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X-Men on the Net

X-Men on the Net–The superheroes’ Web culture is disappointing, especially in advance of a feature film

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X-Men on the Net

Does Professor X do websites? Because the X-Men could sure use some online help.

When the first trailer for Twentieth Century Fox’s X-Men, due in theaters July 14, hit the Net Feb. 16, the very foundation of the Web should have buckled like metal under Magneto’s supercharged gaze. And, true, the trailer (available at http://www.x-men-the-movie.com) did attract more than half a million downloads in its first few days. But so did that lady who gave birth live on the Net — and she didn’t have anywhere near the fan base of this four-decade-old best-selling comic-book franchise.

And why, when last year’s Phantom Menace had live video feeds from the line outside Mann’s Chinese Theatre, and next year’s The Lord of the Rings already has a half dozen hubs competing for movie scoops, is the most exciting indie website for this summer’s action blockbuster the every-so-often diary entries from Sir Ian McKellen, the actor playing Magneto? Marvel’s X-Men series, with its outcast mutants and divisive genetic politics, seems ready-made for Web culture, and the comic-book and TV-cartoon versions of the saga are fodder for loads of sites like Unofficial X-Men (xmansion.cjb.net). But when it comes to the movie, there are just a handful of plot, cast, and rumor sites relying on old-standby gossipmongers like Ain’t It Cool News and Dark Horizons for their juiciest tidbits and photos.

In fact, it’s a little scary that the best X-Men movie site thus far is Fox’s official spin-off, Mutant Watch 2000, a straight-faced ”campaign drive” from Sen. Robert Kelly (played by Bruce Davison in the film) whose anti-mutant propaganda — ”It hides behind the face of your coworker” — is tinged with just the right amount of paranoia. Too bad the Do You Know a Mutant? section, where you can rat out anyone suspected of possessing altered genomic structures, lacks any payoff — who knows what your friends will end up getting? The Known Mutants area is still ”being compiled,” and while I won’t bother with my usual rant against going live with half-baked Web promos, the effect is as annoying as the $2 white wig and contact lenses that Storm (Halle Berry) sports in the trailer.

Despite its shortcomings, Mutant Watch still holds more promise than the Uncanny X-Movie fan site (http://www.denmon.net), whose creator must be working on some mutant-size screen, because even with the browser opened to the absolute edge of my 17-inch monitor, I’m forced to scroll sideways to read anything. Countdown to X-Men (www.countingdown.com/x-men), a site from the organizers of the similar Phantom Menace countdown page, does offer some decent on-location photos, but in general, X-Men‘s inability to mutate efficiently across the Web does not bode well for Fox and its stellar cast, most of whom have been signed to a two-picture deal. Instead of giving Ain’t It Cool the best scoops and concentrating on the official site, the movie’s makers ought to read their own script and realize that enlisting the ”children of the atom” — the fans who’ve already built Web shrines to this property — is the surest way to save the planet come opening day. Mutant Watch: C Uncanny X-Movie: C- Countdown: B

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