Alas, the long awaited "X-Men" films are finally available on blu-ray, courtesy of FOX. While available individually, the list price of the boxed set($79.95)makes for a better pricing advantage.
While fans debate back and forth between "X-MEN" and its sequel, "X-2: X-Men United" as the best, this reviewer stands firm that the first, "X-MEN" is far and above the best of the series, and it's so good, that it transcends the genre. While at first some new potential viewers might shy away from the series, thinking it's just comic-book sci-fi, Bryan Singer's direction make "X-MEN" a brilliant film, ranking up there with the top 100 best American films! It's that good!
After a brilliant opening sequence, taking place inside a concentration camp, we get to see just how a young boy, desperately reaching out in a desperate attempt to save his parents being marched away to their death, demonstrates the kinetic powers, that will later serve him as Magneto. The plot takes place in the not-too-distant future, when mutants and humans end up being concerned about the survival of their race, due to the dangerous characters holding influence. A U.S. Senator, resembling McCarthy in his hate-speech, fuels the more villainous segment of mutants, led by Magneto, thinking there's no room for capitulation or peace with humans, partially based on what he witnessed the Nazis do to his family as a child.
Professor Xavier(Patrick Stewart), a mutant with mind-reading abilities, has a more Gandhi-like approach to the debate, and leads a school for gifted mutants, hoping to teach them how to fit into society, and use their abilities to better the world. When a young girl, Rogue, meets up with Logan(the future "wolverine"), the two mutants are kidnapped by Magneto's henchmen, and rescued by Xavier's team. Soon, these new students must join forces together with other star pupils to prevent a horrible war being launched, to end humanity. While there are incredible special effects, "X-MEN" is character driven and the screenplay brilliantly incorporates elements of sci-fi, drama and a fair share of humor, making these characters have depth. "X-MEN" never loses its grip, and holds up well 9 years after its debut as it should 90 years in the future!
FOX has provided the correct 2.35:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray. While short of reference quality, colors are generally impressive, more-so in exterior shots, and detail is excellent! Blacks are close too inky, allowing for outstanding detail in the darker scenes, as evidenced in the opening, rainy, gray, concentration camp sequence. It's a great looking blu-ray, but still just short of what we'd hoped for, when considering the flawlessness on so many FOX titles.
FOX has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. WOW! Now, this is reference quality! The opening credits are just an example of the fireworks to come in this brilliantly conceived and executed mix, blending all-important dialogue, a rousing score, aggressive panning effects and thundrous bass! One of the best sounding blu-rays ever released!
As with all of the films in this trilogy, "X-MEN" comes loaded with extras!
Bryan Singer and Brian Peck offer a terrific commentary option, along with the film. An option, "Enhanced Viewing Mode," allows for viewers to see a version offering deleted and extended scenes, reinserted properly and flawlessly into the film!
All of the extras are presented in 480p, and include art galleries, interviews with cast and crew, a documentary with behind-the-scenes footage, Hugh Jackman's first reading, screen test and much, much more! Any fan will be excited about the hours of extras here!
"X-2: X-MEN UNITED" is the sequel. And, while its opening sequence offers the same kind of stunning, brilliant atmosphere that made up all of the original, somewhere about mid-way through, it just begins to lose steam. Again, many fans consider this sequel to be the best of the series, possibly due to some surprise outcomes for some of its characters. But, its incorporation of humor and character development never blends as effortlessly as it seemed to in the first film. The fact that the main villain in this film, Stryker, is human, also takes away from the brilliant type of conflict between mutants that worked so well in the first film. Stryker(well played by Brian Cox)is more of an a--hole than a chilling villain, and there's an increased emphasis on special effects explosions and action over narrative. "X-2" is definitely entertaining and overall quite good, but not up there with the original and even disappointing in comparison. Disappointing, that is, until one sees how much Director Brett Ratner ruined the franchise with...
"X-3: THE LAST STAND," previously available on blu-ray, but remastered here, to offer improvements over the older version, and include more extras, as all three films now provide.
