Continuing this week with the second chapter of our three-part look at Brian Singer’s X-Men from 2000.
When we left off, Logan–the ronin-like wandering cage fighter also known as Wolverine–had ended up in Professor Charles Egg-Saviour’s School for Gifted Youngsters (a school for mutants), along with teenage runaway Rogue. Professor X is worried about what his old friend and current opponent Magneto might be planning to do in response to a proposed piece of legislation requiring registration of all mutants.
That legislation is being co-sponsored by Senator Kelly, who gets into an official-looking helicopter with his assistant Henry Gyrich.
And once again, this is a throwaway reference to the comics. Henry Gyrich was an agent of the National Security Council who served as liaison to the Avengers in the 1970’s, forcing them to make security and line-up changes and even revoking their permissions from the government a couple of times, leaving them unable to use their communicators and Quinjet.
We never really learn what role he’s supposed to play here, because Gyrich is actually dead. And this person is a shapeshifter.
Her name is Mystique (played by Rebecca Romijn). She kicks the crap out of Kelly with her nimble feet while her accomplice Toad (Ray Park) pilots the helicopter toward Magneto’s island fortress.
Meanwhile, Jean Grey has put Wolverine through a scanner and discovered that his bones are infused with an indestructible metal called adamantium, which combined with his regenerative powers make him virtually indestructible (and BTW, the pointy shoes they put Famke Janssen in make her feet look huuuuge). When Cyclops wonders why Magneto wants Wolverine, Professor X observes that it’s not proven that Wolverine was what he was after.
Senator Kelly comes to in Magneto’s fortress, strapped to a chair in front of a huge metal apparatus and surrounded by mutants (well, four). Magneto gloats a little, then gets in the apparatus and powers it with his own mutant energy. There’s a cool light show which engulfs everyone watching.
Jean Grey shows Logan to a bedroom where he can stay. When he asks where Jean sleeps, she says with Scott, and after a little flirting, right on cue, Cyclops shows up and warns Logan to stay away from Jean.
That night, Rogue hears Logan muttering in his sleep from down the hall. Logan’s having a nightmare about the experiments that were performed on him, and Singer manages to make them appropriately creepy without resorting to the jagged flash cuts that have become standard.
Rogue comes into Logan’s room and tries to wake him, but still locked in the throes of the nightmare, Wolverine sits up and stabs Rogue with his claws.
So Rogue touches his cheek, knocking Wolverine out for the count and absorbing his healing ability long enough for her wounds to close up. Which is ironic, since she seemed so intimidated and he seemed so invulnerable at the club where she first met him; turns out, she’s just as dangerous. And everyone in the crowd that has gathered around Logan’s door knows it.
After a quick scene between Professor X and Wolverine just to make sure everybody in the audience knows what Rogue’s power is, we rejoin Senator Kelly in a prison cell in Magneto’s island fortress. He discovers that with a little effort, he can squeeze between the bars over the window.
That’s right, he is now Senator Squishy, and that light show Magneto put him through is obviously some sort of mutation module. He not only squeezes through the bars, but when Sabretooth tries to pull him back in, his hand squishes right out of Sabretooth’s grip, allowing him to plummet into the ocean. Magneto traps Sabretooth in Kelly’s cell out of pique.
The next day, the senator walks out of the ocean onto a beach, looking very different–not just squishy, but with what look like gill slits down his back. And yes, to the right there, that hot dog vendor in the blue shirt, that’s your Stan Lee cameo for this picture.
The Senator sees a TV report about an upcoming U.N. Summit and steals some clothes. Nobody tries to stop him.
Back at Xavier’s school, Bobby tells Rogue that the Professor is furious that she used her powers against another mutant and that she should leave. His eyes flash yellow as she runs away from him. Hmmm, yellow ice? That can’t be good.
Meanwhile, Professor X is still trying to figure out what Magneto wants with Wolverine when Logan himself shows up. Rogue has gone missing. Professor X decides to use the Cerebro supercomputer to track her down. Cerebro had long been a fixture in the comics, but of course, the movie has to make it more spectacular by housing it inside a huge metal sphere.
Xavier locates Rogue at the train station and forbids Wolverine to go after her, since Magneto might be lying in wait for him. He dispatches Storm and Cyclops instead. But by the time they reach the garage to pick up a car, Cyclops notices his motorcycle is missing, and sure enough, Wolverine has stolen it.
And discovered the turbo boost button.
No matter how serious your superhero story might be, you need to have these moments of vicarious thrill, no matter how rote they seem.
Wolverine catches up to Rogue on the train and convinces her to go back to the school. And while I’m not thrilled with Anna Paquin’s performance in general, when Wolverine mentions how the Professor seems to want to help “people like us,” she gives him this look of pure infatuation that is perfect for the character and the moment.
In the train station, Storm asks the guy at the ticket booth about Rogue while Cyclops waits in the middle of the terminal. Storm is suddenly grabbed by Sabretooth, and when Cyclops tries to intervene, Toad uses his long prehensile tongue to steal Cyclops’s visor, sending his powers out of control.
While the fight is happening at the train station, meanwhile, the Bobby who is not Bobby changes shape to fool the retina scanners on Cerebro. It’s Mystique. She clips a vial of weird inky liquid into a fluid line, causing a dark cloud in the machine. That probably means something bad (she knows exactly how to sabotage it because Magneto helped build it).
Meanwhile on the train, Magneto shows up and freezes Wolverine with a gesture since his skeleton is mostly metal. Wolverine says to take him, but let Rogue go. To which Magneto replies, “Whoever said we wanted you?”
As Sabretooth, Toad and Magneto are leaving with an unconscious Rogue, they are greeted by about a hundred cops and Professor X. The professor takes control of Toad and Sabetooth and tries to talk Magneto out of his plan, but Magneto responds by shooting one cop in the face.
He stops the bullet just a millimeter or so from the guy’s head, then threatens to do the same with all the cops. “I don’t think I can stop them all.” Xavier relents, and Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants escapes.
Wolverine wants to quit the group to track down Rogue, but before he can leave, Senator Kelly shows up, looking much worse for wear. After hearing the senator’s story, the group figures out that Magneto plans to use his machine on the world diplomats showing up for the U.N. summit. The need to stop this from happening becomes even more dire when Senator Kelly devolves into a bag of mush and then pops open, spilling fluids across the floor.
The mutation machine kills, y’all. Even worse, Cyclops figures out that the machine isn’t all that kind to the person running it, either. It nearly killed Magneto when he used it on Senator Kelly. Therefore, he apparently plans to transfer his powers to Rogue and have her be the one killed when it has to mutate all those diplomats. This time, it’s personal!
Professor X uses Cerebro again to try to find Rogue. But the Black Blood of the Earth that Mystique injected into it zaps the Prof into a coma. While everyone else hovers worriedly over the Professor, Jean repairs Mystique’s sabotage and uses Cerebro, even though she is nowhere near powerful enough. The pain drives her to her knees, but when Cyclops finds her, she tells him that she knows where Magneto is going.
And we’ll get to that and the big climax next week. See you then.