Brian Singer, who directed the first X-Men movie, returned along with the entire cast for X-2. Known for The Usual Suspects, Superman Returns, and Bohemian Rhapsody, he either directed or produced half of the X-Men films. Those he directed himself received better reviews, by and large, than those which he left to other directors. A bit of trivia: he had a cameo in Star Trek Nemesis.

The movie opens with a mutant incursion into the White House. Nightcrawler (Alan Cumings) literally pops in to play hide and seek in space-time with the entire Secret Service, appear on the President’s desk, threaten him with a knife, and leave a message about mutant freedom. He’s a scary-looking dude: dark blue, covered in scars and tattoos, with a demonic-looking arrow-point tail.

Logan/ Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) is investigating a frozen dam and abandoned military base in Alkali Lake, Northern Alberta, which he believes relates to his lost memories, but finds nothing. The adult X-Men—Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (Halle Berry) and Cyclops (James Marsden)—are escorting a handful of young students from Xavier’s School—Rogue (Anna Paquin), Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro (Aaron Stanford) among them—to the museum, where a display is all about how the Neanderthals were replaced by Cro-Magnon Man. Get the point? Jean Grey is troubled by the intruding thoughts of the crowd. Confronted by bullies, two students are involved in an incident with fire and ice, but time suddenly stops as Professor X (Patrick Stewart) shows up, then all the mutants vanish. He has heard about the attack on the White House.

The Professor is finding it difficult to track down the attacker with Cerebro, his mutant-finding machine, because the stranger’s movements are so erratic. Colonel William Stryker (Brian Cox) is wasting no time in presenting his anti-mutant evidence to the President. It seems that the incarcerated mutant arch-villain Magneto (Ian McKellen) has been persuaded to reveal the location of the Xavier School. Stryker is capable of seizing control of mutants with drugs to make them do his bidding.

The Professor has tracked the teleporting Kurt Wagner, or Nightcrawler, to an abandoned church, where Storm and Jean Grey manage to knock him down from the rafters. The Professor visits his old friend Magneto in his plastic prison. They discuss Stryker, who is still angry with the Professor for not “curing” his mutant son, and Magneto admits that he has spilled the beans to the crazed Colonel.

There is a military assault with commandos and choppers on the school, when Wolverine is pretty much the only adult there. The scene is impressive, with Logan doing his berserker thing and the students using their various powers to help. In the middle of the battle, Stryker runs into Logan and greets him like an old friend before trying to shoot him, but he is saved by a suddenly appearing wall of ice. Most of the children escape, but Stryker seizes some of them and breaks into Cerebro.

Meantime, Raven Darkholme, or Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) seduces a guard by shapeshifting into Rebecca Romijn without blue makeup, drugs him, and injects him with iron. The next day, Magneto pulls the iron out of his body with fatal results and uses the iron projectiles to smash his way out of the prison. It was Stryker who staged the assault on the White House. He has the Professor under mind-control and uses him to catalogue all the mutants in the world.

Wolverine, Rogue, Pyro, and Iceman are hiding out at Iceman’s parents’ home while they wait for the jet to pick them up. The parents behave exactly as if their son was coming out as gay, in case the movie has been too subtle. His brother calls the police, who order Wolverine to put down his weapons, then shoot him. Pyro blows up all the police cars in a spectacular scene and Rogue almost kills him to stop him from slaughtering the entire police force. The school jet shows up with Jean and Storm, and Nightcrawler.

The Air Force comes after them, hits them with rockets, and people fall to certain death, except that Nightcrawler teleports to them and brings them back. But the plane is still crashing, except that Magneto plucks it out of the sky.

The dam at Alkali Lake is where Stryker created Wolverine, deep underground, and he is holding the mutant children and the Professor there. Now that everyone is together, it’s time for the assault on the villain’s headquarters movie climax. The heroes and villains work together, many people turn out to be Mystique, Wolverine—naturally—goes off by himself and finds out he is not the only one with adamantine enhancements, the children are rescued, the dam blows up and the entire valley is flooded. One of the X-Men defects to Magneto and another one dies heroically. And Stryker gets his, but not Magneto.

There is a denouement in the Oval Office. A storm comes up, the power goes out, time stands still, and all the X-Men appear to give Stryker’s incriminating files to the President and warn him about the danger of a human-mutant war.