Madmen and supervillains are just the beginning of the troubles for ”The X-Men” (opening July 14). Joss Whedon, creator of ”Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” recently slammed the film’s script while promoting ”Buffy” in the U.K. Whedon, who was hired to rework one of the film’s fight scenes, ended up doing much more — only to have his rewrites tossed out. ”They wanted me to punch up the last fight. [And] I said, ‘I think you’ve got a greater problem than that,”’ Whedon told a British website while promoting ”Buffy” in the U.K. ”I didn’t think the script was any good so I did a major overhaul.”
Fox, the film’s studio, declined to comment on these charges. But sources close to the production say that Whedon’s changes were scrapped because his quick-witted pop culture referencing tone — which works so well on ”Buffy” — didn’t jibe with director Bryan Singer’s more serious vision for ”The X-Men.”
That may be. But Whedon isn’t the only big-name scribe who’s taken a stab at the script. In fact, so many word wranglers have been involved — including Ed Solomon (”Men in Black”) and John Logan (”Gladiator”) — that the film’s official writing credits ”have yet to be determined” by the Writer’s Guild, which means an arbitration ruling is imminent.
Although using multiple writers isn’t an extraordinary circumstance for a big-budget summer flick, ”The X-Men” has proved to be a particular screenwriting challenge for two reasons. First, the film’s relatively tight $75 million budget meant that script tweakers had to rewrite around predetermined special-effects-heavy action sequences, which couldn’t be changed without adding megabucks to the movie’s tab.
And because the film is based on the best-selling comic book series of all time, the writers — many of whom are accustomed to having free reign — had the burden of restricting themselves to the comic’s complex mythology to please its rabid followers. ”Fans are really perfectionists,” ”X-Men” creator and Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee tells EW Online. ”They want the movie to be exactly the way the comic book is.”
Which leads to the silver lining in this script-plagued cloud: Intense fan interest almost ensures the film will have a huge opening weekend, whether they come to sneer or cheer. Even naysayer Whedon admits, ”I’ve gotta see it.”