X2

And so begins the screenplay for the second theatrical installment of the “X-Men” series. While I enjoyed the first effort for what it was (an enjoyable popcorn flick), I found there to be a great deal of problems with the summer 2000 film; the biggest was director/writer Bryan Singer’s woeful handling of its main players, as the majority of the 11 primary castmembers was poorly fleshed out behind a costume and a basic assigned personality.

SPOILER WARNING!
This script review includes major plot points to “X2.” Read at your own risk.

The sequel neglects to correct this, and makes this aspect worse by introducing entirely new mutants and also upgrading bit players from the first film like Bobby Drake (Iceman) and Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) to become more integral to the film’s plot. “Oz” is able to juggle its 25-strong lead cast amicably enough from episode to episode, and give the characters their disparate personalities, but this series suffers heavily in comparison. Who are Scott Summers (Cyclops) and Ororo Monroe (Storm), beyond their powersr The film tells us little, if anything.

The film neatly begins where the first ended, with Logan off to Akali Lake Industrial Complex in search of his past and a later glimpse of workers repairing the Statue of Liberty, damaged in the third act of the first film. In the first scene, the audience is introduced to Kurt Warner (Nightcrawler), a mutant “with the face of a demon” who has the power to teleport at will. Under the power of an unknown force, he takes out a cadre of Secret Service agents while attempting to assassinate President McKenna. Only when he is shot in the wrist does he appear to come to his senses and “bamfs,” as the comic books so described his teleporting ability in noun and verb form, out of the Oval Office. In his trail he only leaves smoke smelling of sulphate and a knife with the words “Mutant Freedom Now” emblazoned on a long red ribbon.

The film then moves on to a science museum, where the student and faculty of Xavier’s school are viewing exhibits on the history of humankind, along with realizing the current mutant-weary atmosphere they live in. The public’s view of mutants hasn’t changed at all since the last film, of course, and Nightcrawler’s botched attempt on the President only makes the fear worse. We are introduced to a host of new mutants at the museum, including John Allerdyce, know as Pyro. A bit of a hothead who has only just joined Xavier’s community, he is appropriately able to manipulate fire, and serves as the third part of the romantic triangle involving Rogue and Drake. An interesting character, probably one of the best additions made to the film — but in the third act, we see a not-so-surprising change in who he aligns his loyalties with.

Shifting then back to the White House, we learn that William Stryker has designs on Xavier — it is also here we get our promised glimpse of Bruce Davison’s Senator Kelly, although this is really the shape-shifter Mystique. There is no miraculous recovery for the real Kelly, which has been hinted at in the film press recently. We also meet Anne Reynolds (renamed Yuriko Oyamaonce production began to reflect Kelly Hu’s casting), the President’s director of special projects who has her own secret. Kelly is deadset against a maneuver against the Westchester-based headquarters of the X-Men, but Stryker, having extracted information from a drugged and beaten Eric Lensherr (Magneto), gains the President’s blessing.

At the Mansion, Logan returns from the seemingly-deserted Akali Lake Industrial Complex, where he has found no answers to his origin. Xavier tries to locate Nightcrawler using Cerebro, “finding it hard to get a lock-on to him.” With the signal soon settling in Boston, Xavier dispatches Jean Grey and Storm to find the mutant, while he and Cyclops go to visit Magneto in his plastic-contained prison. But, then night falls; soldiers “with glowing red eyes” and “form-fitting battlegear” infiltrate the mansion. As one secondary character notes, the soldiers “could easily pass for one of the X-Men in uniform.” Once Xavier’s students realize what is happening, they make their escape following an evacuation plan that had been taught earlier. Winding through the tear gas and the scrum of soldiers in the huge complex, the majority (including Peter Rasputin, dragging several children in tow) makes it out. Unfortunately, Stryker’s men capture 8 students. During the raid, Logan comes face to face with Stryker, with the military leader recognizing him and asking how long it had been. With no answer coming as Logan stands wordlessly trying to conjure the memories, Stryker continues this one-side conversation: “Fifteen yearsr And you haven’t changed a bit. Me, on the other hand, nature,” as he gestures towards himself. With Rogue having grasped Pyro’s arm from nearby, she breaks the face-off between the two; they, along with Pyro and Drake, flee the mansion. It is then that the audience realizes that Stryker is not after the students at Xavier’s institute, but Cerebro, which can locate mutants across the globe.

