X-Men appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Though not the most attractive Blu-ray I’ve seen, the transfer looked good.
Sharpness appeared solid. In some shots, a smidgen of softness crept into the presentation. However, these examples fell into the “nitpicky” category; the vast majority of the movie demonstrated fine clarity and delineation. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and edge enhancement was minimal. Other than one or two small specks, source flaws failed to crop up throughout the film.
Colors appeared nicely bright throughout the movie. They presented solid depth and were appropriately bold and rich. Blacks were pretty deep and dense, while shadows usually seemed very good. A few low-light shots appeared just a little murky, but not to a significant degree. Overall, this was a positive presentation, though not strong enough to rise above a “B”.
I also liked the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio of X-Men. The soundfield appeared broad and engaging throughout the movie. All five speakers got a strong workout as they displayed a lot of discrete audio. This made for a convincing environment as we heard plenty of atmosphere and objects swirl actively and appropriately about us. Some sample highlights included: Wolverine’s initial meeting with Professor X, in which the latter’s voice pops up all around us; the scenes in the “Cerebro” device, which create a somewhat similar “inside your head” effect; and the battle between Storm and Toad at the end of the film. Actually, any of the fight scenes were quite powerful, but this one seemed most exciting in the auditory realm.
Sound quality appeared very good. Dialogue was crisp and distinct. Speech showed no signs of edginess or any problems related to intelligibility. I’m not sure if it counts as voice or effect, but I loved the richness of Sabretooth’s roar; it really seemed aggressive and bold. Effects were always clear and dynamic, plus they displayed virtually no signs of distortion even when the volume level jumped fairly high; throughout explosions, crashes, and various engines, the track stayed clean. Music sounded appropriately bright and accurate and portrayed the score appropriately. The mixes featured some pretty solid bass at times as the entire affair seemed nicely deep. All in all, the soundtracks worked well for the material and didn’t disappoint me.
When we head to the set’s extras, we begin on Disc One with an audio commentary from director Bryan Singer and his friend Brian Peck. The pair meld nicely and we get a very solid track. Singer covers a wide variety of topics as he chats about the movie. The director discusses the cast, the story and alterations made from the original script, effects and technical concerns, budgetary and scheduling problems, anecdotes from the set, and a number of other details. Singer also gives us some notes about what to expect from X-Men 2.
Peck performs the job of moderator well; he gets Singer in a chatty mood and helps prompt lots of different topics. He even tries to convince Singer to go into subjects he won’t discuss; Peck mentions an inappropriate actor who wanted to play Professor X, but Singer won’t reveal the man’s identity. Despite that tease, the commentary provides a nicely informative and enlightening piece.
On Disc One, you can watch the movie either in its original theatrical configuration or as the Enhanced Viewing Mode. This provides two forms of material. Six times during the film, it automatically branches off for extended/deleted scenes. The scenes last between 25 seconds and three minutes, 16 seconds, for a total of 11 minutes and two seconds of footage. All of these relate to either the relationship between Rogue and the boy she meets in class or to the triangle between Jean, Cyclops and Wolverine. Most offer extensions of existing segments, which means that we often see these longer pieces and then watch the same material again when the full film resumes. None of them seem crucial, but I all of them appear fairly interesting in the ways the round out the characters. (By the way, the scenes also appear in a separate area, so you’re not stuck with the “Enhanced Viewing Mode” if you want to see them.)
The extended/deleted scenes add commentary from Singer and Peck. These remarks come in the same spirit as those during the main track, and the pair continue to provide some fun information. Unfortunately, Singer doesn’t always tell us why the segments didn’t appear in the final cut, but his statements still seem interesting.
In addition to the deleted/extended scenes, the “Enhanced Viewing Mode” provides an interactive option. 17 times during the film, an X-Men insignia appears in the lower right corner of the screen. Hit “enter” on those occasions and you’ll see some raw behind the scenes footage. Excluding the extended/deleted scenes, these clips last a total of 51 minutes and 59 seconds.
Wow – that’s a lot of material! And most of it seems pretty good as well. Basically we see simple shots from the set that correspond to the point of the film at which they appear. For example, the first clip – which shows up a couple of minutes into the movie – offers a look at some elements of the concentration camp sequence. Some of the more interesting snippets show different insults cast by Wolverine at Professor X, interactions between Bruce Davison and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos while they wait to shoot a scene, fight choreography, and behind the scenes of the Statue of Liberty battle. Overall, these pieces seem very fun and they add a lot to the package.
