X-Men 1.5: X-treme Edition (2000)
Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Active Subtitle Track-Behind The Scenes
Featurette-X-Men 2 Sneak Preview
Trailer-X-Men 2; X-Men: Wolverine's Revenge Game; Daredevil
Featurette-The Visual Effects; Making of Sen. Kelly's Death
Multiple Angles-Liberty Head; Toad vs. Jean Grey; Wolverine vs. Mystique
Multiple Angles-Wolverine vs. Sabretooth
Featurette-Reflections;Ellis Island Premiere;Premieres Around The World
Featurette-X-Men Production Scrapbook; The Prime Minister of Canada
Multiple Angles-Train Splitting; Fight Rehearsal
Featurette-Bringing X-Men To Life
Featurette-Hugh Jackman: First Reading; Screen Test
Featurette-X-Factor: The Look of X-Men
Featurette-Costume Tests (2); Toad Makeup Test
|Year Of Production||2000|
|RSDL / Flipper||
Dual Disc Set
|Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Bryan Singer|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
English Audio Commentary
|Smoking||Yes, Wolverine seems to like his cigars|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, only mildly and occasionally|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
It almost seems like an eternity ago that I reviewed the original X-Men DVD. There is no need to go back and read that review if you aren't already aware of what the film is about, since nothing new or exciting in terms of the film's plot is added here.
Whenever a film or television adaptation of a comic book is announced, there is one question in my mind that needs answering before I think about seeing it. Is it going to be a respectful adaptation like Tim Burton's Batman films or the 2000 production of X-Men? Or is it going to be an insulting load of the proverbial like the 1960s TV show that claims to be Batman, or the appalling pieces of garbage known as Batman Forever and Batman & Robin? Obviously, the answer in this case was that we were getting a respectful, if slightly divergent, adaptation that showed what the original comic book was all about. And well, hey, if comic book creators like Bob Kane and Stan Lee are willing to appear in the former class of films based on their work, I cannot think of a more convincing endorsement than that.
X-Men, at its heart, focuses on two very different, but very likeable, individuals who are caught up in a rather bizarre worldwide phenomenon. Essentially, a small but ever-growing percentage of the world's population have been exhibiting signs of extraordinary powers brought on by mutations. The film has it that these mutations are random twists of evolution (the comic canon had it described as the results of visits by aliens if I remember rightly), and two schools of thought exist as to how to deal with the problem. Some mutants, such as Doctor Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) have come forward publicly and are advocating an approach of helping the mutants so that humanity's interests on the whole might be served. The typical American right-wing that is currently in control of the state in both the real world and the world depicted here, however, have similar ideas to Adolf Hitler, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.
Of course, the latter's position would be easy to counter except there is an organisation of rogue mutants led by Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen) who have taken their fear and anger about their treatment at the hands of the aforementioned politicians and used it to justify the creation of a group bent on humanity's destruction. Among Magneto's allies are such mutants as Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Toad (Ray Park), and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). Opposing them are the titular organisation led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), of which the aforementioned Doctor Jean Grey is a long-standing member, along with such mutants as Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry).
Thrust into the middle of the conflict between these two groups of mutants are Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin), who also manage to wipe the floor with the rest of the cast, save for Famke Janssen and Sir Ian McKellen, with their acting abilities. This is hardly surprising, however, as these two characters are heavily relied upon in order to draw the audience into the struggle. It could have been disastrous, had the wrong actors been cast in these roles, but thankfully these two leads are as welcome a surprise as Michael Keaton was in the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne.
So, the big question here is whether this new edition of the DVD is an improvement over the original with its non-seamless branching and all. We've seen Fox do examples of seamless branching the right way on Independence Day, and the horribly wrong way with RoboCop (which demands an immediate remaster, by the way, guys). We've also had a (nearly) demonstration-quality Dolby Digital soundtrack on the original version of this disc, so about the only area for improvement is in the video, with the original shimmering just a tad too much for my liking (especially compared to the rental version). So, for more answers as to whether this version scrubs up as everything I've wanted since seeing the original version of the film, read on...
Unfortunately, at least in some respects, the video transfer of this new version appears little different from the original one-disc release.
The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, a slight variation from the Panavision aspect ratio of 2.40:1 that it was shot for, but one that makes little difference in the end.
This transfer is razor-sharp, and the level of background detail in comparison to the previous one-disc release is noticeably improved, too. Fine details such as the lines in Hugh Jackman's face are more discernable. The shadow detail is excellent, with a smooth terminator-line between the light and dark appearing on Ian McKellen's face at 8:38, to name the best example. No low-level noise was detected in this transfer.
