Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pitch Me, Mr. B: MARVEL'S X-MEN

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In case you missed the earlier installments of this: Here's what's up, here's the first one and here's the second.

So... yeah, hypothetical "scriptment" pitches for hypothetical movie adaptations. Thought exercise and all that.

This one will be a touch on the different side, less of a blow-by-blow and more of an outline; since in this instance the "challenge" isn't to figure out how to turn the X-MEN franchise into a movie (that's been done) but to work out how a "reboot" of the series might be made to fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe if and when the rights to the characters were to fall back under Marvel/Disney's control.

Principal aims: Work out the "purpose" of Mutants in an MCU which, within a few years, will likely have already burned through the "disenfranchised minority metaphor" business using THE INHUMANS. Renew focus on the sexual/relationship politics-dominated "soap opera" interplay that characterized the Claremont/Cockrum/Byrne era wherein these characters became popular.

See what I came up with after the jump:



And here we go:

OPEN in 1834, the THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS. Yup, we're going here: CHARLES DARWIN is investigating animals and cataloguing samples, gradually discovering the beginnings of his theory of Natural Selection... faster than one might have expected, thanks to some whisper-gentle nudging from a largely anonymous assistant who seems to already know as fact the theories he's subtly planting the seeds of in Darwin's head. His name is NATHANIEL ESSEX.

We move ahead to: WORLD WAR II, the liberation of a Concentration Camp by joint U.S. and Canadian forces including CAPTAIN AMERICA and The Howling Commandos. Cap is irritated by the fact that freeing these camps isn't higher on the Army's priority list, and that this is the first one his unit has been sent to - and not for the camp itself, but for what's "under it."

As if on cue, HYDRA troops appear from an underground bunker and a fight breaks out. While the Commandos protect the prisoners, Cap finds himself fighting into the bunker alongside a Canadian soldier posessed of superhuman strength. When asked who he is: "Would you believe 'Captain Canada?'"

In short-order, Cap and yes-we-know-it's-WOLVERINE discover a HYDRA lab where experiments are being conducted on a boy of about 6 - ERIK LENSHER. The scientist in charge gives up rather easily and offers a fake name, but we can recognize Nathaniel Essex, looking not a day older than 1834.

Another leap, this time to 2015 (presume, for the sake of this exercise, that this film would not be produced until at least 2020 - one year after Marvel's last currently-slated feature is set to bow) and the offices of the AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. An update on the Inhumans "situation" is being presented, along with a theory that some of the assets classified as Inhuman are actually not - that they are mutations of ordinary humans, not descendants of alien interference.

These "Mutants" are a troubling prospect - born with powers nascent until their teens but biologically indistinct from humans and not requiring Terrigenesis to "activate" their abilities - but the talk is gently but firmly shot down by a Senior Agent - Essex, once again.

Finally, the PRESENT - a suburban Superintendent of Schools office late at night. Teenaged student KATHERINE "KITTY" PRYDE slips into the building to steal SAT answers - via the mutant power of walking through solid walls. But she's stopped by an oddly well-timed security guard - Essex again, brandishing a gun.

Kitty is saved by a voice in her head telling her to beware, followed by the appearance of CHARLES XAVIER (bald, wheelchair) and his much older companion - Erik Lensher (ancient-looking but strong, standing/walking with the aid of metal braces on his legs, back and arms.) Essex proves able to block Xavier's psychic attacks, but Lensher's metal-controlling powers bludgeon him badly enough that he reveals his monstrous-looking true form: MISTER SINISTER!

Enter THE X-MEN, in classic blue/gold uniforms, ages ranging from 19 to 22: CYCLOPS, JEAN GREY, ANGEL, PYRO and MYSTIQUE. Brawl ensues, Sinister escapes.

The X-Men bring Kitty aboard the BLACKBIRD jet and explain the scenario: Mankind isn't prepared to know about Mutants, fear of the recently-revealed Inhumans has made it worse, Xavier and Lensher operate XAVIER'S SCHOOL FOR THE GIFTED to protect/nurture Mutant youth, the X-Men are onetime students graduated to teachers.

Recruitment to Xavier's School (via CEREBRO, which can discern Mutant from human/Inhuman where biology cannot) has been increased of late in order to checkmate abductions by MR. SINISTER (an augmented human via experiments on Mutants, which he believes he "discovered" in the mid-1700s) the reasons for which are yet unclear.