The plot introduces Kelsey Grammer as a mutant working for the pro-mutant President, named Beast. While not horrible, the mere inclusion of this character detracts rather than adds to the gripping sense of a semi-realistic vision imagining a world wherein mutants exist. Magneto, incensed by the discovery of a "cure" that would destroy the mutant gene, and restore this select population to the same footing as "normal" humans, leads his followers towards a final stand against humanity. Ratner relies on special effects, in an attempt to cover a lack of good plotting, even more than the sequel did. While some new characters are intriguing, they can hold viewer's interest for only a short while, due to sluggish direction, unintentionally laughable dialogue and other absurdities that aim for the masses, in a dumb-ing down affect, typical in all of Ratner's films. Blech!
FOX has provided the correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray presentation of "X-2." It's a slicker presentation than the first film, with colors appearing richer in every scene. While detail was impressive on the blu-ray for "X-MEN," it's even more stunning to observe here, revealing even the most minute aspects of clothing and natural elements, in a way far surpassing most blu-rays out there! Blacks are inky, and even with grain, detail is never compromised in darker scenes, and "X-2" showcases a cinematic environment one hopes for with the format.
FOX has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for "X-2." It's a rousing, aggressive track that should enthrall its audience from beginning to end. The opening sequence, built around a mutant infiltrating the White House, is incredible for many reasons, and really showcases the top-notch balance achieved incorporating panning effects, music, echos and dialogue, without any nuance being lost. Bass effects are prominent throughout as well, making this one of the best reference discs to try out a sub-woofer's quality.
The substantial extras include two commentaries. The better of the two features Singer and the cinematographer. It's insightful, educational(for aspiring filmmakers)and entertaining throughout. The 2nd commentary with producers and co-writers, gets dull, fast.
Various featurettes are offered on disc two. "HISTORY OF X-MEN" offers Stan Lee and others with interviews, examining the series and how "Nightcrawler" adds to the sequel. A look at a specific scene from varying perspectives, is something one may re-watch several times, as did this reviewer!
"PRODUCTION" is a feature, comprised of mini-featurettes, looking at the overall development and production of the sequel, in a comprehensive, yet entertaining way. Still galleries, rehearsal footage and much more are offered, all in 480p.
FOX has provided the correct 2.40:1 aspect ratio for this 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 blu-ray release of "X-3: THE LAST STAND." Although the previous blu-ray was quite good, this remastering appears to be more natural, with grain being more prominent as well. Colors are better balanced than before, and even subdued in a few instances, whereas they appeared close to over-saturated during the same scenes in the older version blu-ray release. Detail is excellent, and blacks are inky, providing terrific depth in the darker scenes with which this third film tends to veer towards in greater number than the previous films.
FOX has provided a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for this release, and as with the other films, this mix proves to be of reference quality from the first scene and throughout. The opening segment pushes panning, bass, and discrete effects to the limit, without dialogue ever being compromised! However, the "surprise" gimmick revealed to viewers when the scene has ended, also demonstrates why "X-3: The Last Stand" is the least original of the series, as its gimmick has been done countless times before, even in one of the older "Star Trek" films.
The extras for this film are actually better than the film itself, serving as a kind of diary as to why the film is as disappointing as it is!
Two commentaries are offered. Ratner and his writers are consistently engaging and the track is never dull. The 2nd track with producers, is the exact opposite! Deleted scenes, in 1080p, are also offered with/without commentary, but for some reason, they're not offered with an option to view the film with them intact!?! Trailers for all three films and some other Fox titles on blu-ray, are offered in full 1080p, as they are on the other films in the series.
Disc 2 offers a production diary from the director, with plenty of captivating behind-the-scenes footage(480p). Other extras included more interviews(480p)and a behind-the-scenes look(X-3: THE EXCITEMENT CONTINUES" in 1080i. Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life after Film School, is semi-fluff, semi-entertaining, as one producer talks about filmmaking with film students. Other featurettes in 1080i ound out the supplements.