The second act begins with Stryker visiting Xavier, who he is now holding at his base. The audience learns that Stryker’s son Jason was once a student at Xavier’s school. Is it possible this Mutant 143, as he is known, is possibly a re-imaging (as much as I hate using that word) of “Mastermind” from the comic books, the one who drove Jean Grey to become the Dark Phoenixr He is a grotesque creature, described here in the script as a “shell of a man, shriveled and emaciated, sitting in a wheelchair. Syringes and tubes run from his head into clear containers on the back of his chair, continuously collecting the yellow fluid from his spinal column.” It also describes Jason as having “one bright blue eye and one green eye…and a giant scar running across his forehead.” He will not be competing with Halle Berry or Rebecca Romijn-Stamos in a “X-Men” beauty contest, it seems.

At the same time, Magneto escapes from prison, killing a guard in the process– he apparently had too much iron in his blood.

Meanwhile, Logan’s foursome head to Boston to re-connect with Jean Grey and Storm, stopping at Drake’s house in an attempt to change into more normal clothing than the sleepwear they previously had on. While there, the most poignant example of the current environment for mutants transpires in what we see in the divided Drake household. Drake “comes out” to his shaken parents that he’s a mutant-his mother asks “Have you tried…not to be mutantsr- while his younger brother calls the police on his brother and his guests. As police circle and Logan is shot in the head, they are rescued by Storm, Jean Grey and Nightcrawler (who has been recruited into the group by this point) in the X-Jet.

Minutes later, the group is shot down by military jets. They are saved by Magneto, who suggests they all work together and invade Stryker’s base, located under Akali Lake Industrial Complex.

And the battle begins, much larger in scale than the first installment of the film series. There’s Logan vs. Reynolds (who has spouted long claws) and a brainwashed Cyclops battling Jean Grey, among other match-ups. Unbeknownst to Xavier as he at the thralls of Mutant 143, he is actually working against them-setting loose a sonic blare that hits all mutants over the world. We see new characters like Siryn, Hank McCoy (not turning into his furry blue form, as has been reported elsewhere), Marrow and Gambit all feel the effects of this, wherever this may be. Only when they are able to reverse this does the base crumble. In the final minutes, we find out one integral X-Men team member has been blinded, another has switched allegiances and a final confrontation between Xavier and President McKenna.

My Thoughts
Although I have not read a comic book in a long while, this is based loosely on Chris Claremont’s “God Loves, Man Kills” graphic novel. This effort feels more in tune with the recent animated television series, “X-Men: Evolution.” It’s not entirely a bad thing, but it is a bit too formulaic for my tastes, though. There are key aspects missing from this script that were hopefully tweaked before filming began two months after this draft. Among my concerns:

  • Far, far too many characters. Cyclops is in the background most of the film, which is not a bad thing after the wooden interpretation James Marsden gave him in the last film. Reading the script a second time, I can see why Halle Berry has voiced her concerns about her characterization– they could bring a cardboard figure into her role and there would be little difference. Some of the new characters and those upped to a greater role are good additions, but there needs to be a better balance between the new and old characters. It’s not found in this draft, though.
  • A weak third act that doesn’t match the two that preceded it. I thought the build-up was inspired, but the third act failed to interest me. It seems almost like an afterthought than a cataclysmic battle.
  • Xavier is again wasted in his use later on the script, working against the X-Men. After his being hurt in the last film’s second act, I would have loved to see him be more hands-on in the final act here and leading them into battle.
  • The audience never really gets a handle on who Stryker is. Also, why is the base of a U.S. Military commander based in Canadar

Also, intermixed among all the action is humor that fails to hit the mark. Early in the film, when Logan returns to the fold, Xavier scolds him for smoking his trademark cigars in his mansion. As Xavier says, “Logan, my repeated requests about smoking in the mansion notwithstanding, continue smoking that in here… and you will spend the rest of your days under the belief you are a six year old girl.” When Logan questions whether he would ever do that, Xavier replies that he’ll “have Jean braid [his] hair.” While the first film was able to mix the two elements of action and humor, I think most of the humor here feels forced.

There are some scenes in the film that will have been cut by the time it opens, including Logan’s work-out in the Danger Room. Others, like a Nightcrawler vs. Toad match-up in the third act will have to have been rewritten, as 20th Century Fox announced in July that actor Ray Park will not be seen in this installment. Also, a great deal of the film requires CGI– hopefully, the special effects team does a better job here than in their previous effort.

In the end, I liked this script in much the same way I enjoyed the first film as a popcorn flick. It doesn’t aspire to be more, although it tries to mix in deeper thoughts. But it moves beyond a film made for general audiences into one for the fanbase. General audiences will have trouble getting all the references and keeping the new characters straight. I expected more after the first film, and this doesn’t do it for me. The screenplay dated is April 20th, 2002. Written by David Hayter, based upon a story by Bryan Singer and Hayter. Current revisions in this draft are contributed by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris; The screenplay is titled as “X-Men 2” on this draft.

Rating: C+
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