At the school, Kitty (yes, he's our audience-POV character for this one) meets her same-aged (mid-teens) student contemporaries; chiefly cocky athlete ICEMAN, gentle-giant COLOSSUS and withdrawn beauty ROGUE.

Xavier reaches out to a contact in S.H.I.E.L.D (or whatever the post-CIVIL WAR power-aparatus is), HANK "BEAST" MCCOY (non-furry version) for information about Sinister. Not much known, but his actions threaten to (finally) pull Mutants into the public sphere. Charles and Erik argue - Erik in favor of going public and starting a fight he believes will occur no matter what, Charles on the cautious side.

Also noted: The Inhumans have (off the record) refused to "cover" in the event of exposed Mutants by claiming them as part of their race.

While the machinations of the Bigger Story grind on in the backdrop with the "grownups" (short version: Sinister is collecting powerful Mutants for what he calls a "Brotherhood," promising that he can both keep them safe and improve their natural powers, Xavier has plotted out a list of likely targets to try and head him off) Kitty does the Harry Potter thing moving between the students and classes. All is not well: Growing "cliques" of students profess a psuedo-cultist fixation on "militant" essays (as opposed to Xavier's pacifist philosophy) Erik penned as a younger man...

...but Erik is ambivalent about those writings now, and gently dissuades his would-be acolytes. He develops a rapport with Kitty, explaining that his lifelong militancy softened fairly recently and for a specific reason: When Captain America (effectively) returned from the dead, he had a chance to meet and thank the man who'd saved his life as a boy and began to believe in second chances.

On a dare, Kitty sneaks onto the Blackbird for a mission - quietly observing the X-Men's recruitment of STORM (usual origin re: orphan worshiped as a goddess/witch in tribal Africa.) Back at school, she and Kitty become friendly.

Meanwhile, a Christian Fundamentalist religious sect called THE CHURCH OF NATURAL LAW (think Westboro Baptist, but fixated on hating aliens, Inhumans and superheroes) led by REVEREND WILLIAM STRIKER begins to make news with outlandish protests against various events/ideas referencing other recent story points in the MCU. Erik finds him especially disturbing.

Kitty and her friends discuss whether or not they'll also be X-Men as they get older. One thing they agree on: The blue/gold uniforms don't work for them, and they begin to discuss their own hypothetical gear/getup.

A later recruitment (with Beast tagging along for S.H.I.E.L.D reasons) does not go so well: The target, TOAD, has already sworn allegiance to Sinister - it's a trap! The X-Men escape, but not unscathed: Beast is hit with an "improvement" injection from Sinister and mutates into his blue furry form.

With the team's progress delayed, Xavier asks Erik to take a detachment of "advanced" students (Kitty, Iceman, Colossus, Rogue and Storm) to attempt contact with another potential target in rural Germany: Teleporter Kurt Wagner, NIGHTCRAWLER. It goes... awkwardly, but Nightcrawler ultimately agrees to come along because he's immediately smitten with Kitty.

All parties return to the School for some (relative) down-time. While the grownups compare notes (and Erik secretly agonizes over growing issues with his arthritis and bone problems), a group of "cool girls" (including JUBILEE, maybe?) goad Kitty into getting Nightcrawler to teleport them into a sold-out local concert by pop-star DAZZLER (think Miley Cyrus by way of Lady Gaga.)

At the Dazzler concert, Kitty feels bad about "using" Kurt, but he's already over it - he's noticed that Dazzler seems to be setting off light-effects on the stage without any means of ignition: She's a Mutant!

Something else they both notice (too late) "Nathaniel Essex" is in Dazzler's roadie crew! He sets off a chemical release which supercharges Dazzler's powers, causing he to fire destructive light-beams out of her fingertips. Footage makes the news, and just like that Mutants are now publically known.

The Federal government (particularly whatever superhuman governing-machinery is set post-CIVIL WAR) mobilizes hearings on "The Mutant Problem." With public hysteria growing, Erik presses a reluctant Xavier to hold a press-conference spearheaded by "a friend" (Tony Stark if that's still plausible, someone else if not) introducing/rebranding The X-Men as an Avengers-style superhero team to put public fears at ease.

Kitty is torn between the two "sides" in the school: Some want to go militant and prepare for war with humanity, others want to coexist. The only person she can fully confide in is Storm, who is thus far an observer not taking any full side.

During the press conference, a Mutant henchman of Sinister's hits Erik with the power-charging serum, resulting in a metal-controlling freakout that turns the assembled crowd (with goading from Stryker's "Church," who attended to heckle) against them.

