Filmed in Vancouver: X2: X-Men United

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Over the next while I will be looking at a few of the good, not-so-good and great shows that have been filmed in Vancouver over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Title: X2: X-Men United
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Anna Paquin and others
Canadian Content: Wolverine might be pop culture’s most well known Canadian. Much of the film takes place exploring Wolverine’s past and this portion is set in Alberta.
Lasting Impact: The third X-Men film was also filmed in Vancouver, as have been other superhero movies following this including the two Fantastic Four films. Spin-off movies for both Magneto and Wolverine are in pre-production. It was the biggest production ever filmed in Canada until the sequel.
Good or bad: X2: X-Men United (called X2 from this point forward) is widely considered one of the best superhero movies of all time, ranked alongside the first Superman film and Batman Begins. Comic book fans are generally hard to please with movie adaptations, but this film was met with both fan approval and managed to be popular with non-comic readers.

The X-Men were always an unlikely movie success. With a large cast of characters, unlike Superman or Spider-Man where there’s only one hero, and a complicated mythos it seemed that there would never be a big screen adaptation and certainly nothing that could win fans of the comics over. Yet after the first X-Men film proved that by focusing on the character arcs of a few characters and by having the talented Bryan Singer at the helm movies were just another medium that the X-Men could conquer. With the first movie filmed in Toronto production moved to Vancouver and Kananaskis Alberta for X2.

From the opening scene with Nightcrawler in the White House bamfing through the Secret Service, it was clear that for the sequel things had been cranked up. Drawing primarily from Chris Claremont’s X-Men graphic novel God Loves, Man Kills the movie once again narrowed its focus to explore the backstory of Logan also known as Wolverine (played by Hugh Jackman), whose history ties into a current threat for the X-Men.

Vancouver in X2 fills in for Washington and Boston, with Royal Roads in Victoria standing in for the Xavier Institute. Vancouver itself is seen very rarely here, with a few notable locations popping up such as St. Andrews Church being Nightcrawler’s hiding place and an extended sequence that appears to be Stanley Park (though I’ve not been able to confirm that). The bulk of the Vancouver shooting took place in soundstages, and the city itself has a much smaller role. Kananaskis in Alberta does get a lot of screen time in the Alkali Lake sequences.

Picking up where the first film left off Magneto is in jail and Wolverine is hunting around to discover his past. Meanwhile William Stryker, changed to a military scientist from the comics where he’s a priest, captures Professor Xavier and Cyclops before launching an attack on the Xavier Institute in response to an attack on the President of the United States by a mutant which he himself engineered. During the attack we first meet Colossus played by Vancouverite Daniel Cudmore [wp] who would be a big part of the next film. The movie also had an much more of a role for local Sean Ashmore [wp] as Iceman.

Now though I risk doing a minute by minute detailed plot, which isn’t the point of this series. Goodness knows I couldn’t do a blow-by-blow plot recap for every episode of 21 Jump Street [mbv]. X2 grossed a lot of money ($214.9M for North America and $407.5M according to Wikipedia), and that assured a sequel. However Fox and Bryan Singer eventually had a falling out and he went off to direct Superman Returns, and was replaced by Brett Ratner.

X2 remains my favorite locally filmed thing ever, whether television show or movie. A lot of times, especially with science fiction TV shows like Dark Angel, you can just tell by watching something that it’s filmed in Vancouver even without seeing a particular landmark. I can’t quite explain it, but it just lacks a certain polish that LA based shows have. X2 emphatically proves that something filmed in Vancouver can look as good as anything else and because of the savings associated with filming in Canada a big budget can be focused more on special effects and less on regular filming costs.

3 Comments so far

  1. Henry (unregistered) on July 31st, 2007 @ 12:07 pm

    By any chance, do you know what school was used for Xavier’s school in the film?


  2. Jeffery Simpson (unregistered) on July 31st, 2007 @ 12:27 pm

    “Royal Roads in Victoria standing in for the Xavier Institute”

    I’m not sure if all the interior shots were at Royal Roads, but the exterior was.


  3. Hummingbird604 (unregistered) on August 1st, 2007 @ 4:45 pm

    Great review of X-2. I loved it.



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