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The phenomenal global success of X-Men meant that director Bryan Singer had even more money to spend on its sequel, and it shows. Not only is the script better (there's significantly less cheesy dialogue than the original), but the action and effects are also even more stupendous--from Nightcrawler's teleportation sequence through the White House to a thrilling aerial dogfight featuring mutants-vs-missiles to a military assault on the X-Men's school/headquarters to the final showdown at Stryker's sub-Arctic headquarters. Yet at no point do the effects overtake the film or the characters. Moreso than the original, this is an ensemble piece, allowing each character in its even-bigger cast at least one moment in the spotlight (in fact, the cast credits don't even run until the end of the film). And that, perhaps, is part of its problem (though it's a slight one)--with so much going on, and nary a recap of what's come before, it's a film that could prove baffling to anyone who missed the first installment. But that's just a minor quibble--X-Men 2 is that rare thing, a sequel that's actually superior to its predecessor. --Robert Burrow