Our next extra is a very glossy and promotional TV special called The Mutant Watch. This 21-minute and 57-second infomercial uses a mildly clever framework to provide its advertising details: we find new footage of Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly, and the setting used Senate hearing to show the information. We find a variety of movie clips, extremely rapid interview sound bites with cast and crew, and some decent but also very short behind the scenes bits. Easily the most interesting piece concerned the application of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos’s make-up, but that was just because I hoped to sneak a peek at some skin. Overall, the program is a decent little promotional exercise but nothing else; anyone who hopes to find solid information about the creation of the film will have to look elsewhere.
The next segment of the disc adds some of those details, but not a lot. An Interview With Director Bryan Singer actually provides excerpts from a longer segment featured on The Charlie Rose Show during the summer of 2000. In these five snippets, Rose talks to Singer about “Why He Made X-Men”, “Bringing X-Men From Comic Book to the Big Screen”, “Directing Actors”, “Learning From Actors”, and “The Challenges of Making a Studio Film”. Each bit lasts between 25 seconds and 110 seconds for a total of six minutes and 17 seconds of material. Overall, these are some decent clips that provide a little additional information and perspective about the project. They’re too brief to be genuinely helpful but they were fairly interesting.
Next we find two Animatics. This area provides short clips for “Liberty Head” (1:07) and “Train Station” (0:56). Both show rough computer animation designer to illustrate shot planning for those scenes. It’s a fun extra.
Inside the Art Gallery, we look at two categories. The presentation offers glimpses of “Character Design” (104 stills) and “Production Design” (65). All are good, but I especially like the character shots, as they show the considerations that went into the superhero outfits.
In addition to three TV Spots, the disc features a Music Promo. This clip simply tries to sell us the movie’s soundtrack. A few Marvel Universe Trailers provide ads for the other two X-Men movies, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Fantastic Four and Daredevil.
When we jump to Disc Two, we immediately find an introduction from director Bryan Singer. He welcomes us to the extras, and we also see a shot from the first night of X-Men principal photography. The clip lasts 71 seconds and it’s pretty forgettable.
The meat of Disc Two’s supplements show up in the area called Evolution X. This presents a series of new featurettes that can be viewed individually or connected via a “Play All” option. When you activate the latter, you start with The Uncanny Suspects, a 24-minute and 16-second program that mixes short movie clips, behind the scenes material, and interviews with director Bryan Singer, producers Lauren Schuler-Donner and Ralph Winter, X-Men creator Stan Lee, executive producer Tom DeSanto, and actors Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, James Marsden, Bruce Davison, Ray Park, Famke Janssen, Tyler Mane, Anna Paquin, and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.
Though not a great program, “Uncanny” gives us a decent look at the cast and the project. We learn of how the filmmakers chose which characters to use – plenty of comic book X-Men don’t appear in this flick – and also hear about casting and the actors’ approaches to their roles. At times the piece seems somewhat thin and puffy, but it offers enough insight to make it worth a look.
“Uncanny” also offers some material available via branching. Look for the same “X” that showed up during the main movie; hit enter and you’ll be able to watch a couple of different segments. We find a 10-minute and 57-second clip from Jackman’s first reading with Singer, and we also get a 118-second look at a rehearsal between Jackman and Paquin.
Those components also appear in the menu for “Uncanny”, as does a Character Still Gallery. It includes 69 pieces of character art used to design their looks. It’s a cool glimpse at alternate possibilities.
Called X-Factor: The Look of X-Men, the next documentary deals with visual elements of the production. It lasts 22 minutes and 45 seconds and uses the same format as “Uncanny”. For the interviews, we hear from special make-up designer Gordon Smith, actors Hugh Jackman, Tyler Mane, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, and James Marsden, executive producer Tom DeSanto, and producer Ralph Winter. More interesting than “Uncanny”, “X-Factor” provides a very entertaining glimpse at some parts of the production.
As implied by the title, “X-Factor” relates a lot of elements connected to the visual design of the characters. In some ways, it seems like this should be simple, as the roles already exist in comic books. “X-Factor” discusses variations made to costumes and looks, and we also get a lot of good information about the make-ups used to bring Storm, Wolverine, Sabretooth, and Mystique to life. (Unfortunately, we don’t get to watch a full make-up session with Romijn-Stamos, though.) The program gives us lots of insight into these methods and demonstrates the thought that went into character adaptation, and we learn of problems as well, such as the actors restricted movement in the leather suits. It’s quite entertaining and useful.
More branching material appears here. We get an 86-second early costume test for Storm as well as a 77-second early costume test for Cyclops. In addition, we find a three-minute and 26-second piece that details the methods used for Toad.
These clips also appear in the menu for “X-Factor” along with an Image Gallery. That domain splits into four smaller areas: “Hardware” (42 pictures), “Locations” (12 stills), “Magneto” (33 images), and “Xavier’s School” (26 shots). Although a couple of photos appear, mostly these collections offer interesting looks at concept art.