Amid the chaos, Sinister appears in full regalia, feigning as though he's an ideological ally of the scattered, confused X-Men. His "Brotherhood" (a small army of B/C-list Mutants, have fun with it) attack the crowd, and by the time The X-Men can regroup to fight them everything has gone to shit. Sinister escapes, but before he does he hands Lensherr a vial of "something" and an ominous message: "Admit it. You enjoyed yourself back there. Here's another taste - if you want it. And you will."

An analysis of the vial reveals that it contains (among other things) genetic material with a remarkable healing factor... but NOT the type that keeps Essex/Sinister effectively immortal. It's marking also trace back to an obscure decomissioned military facility in Canada's Northwest Territories. An obvious trap, but The X-Men (bringing an insistent Nightcrawler along for good measure) have no choice but to try.

Kitty (and the rest of the school) watch via video monitors as The X-Men attempt to raid the compound... only to find themselves attacked by amped-up Brotherhood henchmen and taken prisoner via mind-control devices of Sinister's design. When Xavier tries to reach out psychically to stop this, an already-ensnared Jean Grey telepathically knocks him unconscious. Nightcrawler barely manages to teleport himself and a badly-beaten Cyclops to safety, beginning a travel-by-teleport rush back to the Xavier School...

...which has problems of its own: A torches-and-pitchforks style mob, led by Reverend Stryker, has stormed the grounds, and without Xavier to hold them back things go straight to hell - including a brutal injury to Erik. The students are unable to coalesce in resistance (Kitty leads the "protect and de-escalate" side, with the militants outnumbering them) until...

Storm appears (classic costume, classic attitude), demands they fight together but backs Kitty's "just get them out of here, don't make things worse" approach. She does, however, use some extreme examples of her power to put the fear of God(dess) into Stryker before sending him on his way.

Xavier comes to amid the wreckage just as Cyclops and Nightcrawler teleport in, adamant that the X-Men have to be saved but unsure how to do it. Kitty proposes a solution: She, Rogue, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Iceman and Storm should serve as a new/temporary X-Men team under Cyclops' leadership to go and rescue the others. He's unsure... but there's no other choice.

The "All-New X-Men" suit up in the unique costumes they'd discussed earlier (Cyclops trades his battered blue/gold uni for his 80s all-blue look) and head into battle.

Unseen in the rubble, Erik is alive... barely. He manages to get his hands on the vial from Sinister and, with nothing else to lose, drinks it. The effects are shocking and immediate - he begins to de-age into a remarkably fit-looking man possibly in his mid-30s, just with white hair.

The "new" X-Men fight through Sinister's goons, only to find themselves fighting the mind-controlled originals! After a difficult fight, all of the X-Men are now on the same team, and chase Sinister himself into the bowels of his base. There, Sinister reveals a mysterious form inside a tube of chemicals - a Mutant of "remarkable powers" whom Essex calls an "old friend" that had been turned into a bio-weapon by a Canadian military-backed science project. "The truth is, some people already DID know about Xavier's little Boy Scout troop, and wanted a checkmate. Enjoy your time with WEAPON X!"

Sinister takes off as WEAPON X (Wolverine-but-not-with-that-name-yet from the prologue, duh) emerges, pops his claws and an all-against-one fight breaks out, eventually exploding out in the forest with both X-Men teams easily matched by this rampaging monster. Only a combined pooling of their various powers, with Kitty and Nightcrawler using phasing/teleporting in tandem to wear him down, prevails.

Jean Grey uses her powers to un-brainwash "Weapon X," who remembers nothing except the codename "Wolverine" - but he's immediately fond of the "lady head-doctor."

Back at the school, repairs are underway. Angel (real name Warren Worthington III) is reveal to have gotten his family business to donate much of the cost, but at a price: He's to finally take an active role on the board, meaning he must depart The X-Men. Also departing: Mystique and Pyro, who confide in eachother that after what they've seen from Stryker etc they can't believe in Mutant/Human coexistence anymore. Beast is headed to (an MCU science/research reference) but will be in touch.

Saddened but accepting of this change in personel, Xavier makes it official: Kitty, Nightcrawler, Rogue, Iceman, Colossus and Storm will join Cyclops, Jean and Wolverine as the new official X-Men team.

STINGER: Pyro and Mystique seek out "Mutant resistance" information in a secret location, only to hear talk of "TRUE Brotherhood" and the reveal of a still de-aged Erik Lensher, now wearing his classic uniform and calling himself MAGNETO.


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