Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Brian Cox Director: Bryan Singer Category: IIA X-Men was a rarity in the recent rash of films that turn comic-book heroes into stars. Under the skilled hand of director Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects) it was occasionally deep and often very dark. It had complex characters and managed to rise above its sometimes testing plot twists. For the second edition of the series, Singer pumps up the volume, going for an all-out action assault. And although it's a pretty enjoyable ride, there's a lot that will leave you scratching your head. First, there's the plot. The mutants, led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), are under threat again and must stave off annihilation at the hands of the nasty William Stryker (Brian Cox), a human with a grudge to bear. How Stryker is going to lay the mutants to waste is where the confusion begins, and we start to jump from scene to scene in what appears to be an attempt to cover over these cracks. The best advice is to hold your breath until the action begins again. Then, there's Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, above), one of the dumbest superheroes created. He gets it wrong every time. He has Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) hanging around and she can turn into anyone she likes - at any time. Think about it. But still he persists in chasing the already attached Jean Grey (Famke Janssen). Magneto (Ian McKellen) returns - this time forming a bond of sorts with Xavier and his crew. Well, for a while anyway. And the two veteran thesps play off each other with obvious relish. Then there's the dodgy-haired Jackman, flexing for all he's worth, Halle Berry looking as stunning as ever, and a cast of younger mutants who seem certain to keep the franchise alive. The newest addition to grown-up mutants' ranks is Nightcrawler, a sort of blue campy jumpy thing played by Alan Cumming. There are some stunning set pieces and the film is at its best when the mutants are let loose to show off their many and varied skills. But there's none of the real darkness of the first edition, that included some haunting holocaust imagery. And that's the kind of thing that initially helped X-Men stand out from the comic crowd. Instead, we are left with something that feels patched together. X-Men 2 is screening now.