John Ottman and Bryan Singer form one of the major modern composer/director teams, the working relationship being all the more notable in that Ottman is as gifted an editor as he is a composer, having worked in both capacities on Singer's The Usual Suspects (1995) and Apt Pupil (1998) prior to X2. Ottman was unavailable for the first X-Men (2000) film, being otherwise engaged in editing and scoring his directorial debut, Urban Legend: Final Cut (2000), when the release date of X-Men was brought forward by six months. As a result X-Men was scored by Michael Kamen, and his more than serviceable score was reviewed here on FMOTW.
X2 is a superior venture to the original comparatively small and rushed production, and certainly benefits from reuniting the dynamic duo responsible for that modern masterpiece, The Usual Suspects. Good as Kamen's score was for the first film, Ottman's work for the sequel is vastly superior. Editing the film himself must have been both a blessing and a curse, being able to both anticipate and potentially solve potential scoring problems ahead of time in a quiet unique way. The result is an elegant, formal, Wagnerian orchestral work augmented by choir in the grand Hollywood tradition, elevated by the artful use of electronics both atmospheric and combative.
There has been a certain amount of disappointment to date in fan circles to the effect that this score does not boast a "big theme". While it is true that the main theme is not as instantly memorable as some from years past, the opening seven minute suite on this album soon bursts into a wonderfully propulsive and sweeping heroic anthem. Throughout there are thoughtfully crafted, classically formed motifs such as the nostalgic and introspective cello and strings underpinning of "Cerebro", linking melodies which off-set the demented clockwork toyshop rhythms of "Sneaky Mystique" or the furious and grand seven minute set-piece "Mansion Attack" with its thrilling timpani assault and rock solid brass.
Modernistic, dissonant but richly composed and musically cohesive, X2 is a Rolls Royce of an action score, Ottman's darkly romantic musical personality infusing every track just as it has with such fine works as The Usual Suspects and Incognito (1997) - which latter score is incidentally echoed in the binary pulse motif which illuminates the multi-layered build-up of "It's Time". X2 is a score which reveals more detail and subtly with successive plays and is one which can only grow in reputation as more of is secrets come to be unlocked.
At an hour long the album is well structured and never outstays its welcome, being mercifully free of such gimmicks as unnecessary rock-techno intrusions. The only complaint one could have is that the final cue "We're Here to Stay" does fade out with forced rapidity; the disc would play better with the opening suite actually closing the proceedings. Otherwise the 2003 Summer blockbuster season has got of to fine start both musically and cinematically.