ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.04 - JULY 2000

Super Mutants Everyone Can Relate To: The X-Men
(continued from page 1)

The Cast of Freaks and Femme Fatales
It is these characters that everyone involved in the new feature film hope will compel moviegoers as they do comic book fans. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner states, "The characters are the reason X-Men has been such a popular comic for over 30 years. There are so many great heroes and villains within the series that one of the toughest parts of developing the film was choosing the characters on which to focus." Many meetings and conferences between the filmmakers and writers where held to determine the proper balance of characters for the tale they wanted to tell. The film is a completely original tale that did not happen in The X-Men comic book universe (even though Marvel has released comic book prequels to explain the movie's discrepancies to picky fans). However, both Avi Arad and Lee have stated the film is true to the characters and themes of the comic book world.

Prof. X is the noble teacher at a school for gifted, young mutants. 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

The noble Prof. X (Stewart) and his X-Men are the heroes, while the villains are lead by Magneto (McKellan) and comprise the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Heading up the Brotherhood is Sabertooth (Tyler Mane), a brutal beast-like being with the strength of seventy men. Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos) serves as the team's shape changing sentinel of sin, while finally, Toad (Ray Park), with his high-hopping abilities, marks the dim-witted good soldier for the evil side. The original X-Men team of Cyclops, Jean Grey, Angel, Beast and Iceman were not the team chosen for the comic's first mission into theatres. This cinematic X-Men team, guided by Prof. X, consists of Cyclops (James Marsden), the young general. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), one of the most powerful telepaths and telekintics in the world, who also plays the love interest for Cyclops. Rogue (Paquin), who is a young mutant, and the African American weather-controlling mutant, Storm (Berry), who is the proper allegory between the hatred for the mutants and racial bigotry. The final X-Men member, Wolverine (Hugh Jackson), with unbreakable metal claws, an ability to heal quickly and the furious temper of a wild animal, surfaces as the center character to The X-Men movie tale.

This leather clad Wolverine is much different from the yellow-tight wearing anti-hero of the comic books. © 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

When asked about the film's central hero, Lee brags in classic comic book granger, "Wolverine is one of the most compelling characters in comicdom, maybe even fiction." In the feature, Wolverine comes to the school for gifted children to be trained by Prof. X. He's a loner and swiftly locks horns with the wise professor and elder students. "He's an anti-hero hero," Lee says. "People always love anti-heroes. You know he's got a good heart deep down, but he's rough and tough and rebellious and unpredictable. He's powerful yet vulnerable. And you take a combination like that and you have a character that audiences love." This combination has made the Canadian-born crusader one of the most popular of all the X-Men. Numerous comic book series and specials have been based on the gruff guardian of mutated youths. In the comic world, this loner has always had a soft spot for tormented teens, taking on young female sidekicks like Jubilee (which comic book fans might see glimpses of in the film's version of Rogue). The struggle between his tough exterior and gentle heart is a classic characterization much like other popular movie heroes like the Terminator, Rocky and every single character John Wayne ever played. He could be called a modern cowboy torn between his life as a lone drifter and doing the right thing. Arad describes Wolverine as symbolizing the "objective part of being a mutant. Initially he doesn't care and then he understands you cannot stand on the side. You have to take a point of view. You have to decide which way the world is going."

Magneto's philosophy represents the darker side of what persecution does to human beings.

In The X-Men feature, the way the world is going pivots between two opposite philosophies: mutants living peacefully with humanity vs. mutants, as the next step in human evolution, ruling the human race. The characters Prof. X and Magneto represent these two polar points of view. Prof. X and his X-Men fight for peace among mutants and humans even though humanity resists at every turn. Magneto, with his power of magnetism, and his Brotherhood feel that survival of the fittest means the fit mutants should rule the weaker humans. Magneto shunned by humanity sets out to rule it. Like many isolationist groups in the world today, Magento views mutants as the superior race and the rightful heirs to the world. Whereas, Prof. X feels educating the general population will bring about harmony.

The Story Lies Within...
Within these two philosophies lies the impetus for The X-Men movie. As a loner, Wolverine comes to the X-Men walking the fence. The story follows his journey from rebel to warrior. However which side does he choose? From this question, the filmmakers chose their cast of mutants. Prof. X and Magneto represent the two philosophical views on humanity. But humanity may be the key factor in Wolverine's final decision. Like the comic, humans play a key role in The X-Men tale and U.S. Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davidson) represents them at their worst. Kelly is like former U.S. Senator Charles McCarthy. Instead of systematically accusing and hunting suspected Communists, Kelly hunts mutants, and his propaganda creates hate in the population. Thus, Wolverine has two ways to go, but like Jean Grey, Cyclops and Storm, with the help of Prof. X, he can come to believe fear leads to hate, but education leads to truth. The students of Xavier are all mutants, but they understand that though they are hated for being different, it doesn't make them any less human.

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