Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It is how we have evolved from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. This process is slow, and normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.
X-Men is a 2000Marvel Comicsaction film about two mutants who come to a private academy for mutants whose resident superhero team must oppose a powerful mutant terrorist organization.
Mutation: it is the key to our evolution. It has enabled us to evolve from a single-celled organism into the dominant species on the planet. this process is slow, normally taking thousands and thousands of years. But every few hundred millennia, evolution leaps forward.
Senator Kelly: Here's a girl in Illinois who can walk through walls. Now what's to stop her from walking into a bank vault, or the White House, or [gestures toward the gallery] into their houses?
Jean Grey: Senator, please–
Senator Kelly: And there are even rumors, Miss Grey, of mutants so powerful that they can enter our minds and control our thoughts, taking away our God-given free will. Now I think the American people deserve the right to decide if they want their children to be in school with mutants. To be taught by mutants! Ladies and gentlemen, the truth is that mutants are very real, and that they are among us. We must know who they are, and above all, what they can do!
[Professor Xavier, Jean, Cyclops, and Storm go over Wolverine's x-ray]
Jean Grey: The metal is an alloy called adamantium. Supposedly indestructible. It's surgically grafted onto his entire skeleton.
Storm: How could he have survived a procedure like that?
Jean Grey: His mutation. He has uncharted regenerative capability, which enable him to heal rapidly. It also makes his age impossible to determine. He could very well be older than you, Professor.
Cyclops: Who did this to him?
Jean Grey: He doesn't know nor can he remember anything about his life before it happened.
Professor Xavier: Experimentation on mutants. It's not unheard of, but I have never seen anything like this before.
[Cyclops is not comfortable with Wolverine around Jean Grey]
Wolverine: You gonna tell me to stay away from your girl?
Cyclops: If I had to do that, she wouldn't be my girl.
Wolverine: Well then, I guess you've got nothing to worry about, do you, Cyclops?
Cyclops: It must burn you up that a boy like me saved your life, huh? Better be careful. I might not be there next time. Oh, and Logan – [grins] stay away from my girl.
Magneto: Why not come out where I can see you, Charles?
Xavier: What do you want her for?
Magneto: Can't you read my mind? [tapping his helmet] And what now, save the girl? You'll have to kill me Charles, and what would that accomplish? Let them pass that law and they'll have you in chains with a number burned into your forehead!
Xavier: It won't be that way.
Magneto: Then kill me and find out. No? Then release me.
[Sabertooth doesn't move, Toad starts walking off with Rogue]
Magneto: Fine. [magnetically fires a bullet and stops it just before it goes through a cop's head] Care to press your luck, Charles? I don't think I can stop them all. [Xavier reluctantly releases his control over Toad and Sabretooth] Still unwilling to make sacrifices. That's what makes you weak. Goodbye, Charles.
Wolverine: Magneto's right: There is a war coming. Are you sure you're on the right side?
Storm: At least I've chosen a side.
[Commenting on the X-Men uniforms.]
Wolverine: You actually go outside in these things?
Cyclops: Well, what would you prefer? Yellow spandex?
[Storm arrives and walks to Logan.]
Storm: Logan, is that you?
Wolverine: Shhh. [Storm stumbles further to Logan, who sniffs the air] The other one ain't far away.
Storm: [walks up behind him] Come on. We have to regroup.
Wolverine: I know but there's a problem. [turns and stabs Storm with his claws] You're not part of the group! [Storm attempts to attack Wolverine, later reveals herself to be Mystique in disguise and collapses to the ground before shifting back to her original form.]
[Xavier and Magneto play a game of chess at Magneto's cell]
Magneto: Doesn't it ever wake you in the middle of the night? The feeling that someday they will pass that foolishlaw, or one just like it, and come for you and your children?
Professor Xavier: It does, indeed.
Magneto: What do you do when you wake up to that?
Professor Xavier: I feel a great swell of pity for the poor soul who comes to that school looking for trouble.
Magneto: [halts the game, sighs] Why do you come here, Charles?
Professor Xavier: Why do you ask questions to which you already know the answer? [motions the guard to take Xavier away.]
Magneto: Ah yes, your continuing search for hope. [pause] You know this plastic prison of theirs won't hold me forever. The war is still coming, Charles, and I intend to fight it, by any means necessary.
There seems to be this embarrassment with superheroes in the culture. If you see the new X-Men movie, they all have to wear black leather because it makes them look cool and tough, because people are afraid to make the characters look like the characters.
