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An "Evolutionary" Leap
"X-Men" director Bryan Singer was determined to make X2 much more than a traditional sequel. Singer's ambitions for the new film came as no surprise to the studio or to the film's producers; his respect for the comics characters – the seriousness and weight, as well as enormous fun, with which he approached "X-Men" – had earned the respect of the multitudes of loyal comics fans and millions of moviegoers new to the X-Men universe.

Singer played the genre for real, giving "X-Men" a three-dimensional tone and style that served as a template for and inspired the reemergence of films based on comics properties. "Bryan grew to really love the X-Men characters and their universe, so there was no question about him directing X2," says producer Lauren Shuler Donner, who began developing the first "X-Men" film nearly a decade ago. Echoes producer Ralph Winter: "Bryan has great insight into what makes the series such a popular piece of pop culture. And his ability to make these characters real – like they live next door – even though they possess incredible and sometimes dangerous powers, is pretty extraordinary."

For X2, Singer would be painting on the huge canvas of big studio, event moviemaking, enjoying a larger budget and longer shooting schedule than was available for the first film. X2 also would ramp up the action, effects, locations and stunts that had captivated the comics enthusiasts and new fans.

Using the formidable resources at his disposable and no longer constrained by having to introduce the characters and their powers, Singer wanted to delve deeper into the X-Men mythology, and into their abilities and relationships. "X2 is not a sequel," he notes. "It's the next adventure in a saga –an evolution from the first film. We not only follow up with the principal characters from the first picture and their respective journeys, we introduce a new generation of X-Men, as well as some new villains.

"Like any good comic book, the X-Men universe is designed to expand," Singer continues. "These stories can go on forever. This continuation of the saga has provided me with an opportunity to expand the storylines and the characters – and to have a lot more fun. X2 is edgier, darker, funnier and more romantic than its predecessor."

X2 continues to deal with the themes of tolerance and fear of the unknown, which have been part of the X-Men universe since Stan Lee created the comics 40 years ago. "It's still about misfits, prejudice, about being an outsider and not being understood," notes Lauren Shuler Donner. Adds Bryan Singer, "The ‘X-Men' films pose the questions that we all have: Am I alone in the world? Why am I so different, and how am I going to fit in? These questions are universal and timeless, particularly among adolescents. We've all felt at times like mutants."

A new theme in X2 is "unity," as the X-Men join forces with a most unlikely ally to combat a new and very human menace. As the story opens, mutants are continuing their struggle with a society that fears and distrusts them. Their cause becomes even more desperate following a shocking attack by an unknown assailant possessing extraordinary abilities. All signs point to the work of a mutant.

The assault renews the political and public outcry for a Mutant Registration Act. Leading the anti-mutant movement now is William Stryker, a wealthy former Army commander and scientist who is rumored to have experimented on mutants.

Stryker's mutant "work&qu

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