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Comic Con 2002: “X-Men 2 “Preview

After only a few weeks of shooting, it looks like director Bryan Singer has already rediscovered the perfect “X” factor for bringing Marvel Comics’ most popular superhero team to the big screen.

How else would you explain the fact that the filmmaker’s evocative clips from X-Men 2 rocked the worlds of mutant maniacs at the 2002 San Diego Comic Con so severely that the fans begged Singer to play the scenes again? Happily subverting a potential riot, Singer obliged.

The uncanny defenders of the mutant population will indeed return–including the feral Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), benevolent Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), psi-powered Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), square-jawed Cyclops (James Marsden), teen-power sponge Rogue (Anna Paquin), exotic Storm (Halle Berry) and their militant adversary Magneto (Ian McKellen)–to battle their way into theaters on May 2, 2003. And this time around, Singer promises, they’ll be joined by several new characters in a story line that, he says, “has been in the back of my head since the first film.

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“The problems between mutants and humans, and between our characters, get turned up a notch,” said the director, adding that the upcoming installment will explore Wolverine’s mysterious origins and introduce threats “of a human nature rather than a mutant nature.” Now the characters, powers and motivations have been firmly established, Singer said. “The first film was kind of like a trailer for this film.”

The film montage he showed at the convention (sans special F/X footage) featured a shirtless, raging Wolverine on a rampage and glimpses of actor Brian Cox, who plays a new human adversary named Stryker. There were also scenes in which Professor X and Magneto continue their chess game in the latter’s plastic prison cell and discuss the brewing tensions between mutants and humans. Intercut between scenes of a paramilitary-looking attack on Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, Magneto predicts from his cell: “The war has begun.”

Xavier, however, responds firmly. “I feel a great swell of pity for anyone who comes to that school looking for trouble.” But by the end of the clip, Magneto has somehow turned the tables on the wheelchair-bound professor, leaving him alone and trapped in the prison cell asking, “Erich, what have you done?”

The audience response was ecstatic. Said one fan to the director: “That was f—ing remarkable.” Many of the fans went on to ask about their favorite characters from the “X-Men” comic books and which ones might be graduating to movie stardom.

After joking that everyone who had a computer already knew the final lineup, the director confirmed reports that the acrobatic, blue-skinned, transporting mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming) would play a major role. “[Nightcrawler] gets sucked into–we’ll call it the ‘hate triangle’ of this movie,” he said.

Singer also discussed working again with Halle Berry, who won a Best Actress Oscar earlier this year for her work in Monster’s Ball. He said that during their first sequel meeting, she brought her golden statuette with her as a not-so-subtle hint that she wanted additional screen time in X2. At another encounter during a European publicity tour, Singer presented Berry with a birthday cake with a sparkler in the middle. The beautiful actress blew out the impromtu candle, and when Singer asked what she wished for, she responded “More s— to do in the sequel.”

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“There’s a lot going on with some of the younger characters,” he continued. “The Junior X-Men, we call them–but they don’t call themselves that.” Indeed, the film clip showed actor Shawn Ashmore reprising his role as Bobby Drake, the mutant student who in the comics becomes Iceman. Singer said that while he doesn’t think he’ll develop the young character Rogue’s powers to the level of the comic books [in which she’s invulnerable and can fly], “perhaps she’ll have a personal life, perhaps a sex life.” Actress Katie Stuart, 17, will assume the role of Shadowcat/Kitty Pryde, a character only briefly seen in the first film.

But as far as others from the comic book’s ranks, Singer played coy. He hemmed and hawed when asked about Gambit, and got downright confusing when asked if the furry, superintelligent Beast would appear. “Oh, no,” he said before cutting himself off.


“Well…There’s a thing, but not specifically…” The director’s responses both tantalized and frustrated fans.

Also returning from the first film are the villainous shape-changer Mystique (Rebecca Romjin-Stamos) and Sabertooth (Tyler Mane), along with new baddie Pyro (Aaron Stanford). And actress Kelly Hu (The Scorpion King) joins the sequel’s cast as the mysterious and lethal Lady Deathstrike.

Singer dutifully answered the fans’ inquiries regarding mutant minutiae: no, while they considered incorporating the Danger Room (the X-Men’s high-tech training facility) into the film, it won’t appear this time around; yes, he had design work done for the mutant-hunting robots called the Sentinels, but they didn’t make the cut either.

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The director also hinted at “intense” things to come in a third movie, including the possibility of adapting the legendary “Dark Phoenix” saga–a plotline in which Jean Grey gains godlike powers and turns evil, long considered a high point in the original comics. “This movie is not the Phoenix story, if that’s what you’re asking, but that’s always a possibility,” said Singer. “There are things in this movie that will lay the groundwork for potential things to come.”

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