Many of the scenes in this film have had the colours manipulated for consistency or effect, with one resulting goof during the prologue pointed out in the commentary. No instances of colour problems that could be blamed upon the transfer were noticed, however.
MPEG artefacts were not noticed in this transfer. Film-to-video artefacts, specifically aliasing, were just as annoying on this transfer as they were on the original (almost) bare-bones release back in 2001. Some of the worst examples included the edge of Magneto's desk at 20:17, and the X-rays of Wolverine at 31:27, both of which destroyed the illusion that I was watching something more film-like, which I tend to like from my DVDs. While the aliasing wasn't as constant this time, the severity of the examples I did notice were enough that the infrequency was pretty much negated. Film artefacts were occasional and small, well within what can be considered acceptable for a three-year-old film.
There are English subtitles and subtitles in English for the Audio Commentary on this disc. The English subtitles for the film contain many abbreviations and even one patently unacceptable variation on the spoken dialogue at 75:35. They are, in fact, no different from the English subtitles provided with the original one-disc version.
One excellent point of difference between this new version and the original version released in July 2001 is that this version finally has an adequate number of Chapter stops. If I remember correctly, there are ten to fifteen on the original disc, with a much more pleasing forty provided on this version - now one can skip more directly and precisely to their favourite moment of the film, as was intended when this feature was designed.
This disc is RSDL formatted, and unlike the original version, the layer change here can be discerned. It is just after Anna Paquin delivers the classic "The first boy I ever kissed" speech at 48:33. It sticks out like a sore thumb, but considering the pace of the film, I can think of worse places to put it.
Three soundtracks are included on this disc, all of which are in English. The first, and default, soundtrack is a Dolby Digital 5.1 effort encoded at 384 kilobits per second. I note that the Region 1 version of the disc has a 448 kilobit per second effort. Next is a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, encoded at 768 kilobits per second. Then there is the Audio Commentary, encoded in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround-encoding and at 192 kilobits per second.
The dialogue is clear and easy to understand about 99% of the time. If you do have trouble understanding some passages, don't go to the subtitles for help, as there are times when the dialogue is easily discerned and the subtitles say something radically different. However, the vast majority of viewers should have no trouble with either of the main soundtracks. No discernable problems with audio sync were noted.
The music in this film is credited to Michael Kamen, and boy what an amazing effort it is, speaking purely as one who actually enjoys very little of Kamen's work. With themes that go straight for the throat (or heart), the score often makes even the most active sequences seem more exciting than they would otherwise be. It makes me somewhat sad to note that Kamen's services apparently haven't been retained for the sequel, at least if one believes the IMDB information. I simply cannot imagine X-Men at all without some of the powerful refrains that have been assembled for the fight sequences or the prologues, but we'll just have to wait and see, I guess.
In both soundtracks, the surround channels are used with great directionality for such effects as the rain in the concentration camp at 1:15 or when we hear Professor X's disembodied voice at 22:44. Sequences like these, or the thunder at 81:30, to name another example, make for a perfect demonstration of why one would spend more than a quarter of their house's value on a set of six speakers. Only now, one can experience this demonstration in both Dolby Digital and DTS flavours, with any sceptic who is restricted to a Dolby Digital system being able to do an A-B comparison between the two codecs if you sit them down in front of your system for a while. The piano heard during Anna Paquin's big introduction, for example, sounds much more natural and harmonious in DTS, especially on a well-balanced system.
The subwoofer was also aggressively utilised in order to add some punch to action sequences, or a lower end to the music in places. A classic example of the subwoofer seeming to come out of nowhere to remind the listener of DVD's dynamic range is when Wolverine's van explodes at 19:46. There are occasions when the subwoofer goes quiet, always coinciding with the talky parts of the film, but these parts are few and far between, and even they have some usage of the subwoofer.
The age old question of whether DTS or Dolby Digital is the better surround codec has been answered on this disc, at least between the 768 kilobit per second and 384 kilobit per second versions of those codecs, respectively. If anyone tells you that tighter, better defined bass doesn't make a difference to the audio experience, then I would hasten to recommend a speaker or receiver upgrade, as the difference in subwoofer output here is enormous. The moments when Magneto uses his powers, especially during the concentration camp prologue, are a great example of the improved fidelity on the DTS soundtrack. Instead of an overwhelming rumble that almost sounds like clipping, the DTS track provides us with a subtle, integrated rumble more consistent with the onscreen action. It almost makes me shudder to think what could have been done with a full-bitrate DTS soundtrack.
|Surround Channel Use|
The menu is themed around the same bio-mechanical style that permeates the set design on the film. It is heavily animated with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and 16x9 Enhancement.
This Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded audio commentary sounds like it has been encoded at five decibels less than the other two soundtracks. From the start, Singer explains that he does not do audio commentaries very well and hence he brought in Brian Peck, who otherwise has nothing to do with the film, to help keep the thing moving forward. At first, Singer sounds very nervous, with a distinct problem keeping more than a handful of words together, but once he loosens up, his commentary reveals quite a lot about how the film was put together, so it is well worth a listen.
As was the case with the original one-disc release of the film, an extended cut is offered here, complete with DTS audio or a commentary. Once again, sadly, the branching is anything but seamless. Whenever a point is reached in the film where an extended scene can be inserted, there is a major pause in the video as another title is accessed, and insult is added to injury when the disc branches to footage that is not 16x9 Enhanced. My only comment is that if a piece of drivel such as Independence Day rates a properly-done seamless-branching director's cut, then I wonder why far superior films such as X-Men and RoboCop are given this shabby treatment.
Similar to the Follow The White Rabbit feature on The Matrix or the Stealing Stones version on Snatch, this subtitle track allows the viewer to view footage from behind the scenes while X-Men was being filmed. I'll come out and say it right now - I think this feature is a waste of the author's time as well as the viewer's, as it only makes the viewing experience feel choppy while wasting valuable disc space. The added pieces of footage also come with optional director's commentary.
Disc Two begins with a seventy-second introduction featuring a speech by director Bryan Singer before he does a little conducting, before going into a 16x9 Enhanced menu with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio and a similar theme to that found on Disc One.
Presented in the aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with film footage in 2.35:1 (not 16x9 Enhanced) and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, this twenty-four minute and seventeen second featurette contains interviews with the principal cast and critical crew members about the creative side of making the film. It contains many exchanges between characters that desperately should have been kept in the film, but weren't.
This eleven minute featurette is basically a recording of Hugh Jackman meeting with director Bryan Singer and auditioning for the part of Wolverine. The setting is very unlike a rehearsal or principal photography, and I doubt anyone who hasn't tried acting before will find it of much interest, but it is here for those who are game to give it a try. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
This one minute and fifty-eight second featurette is recycled from the original release of X-Men, featuring Hugh Jackman acting out his role with Anna Paquin. The featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of about 2.05:1, not 16x9 Enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
A collection of unannotated concept sketches that are not of much interest except to the fanatical.
This eight minute and forty second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with interview footage in 1.85:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
This four minute and twenty-three second featurette shows footage from the premiere on Ellis Island, which in turn features prominently in the film's gripping finale. It's worth watching just to see how the camera angle changes with every different cast member being interviewed.
This eighteen minute and fifty-two second featurette contains more footage from the Ellis Island premiere, as well as premieres in other locations. Once again, it is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
This seventeen minute and thirty second featurette, presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in 2.35:1 and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio, goes into how much effort was made to integrate the special effects with the story within the film. It's always interesting to see how the shots that make the impossible look like a matter of course within the world on screen are created.
This five minute featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with a silent Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It shows all the layers of CG animation that were used to render the famed Senator's big death scene. To be perfectly honest, this featurette is boring, and the viewer can only take so many minutes of silent plate shots or elements before switching off. A commentary from the special effects supervisors or the director would have been a big help here.
This fourteen second featurette uses multiple angles to show the finished shot, an animatic, or a split-screen comparison of the two. Each version is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (or two windows in that aspect ratio), and they are not 16x9 Enhanced. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is, however, perfectly adequate.
This twelve second featurette has the same formatting deal as Liberty Head, with multiple 2.35:1 angles, no 16x9 Enhancement, and a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
The same deal as the previous two featurettes applies with this twenty-eight second featurette - multiple 2.35:1 angles without 16x9 Enhancement, complete with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
You know the drill by now - it's the same as the last three featurettes. This fifty-five second featurette is not any more interesting than the others.
This twenty-one minute and thirty-four second featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with film footage in various aspect ratios and Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It basically covers how the actors were made to look their parts, and is well worth the once-over.
Whomever photographed this 1.33:1, Dolby Digital 2.0 featurette should have been tested for intoxication before shooting began. During its entire sixty-three minute and twenty-seven second length, I can't recall too many moments when the camera actually seemed to be steady.
This one minute featurette offers five distinct angles of making the sequence in which the train is ripped apart by Magneto. Four of the angles are from different cameras, while the fifth is a composite of the other four. Each is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
This one minute and four second featurette shows three different angles of rehearsals for the fight scene between Tyler Mane and Hugh Jackman. Two camera angles are provided while the third option is a composite of the two. Again, each choice is presented with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.
I'm still not sure exactly what this twenty-one second featurette is supposed to be. It is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
This seven minute and fifty second featurette is presented in an approximate 1.78:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. It is not 16x9 Enhanced. