Top 9 Important Moments in X2 (That Audiences Totally Missed at the Time)
From Nerdgasm.net, June 16th, 2008
X-Men 2: Rise of the Sentinels
, simply called “X2” by everybody except the most pedantic nerds, was a popular addition to the growing Marvel Movie Universe or MMU (Earth #307135 for you super-nerds), making a cool $264 million at the Box Office when it appeared in the summer of 1998. Between its epic clash between Magneto's extremist Brotherhood of Mutants and Professor Xavier's titular X-Men, it's shocking revelations on the Weapon X program and Wolvie's epic clash with Lady Deathstrike and Hydra's subtle role in the program, and of course the titular rise of the co-titular Sentinels themselves (technically Mark I's), there was lots of dynamic superhero action.
But few audiences at the time appreciated the sneaky ways in which Marvel slipped in important hints, foreshadowing, and plot points for Things Yet to Come. Here are our Top [number] Important Mo...oh, just read the title, nerds!
#1: Agent Gyrich's hidden character arc begins
Agent Gyrich in the Comics vs. the MMU (Image sources Comics Vine and Heroic Hollywood)
Samuel L. Motherfucking Jackson took the MMU by storm as the jaded and sarcastic SHIELD Agent Henry Peter Gyrich, Director Nick Fury's #2. But only the most dedicated nerds would have predicted the secret character arc that would play out in tiny “blink or you'll miss them” moments over the course of the MMU. And they all started here. Agent Gyrich began in the comics as an opponent to the Avengers and then later menaced the X-Men as an anti-mutant bigot, which should have been our first clue to where things were going. When Gyrich appears at Xavier's School to talk with the Professor, his not-so-subtle distaste for Xavier and the Mutants is palpable. And yet nobody at the time could have known just where this subtle set-up would lead!
#2: When a Trask meets a Zemo
Bolivar Trask (Image source Marvel Database wiki)
Played by the diabolically charming Andy Garcia, Bolivar Trask of Trask Industries, the builders of the titular (huh-huh, we love that word, huh-huh) Sentinels, is shown to be the “power behind the throne” (along with cameos by Emma Frost and Sebastian Shaw), with the exclusive Hellfire Club being the place where Senator Kelly and the Reverend Stryker receive their orders, so to say. So when Trask, Shaw, and Frost are shown to have a meeting with one Helmut Zemo (Birol Ünel), identical grandson to the evil Hydra agent Baron Heinrich Zemo who appears in Captain America
(as Kitty Pride secretly watches), you know that heinous fuckery is afoot! The next few films would reveal the full story, of course...
#3: Mutant Origins and Captain America Teased
(Image source TV Tropes)
During Gyrich’s discussions with Professor X and during Trask and Zemo's meeting, we get hints about an “event” in 1945 that seems to have led to the current “spike” in Mutation rates. It’s suggested through discussions of “background levels” of some atmospheric radiation and “dramatic increases above the pre-war baseline” of mutant numbers. During Logan and Sabertooth's dramatic interactions at the Weapon X facility, we also get hints that Hydra and Baron Heinrich Zemo's “Project Odin” super soldier experiments from World War II formed the basis for the clandestine experiment. While the specifics were not yet called out, the coming films, starting with The Mighty Thor
, Captain America
, and Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall
in 1999, would begin giving answers to these quick hints.
#4: Hints about the Fate of the Fan4
(Image source Variety)
In Black Panther
, released later the same year, we're introduced to a still-of-the-same-age Reed Richards in 1998, over three decades after we last saw him. There's a hint to this when Trask Industries, which builds the Sentinels, is shown to inhabit the Baxter Building and the former Richards Laboratory. There is a toss-away line about the space being “abandoned in ‘63” when “the Four vanished”. What happened? Viewers would have to wait for 1999's Fantastic Four: Rise and Fall
for the full answer. Furthermore, some of the damage caused when the X-Men and the Brotherhood fight inside the Baxter Building reveals Reed's old hidden safe, setting up an important moment in the Fan4 sequel.
