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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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‘X-Men’ sequel to mark biggest international debut

Los Angeles (REUTERS) — It’s bigger, faster and darker than the original movie, so perhaps it’s not surprising that it is receiving a bigger screen debut than “Spider-Man” or “Harry Potter.”

It’s the new “X-Men” film, “X2: X-Men United,” and studio Twentieth Century Fox hopes the sequel story about a universe of mutants will kick off the early summer movie season Friday with a box office bang.

“X2” debuts in 93 countries and territories around the world simultaneously, marking the broadest opening ever for a movie — wider than “Harry Potter” and “Spider-Man.”

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The first film, 2000’s “X-Men,” raked in the cash — $294 million worldwide on a reported budget of $75 million, prompting filmmakers to believe the sequel could be even more profitable if they ratcheted up the action.

To some fans of the comic book series, the initial “X-Men” movie lacked energy and excitement that might be expected of the storied comic franchise.

Not so “X2.” In early screenings in Los Angeles, fans have been cheering their favorite characters like Wolverine, Magneto, Storm and Mystique.

With a budget of more than $100 million and the initial work of explaining the “X-Men” universe of mutants and their enemies out of the way, the sequel was free to show the fire and ice, claws and body armor that are the hallmark of “X2.”

More more more

“The marching orders in a sequel, I guess, are to top the first one — bigger, better, more action,” producer Lauren Donner said in a recent interview.

“X2” takes up where the first film left off, with Sir Ian McKellen’s metal-controlling villain Magneto locked up in a plastic prison and Patrick Stewart’s Prof. Charles Xavier still teaching gifted young mutants.

But a high-profile attack by a mutant with the ability to teleport — Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler — brings renewed attention to the brewing differences and struggles between mutants and humanity.

The attack draws in William Stryker, a military man with a shady past and even more suspect motives, to try and gain control of the “mutant problem.” It also draws back Logan, the clawed mutant known as Wolverine, to Xavier’s school. Played by Australian actor Hugh Jackman, Wolverine takes an aggressive role defending his fellow mutants.

The sequel goes farther than the first in the scope of its story.

“Having had success with the first, a certain kind of freedom has been earned,” director Bryan Singer said.

The film, as with the comic book series, is an allegorical tale on the effects of discrimination against fundamentally decent people who happen to be different from others.

‘Bitter blue married couple’

The film’s special effects, costumes and make-up are elaborate. Cumming as Nightcrawler and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Mystique appear in head-to-toe blue makeup that took hours to apply each day.

“We were like an old, bitter, blue married couple,” Romijn-Stamos said, adding that the make-up made her action work very difficult. “It’s really hard to kick butt when you can’t see the butt you’re kicking.”

Former beauty pageant queen Kelly Hu, who has a black belt in martial arts, appears in the film as Lady Deathstrike, whose sharp metallic nails would make any manicurist shudder.

Hu and Jackman have an intense fight scene in the film, though Hu said she had to beg the gentlemanly Jackman, a veteran of musical theater, to hit her harder in their scene.

“I’ve played rugby. I’ve been in a few fights, (and) there’s not many people I’ve hit harder than Kelly,” Jackman said.

Stories and allegories

Director Singer, known for dealing with weightier material like the complex mystery film “The Usual Suspects,” said he enjoyed bringing comic book super heroes to life.

“As long as there are stories to tell and they’re taken seriously, then I think this universe can be explored for decades,” he said.

For their parts, producers Donner and Ralph Winter are already openly talking about the possibilities for an “X3” and even “X4” and “X5.” The film leaves a number of potential avenues open for such sequels, and a number of key cast members are already under contract for those films.

But others, like Oscar winner Halle Berry, who plays Storm in the movie, are not. Many expect that Berry, who did little publicity for the film and whose career is surging beyond the world of comic book mutants, will not be back.

“I don’t know about Halle,” Singer said.

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