The most substantial component of Disc Two, the X-Men Production Scrapbook runs a whopping 63 minutes and 22 seconds. It alters the formula used for the first two programs, as it consists mostly of raw video footage recorded during the production. It offers some impromptu interviews from the set, and we also get a few formal soundbites from actors Ian McKellen. Bruce Davison, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, and James Marsden. However, like the documentary called “The Beginning” from The Phantom Menace, the “Scrapbook” mostly provides “fly on the wall” glimpses of the production.
The ”Scrapbook” can’t match “The Beginning”, which offered one of the all-time great DVD documentaries. Still, it gives us a compelling look at the film. It starts early and goes through most of the production. We see Singer analyze different weapons, examine locations and sets, and work with the actors. We find lots of candid shots of the cast and crew as they do their jobs, and a few moderately testy moments appear as well. Most significantly, we see the anxiety and anger displayed by Singer and the crew when they learned the film’s release date got moved up by almost half a year. The “Production Scrapbook” provides a nice glimpse of the filmmaking process.
As always, we find more branching material during this piece. We see rehearsal footage of the fight between Wolverine and Sabretooth, and we also get shots of the elaborate “train-splitting” sequence. Both seem interesting but brief, as they run 65 seconds and 60 seconds respectively.
Two multi-angle programs let you check out additional views of the above-linked footage. The 60-second “Train-Splitting” piece lets you see four angles of that scene, while “Fight Rehearsal” lasts 65 seconds and includes two cameras. Both also display composite screens that show all available angles.
A bizarre extra, The Prime Minister of Canada runs about 19 seconds and shows that dignitary on the way to visit the set – I guess. We see him and his entourage walk through a hallway and that’s it. Fascinating!
After this we find another featurette called The Special Effects of X-Men. This lasts 17 minutes and 20 seconds and involves the usual mix of materials. We get comments from director Singer, visual effects supervisor Michael Fink, actor James Marsden, visual effects supervisor Theresa Ellis, and executive producer Tom DeSanto. The program offers good behind the scenes shots from the Statue of Liberty sequence, and we also get some general visual effects comments as well as specifics about topics like morphing of Mystique, Cyclops’ eyebeams, and Wolverine’s blades. The piece includes some good insight into the material and seems worthwhile.
As usual, we get some branching segments here. The longest is titled “Senator Kelly Effects Breakdown”; it runs four minutes, 59 seconds and depicts the various CG elements that created the sequences. The other four show animatics for different scenes: “Liberty Head”, “Toad Vs. Jean Grey”, “Wolverine Vs. Mystique”, and “Wolverine Vs. Sabretooth”. Also available from the main “Special Features” menu, these give us three angle options which allow us to examine the animatics on their own, the final film shots, or a composite of the two.
The disc’s final featurette, Reflection of the X-Men lasts eight minutes, 35 seconds and it takes on a general summary of the first flick. We get notes from producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, actors Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, and Shawn Ashmore, and executive producer Tom DeSanto. They offer short valedictory comments about their experiences on the original film and their reactions to its reception. The program offers a decent conclusion but lacks much hard information.
This section also tosses in the requisite branching material. We get two segments that deal with early screenings of X-Men. The “Ellis Island Premiere” footage runs four minutes, 23 seconds, and mostly shows various X-Men stars as they arrive. We find some quick sound bites from Singer, Stan Lee, Stewart, McKellen, Berry, Mane, Davison, Romijn-Stamos, Paquin, Jackman, Janssen, and Marsden. “Premieres Around the World” lasts 18 minutes, 59 seconds, and it consists of candid video footage from a number of screenings. Some of this seems dull – how many times can we watch cast introductions? – but it includes enough fun impromptu clips to merit a look.
Next we get a section called Marketing the X-Men. This includes three trailers, nine TV spots, and 12 Internet interstitials. Taken together via the “View All” option, the latter run a total of 11 minutes and three seconds. Singer, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, executive producers Tom DeSanto and Stan Lee, actors Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, Tyler Mane, Ray Park and Anna Paquin. Referred to as “behind the scenes previews”, they toss out some exceptionally brief tidbits about the characters and the movie, but they really just advertise the flick. None of them seem very useful, but I appreciate their inclusion from a completist frame of mind.
After nine years, X-Men remains a lot of fun, as it launches the franchise on a lively and entertaining note. It doesn’t quite live up to the heights of something like Spider-Man, but it succeeds for the most part. The Blu-ray provides positive picture, very good audio and adds a slew of very interesting and useful supplements. This turns into a nice release for an entertaining movie.
To rate this film, visit the original review of X-MEN 1.5