didn’t.  The original hour-long album for X2 was a real mixed bag – some highlights for sure, but as an album it didn’t work at all, sounding like a disparate collection of orchestral pieces rather than anything resembling a coherent narrative structure.  The same is true but on a larger scale for this considerably-extended special edition.

Many people seem to love it so clearly I’m in the minority but I can’t find much of anything to get excited about here.  The main theme is decent, but essentially a thinly-veiled rewrite of Henry Mancini’s theme from Lifeforce and never particularly developed.  An early cue “Nightcrawler Attack” is intriguingly based on Mozart’s Requiem, but sadly that is never taken anywhere either.  Much of the rest is either very dull brooding underscore or more fast-paced but seemingly entirely unfocused action – ideas are there, certainly, but remain frustratingly underdeveloped.  This is very much a literal “score to picture”, a bar or two of one thing before a 180-degree turn to something else – for almost two hours.  If you love big-budget mickey-mousing then there are far superior examples; but quite what big-budget mickey-mousing is doing in a film of this magnitude is beyond my comprehension.  I’m missing something, obviously, because everyone else speaks so highly of it; and for sure there are some moments of entertainment (and certainly more of them on the expanded album than the original one).  It’s just all far too incoherent to work for me as a listening experience, with the strangest kind of temp-track influence where it isn’t hard to guess what the music’s inspired by (a whole load of Elfman and Goldenthal in here) but the personality has been removed.  I hadn’t intended this to be such a short “review” but there’s just so little truly interesting here to write about; the music sounds like the well-intentioned product of an enthusiastic amateur rather than a real film score for a film of this scale.

Rating: ** | |

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  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Thursday 24 April, 2014 at 00:03

    Ah, going through each of the old X-Men scores in order as a lead-up to the new movie, the first time any composer has written two scores in the franchise?

    I think you undersold this one a tad in leaving out any mention of Ottman’s fine themes for Jean Grey (which seems unlikely to be reprised in the new film) and Mystique (which probably will be), but I can see where you’re coming from to a certain extent. There’s a lot of neat motifs that really should have been present throughout the work but just aren’t.

  2. Daniel Henderson (Reply) on Thursday 24 April, 2014 at 01:29

    I’m hoping your re-review of X-Men: Last Stand is bit more re-evaluated. It wasn’t so much John Powell copying Elfman as much as Powell having fun in another style. It is literally everything this score wasn’t, and unlike Superman Returns, he didn’t have John Williams to borrow themes from.

  3. Michael McDaid (Reply) on Friday 9 May, 2014 at 17:08

    There are lots of cool moments in the score. Surprised you couldn’t fnd enough here to give at least a 3 star rating. To me it is a solid 4 star score. Lots of great moments like Main Titles, Nightcrawler Attack, Cerebro, Sneaky Mystique, Storm’s Perfect Storm/Missiles, God Among Insects, Rogue earns Wings, Goodbye/We’re Here to Stay, Evolution Leaps forward and of course the Suite at the end is a must have.