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The Next Generation
A new generation of "Junior X-Men" joins the X-Men in the stand against the enormous threat posed by Stryker and Deathstrike. "We have three generations in this film," notes Singer, "and all are prepared to fight in this ‘evolution revolution' in order to survive. It's great that we get to pick up where we left off with the older X-Men, like Wolverine, Cyclops and Storm, but it was a lot of fun to introduce the next generation. There is a whole school full of gifted students with extraordinary abilities. The chance to explore some of these younger characters was a great opportunity to enrich the story and, perhaps, the next part of the saga."

In a nod to the comics' legions of fans, the filmmakers, including screenwriters Dan Harris & Michael Dougherty, created special cameo appearances for some favorite young X-Men from the comics. Making special appearances are Colossus (who can change his flesh into organic steel), Siryn (who can unleash eardrum-piercing sonic forces through her scream), Kitty Pryde (who can pass through ceilings and walls – and who was glimpsed briefly in "X-Men"), Jubilee (who can control fireworks), and the fork-tongued Artie.

Three of the Junior X-Men become integral members of the team. Rogue, again played by Academy Award® winner Anna Paquin, is the heart and soul of the new generation. Having gone through an incredible adventure with the X-Men in their maiden screen outing, Rogue, according to Paquin, has a formidable "head start" on her fellow pupils. Equally significant, she has moved on, romantically. "In the first film, Rogue was infatuated with Wolverine – they had a bond as he had saved her life," says Paquin. "But in X2, a real romance develops between her and Bobby Drake."

In fact, Bobby's flirtations with Rogue, as depicted briefly in "X-Men," portend the blossoming of this relationship in X2. According to Shawn Ashmore, who reprises his "X-Men" role, Bobby's feelings for Rogue and his experiences as mutant are part of the character's own "evolution." "Bobby's become more comfortable with himself," Ashmore notes, "and there's definitely more of a feeling of being part of the X-Men team. And, he's solidifying his relationship with Rogue. She's become kind of his anchor at school – and their feelings for one another begin to solidify."

While teen romance is rarely easily negotiated, the Rogue/Bobby dynamic presented unique challenges. "Rogue has this ‘issue'," says Anna Paquin, "that if she touches you, she draws away your energy and can really harm you. So how does she express herself romantically? I really enjoyed exploring that question."

While Iceman and Rogue are very much team players, a newcomer to the X-Men, Pyro, projects a more troubled, disaffected, even defiant attitude. Pyro's abilities to manipulate fire are expanding so quickly, they threaten to overwhelm his judgment and belief in the X-Men philosophy.

"I think Pyro is a lot like Wolverine," says Aaron Stanford, whose work in the independent film "Tadpole" drew notice and praise from audiences, critics and the X2 filmmakers. "They're both essentially rebels who are not very interested in assimilating within society, whether that society is inside Xavier's school or outside in the real world. I think Pyro has a lot of animosity towards the rest of humanity, and he is struggling with a potentially dangerous inner conflict."

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