"X-Men" is at least not a manic editing frenzy for atrophied attention spans. It's restrained and introspective for a superhero epic, and fans of the comic books may like that. Graphic novels (as they sometimes deserve to be called) take themselves as seriously as the ones without pictures, and you can tell that here when the opening scene shows Jews being forced into death camps in Poland in 1944. One could argue that the Holocaust is not appropriate subject matter for an action movie based on a comic book, but having talked to some "X-Men" fans I believe that in their minds the medium is as deep and portentous as, say, "Sophie's Choice." The Holocaust scene introduces Magneto (Ian McKellen) as a child; his mental powers twist iron gates out of shape. The narrator informs us that "evolution takes thousands and thousands of years," which is putting it mildly, and that we live in an age of great evolutionary leaps forward. Some of the X-Men develop paranormal powers which cannot be accounted for by the strictly physical mutations which form the basis of Darwinian theory; I get restless when real science is evoked in the name of pseudoscience, but, hey, that's just me. Magneto's opponent in "X-Men" is Xavier (Patrick Stewart), another mutant of the same generation. They aren't enemies so much as ideological opposites. Magneto, having seen the Holocaust, has a deep pessimism about human nature. Xavier, who runs a school for mutants in Westchester County, where it doubtless seems no stranger than the other private schools, hopes these new powers can be used for good. Bruce Davison plays the McCarthy-like senator who waves a list of "known mutants" during a congressional hearing and wants them all registered--no doubt for dire purposes. Magneto wants to counter by using a device which can convert world leaders to mutants. (The world leaders are conveniently meeting on an island near Ellis Island, so the Statue of Liberty can be a prop.) How a machine could create a desired mutation within a generation is not much explored by the movie, which also eludes the question of why you would want to invest your enemies with your powers. No matter; Xavier, who can read minds, leads his good mutants in a battle to foil Magneto, and that's the plot, or most of it.
I started out liking this movie, while waiting for something really interesting to happen. When nothing did, I still didn't dislike it; I assume the X-Men will further develop their personalities if there is a sequel, and maybe find time to get involved in a story. No doubt fans of the comics will understand subtle allusions and fine points of behavior; they should linger in the lobby after each screening to answer questions.
Q: How did you decide Wolverine would be the star of the piece even more so than Xavier or Magneto?
A: He is the fulcrum of X-Men. The earlier X-Men group was a brilliant creation of Stan Lee's, but when Len Wein created Wolverine and they brought him into the X-Men, it was the perfect fulcrum between Professor X's philosophy and Magneto's philosophy. The fact that the wasn't bound by either gave him such a wild, attractive freedom that it was obvious that was the character that the series needed to revolve around. It was originally supposed to be Mel Gibson. Back when I got hired all of our concept art was Mel Gibson.
Q: Some fans complained Storm wasn't given her due in the first X-Men movie, and then became better over time. Did you pay attention to those concerns and how did that happen that she was given more to do in X2?
A: That was a conversation with the studio, because Halle won her Oscar [for 2001's Monster's Ball] between the first and second movies. I'm a huge fan of Storm and I'm a huge fan of Halle Berry as that character. But in that first movie, it's not Storm's movie. It's a double love triangle between Wolverine, Jean and Cyclops. And Wolverine, Rogue and Bobby. Those are the operative relationships and unfortunately because we had 11 main characters, there's only so much screenplay real estate you can dedicate to each. I think Storm did get short shrift in the first film, but because of her Oscar and because she's awesome, we all --- the studio, Bryan, myself and Marvel --- said she has to play a stronger role and because she is a really interesting character philosophically and her powers are great --- and she's Halle Berry.
I was sold it by Bryan who said, ‘Mutants are like gays. They’re cast out by society for no good reason, and, as in all civil rights movements, they have to decide: Are they going to take the Xavier line — which is to somehow assimilate and stand up for yourself and be proud of what you are, but get on with everybody — or are you going to take the alternative view — which is, if necessary, use violence to stand up for your own rights. And that’s true. I’ve come across that division within the gay rights movement.
I of course studied the comic books. In fact I think it was some of the most relaxing research I've ever had to do on a movie. Usually the kind of projects that I've been involved in I end up with heavy novels and background research. But in this case the studio just sent over a box of comic books.
I wanted to get some of the history of the character of course, particularly with his relationship with Magneto, but also to feel how Stan Lee had got inside the mind of Xavier from the very beginning. That was valuable. But it's true, like Bryan, when we had the final draft of the shooting script that's what we worked on.
DS: Did you find it limiting as an actor to be stuck in that chair [as Professor Xavier]?
PS: Yes I did. It's a little bit like the play I'm doing at the moment where I spend half of the play immobilized in a hospital bed. Certainly for an actor like me who is accustomed to using his whole body in developing a role and creating a scene and expressing feelings. And it was restricting. In fact for a couple of days Bryan had been saying to me "Less, less. Do less. You're loud. You're speaking too loudly. Quieter, quieter.
PS: Bryan set out to make a serious movie. That was his intention from the very beginning. Which also happens to be very exciting and very colorful, funny and so forth. It wasn't only Xavier, but having Magneto also as an individual of substance, of great strength and power was important. And who better than Sir Ian to do that. It was a very sensible idea.