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X-MEN: BEHIND THE X-MEN LORE

Born out of the tumult of the ’60s - prejudice, fear and the whole damn thing - there are political and sociological issues and messages inherent in the X-Men lore, say the filmmakers in this edited extract from notes to the production.

Cyclops. Jean Grey. Storm.

They are the children of the atom, homo superior, the next link in the chain of evolution. Each was born with a unique genetic mutation, which at puberty manifested itself in extraordinary powers: Cyclops’ (James Marsden) eyes release an energy beam that can rip holes through mountains; Jean Grey’s (Famke Janssen) strength is both telekinetic and telepathic; and Storm (Halle Berry) can manipulate all forms of weather.

In a world increasingly filled with hatred and prejudice, they are scientific oddities ... freaks of nature ... outcasts who are feared and loathed by those who cannot accept their differences. Their detractors include U.S. Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison), a McCarthyesque politico whose legislation is designed to "expose the dangers" of mutants. Yet despite society’s pervasive ignorance, Cyclops, Jean, Storm and thousands like them survive.

Under the tutelage of Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), the world’s most powerful telepath, these "gifted" students have learned to control and direct their respective powers for the greater good of mankind. They fight to protect a world that fears them.

"animal-like fury"

Xavier welcomes two newcomers: Logan/Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), a solitary fighting machine who possesses amazing healing powers, retractable adamantium claws and an animal-like fury; and Rogue (Anna Paquin), an alienated teenage girl who can absorb the powers and memories of anyone she touches.

As Wolverine and Rogue adjust to life among their "kind," the X-Men find themselves locked in a physical and philosophical battle with the Professor’s former colleague and friend, Erik Lehnsherr a.k.a. Magneto (Ian McKellen). One of the world’s most powerful mutants, Magneto has turned his back on society, believing that humans and mutants can never coexist, and that mutants are the rightful heirs to the future. He and his evil Brotherhood – the mammoth Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), the metamorph Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) and the near-sighted, far-jumping Toad (Ray Park) – will stop at nothing to ensure that future, even if it threatens the very existence of mankind ... or mutantkind.

X-MEN AND POLITICS
In 1963, as prejudice and fear gripped the U.S. at the height of the Civil Rights movement, Marvel Comics editor, head writer and art director Stan Lee created X-Men, a comic book centered on a team of mutant superheroes. The X-Men, like many of their Marvel predecessors, were an unusual heroic group – at times sarcastic, antisocial, and clearly flawed, yet sympathetic when battling the demons of their love lives, tackling the traumas of self-esteem, or taking on powerful villains in their universe of special powers.

Stan Lee imagined the existence of a superior species and the harsh political and social environment they encountered in a not-too-distant future world. X-Men director Bryan Singer appreciated the comics’ allegories about racism and bigotry and their underlying themes of tolerance, running throughout the dramas’ non-stop action and adventure.

"mutated breed of humanity"

"The story of the X-Men is quite political," says Singer. "It’s about differences and similarities. Because the comic was born from the tumult of the ’60s, there are political and sociological issues and messages inherent in the X-Men lore.

"In fact," Singer says, "the relationship between Xavier and his one-time friend and colleague, Magneto, exemplifies the ideological and philosophical differences of that era. They are essentially cut from the same cloth, and both see this mutated breed of humanity as a subject of persecution. However, Xavier lives to protect those who fear him while Magneto lives to destroy them. Each believes his side is right. Neither is willing to compromise.

"Ultimately, the film is about how difficult it is to find a level of tolerance that is mutually beneficial to all involved. That’s a philosophical concept that mankind and mutantkind could fight about forever.

"It’s also a kick-ass movie," he adds, grinning.

July 13, 2000

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