#5: Stryker's Tragic Backstory reveals a Dark Twist ahead
Jason Stryker (Image source Amino Apps)
The Reverend Colonel William Stryker (Malcolm McDowell), introduced as a bitter, bigoted Falwell-like figure in X1
, is given some humanity when it’s revealed that he killed his wife and (he believed) infant son Jason in a rage after discovering that the child was a Mutant, with Trask and the Hellfire Club revealed to have covered up the crime (hence their sway over him). Feeling like Mutants were the children of Satan, and (it is suggested) harboring repressed guilt over his crimes, he leads the Crusade against Mutanthood. But when it is revealed that Weapon X project leader and then-Lieutenant Colonel Thunderbolt Ross (under the guidance of Shaw and Frost) had experimented upon his very much living son as part of the Weapon X program, and that the jaded Jason Stryker (Michael Vartan) is the merciless figure behind the secret Mutant-murdering “enforcement arm” of the Sentinels paramilitary organization known as the Purifiers, the suggestion is that even the members of Hellfire are pawns in a much larger game.
#6: Thunderbolt Ross and the Military Industrial Complex
Thunderbolt Ross (Image source wikimedia)
And speaking of Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, the Hulk-hunting Air Force General Officer, played by Chris Cooper, may not have had a big role in this film, but his brief appearance hinted at the extent of the Military Industrial Complex in the MMU, it’s shadowy links to SHIELD, Hydra, the Hellfire Club, and the Sentinels, and the complex web of links between these organizations. How deep does the rabbit hole go? Stay tuned, kids!!
#7: More References to the Starks and Stark Industries
(Image source Town Square)
Tony Stark had not yet been formally introduced as of X2
, and neither had his actor, and yet his presence looms all the same. First hinted at in The Incredible Hulk
, Tony's reputation as a prodigal party boy precedes him. And while his father Howard, played by the Epic Mustache Delivery System known as Tom Sellick, made a brief appearance in The Fantastic Four
in 1997, Tony himself would not actually appear until the Fan4 sequel the next year, and then only as a cameo and not yet donning a suit of iron. But Trask will make references to Stark Industries and its brilliant robotics expert Helmut Zemo, in particular hoping for a way to glean some of those corporate secrets for his "next iteration" of Sentinels. Much would come of these passing lines...
#8: Erik Lehnsherr: Name-Dropper
(Image source Comic Adventures wiki)
Early in the film, the Brotherhood of Mutants are watching a news report about Senator Kelly and the Sentinels (a scene of humorous domesticity before the deep, dark events of the film). Magneto bemoans the name, offhandedly saying “The true
Sentinels of Liberty would never have stood for this!” Sabretooth, confused, asks who he’s talking about, to which Magneto is evasive. The meaning behind this line would be revealed in next year’s Captain America
, where we found out that Mags and Cap go back a looong time.
#9: The Phoenix Appears...Briefly
The Force is Strong with her... (Image source Cinematic Slant)
And finally (and most critically), just as Jean Grey’s eyes briefly displayed the fire of the Phoenix while saving the X-Jet in X1
, so does the Phoenix itself make the briefest of appearances. When Magneto threatens to squeeze Professor Xavier to death with an iron beam and rip Wolvie apart, Jean...gets...pissed. Not only does the glow appear in her eyes as she casts him and the rest of the Brotherhood away, but her whole body is briefly aglow with the frothing, fiery power of a certain celestial firebird, complete with the hint of wings. Naturally, X3
would give the whole MMU The Bird.
. . .
And there you go, 9 things in X2
that are so important in hindsight, but that most missed when the film debuted.
Do you have any other important X2
moments that we missed? Anything that critically informs the MMU ahead? Let us know below in the comments, nerds!!
 The movie will explore the similarities between Project Odin, Weapon X, Project Wideawake (which developed the Sentinels), Project Avenger, and the conspiracies behind them in an exploration of the Military-Industrial Complex and its awkward ties to politics, the economy, and the government.
 This one by @Nathanoraptor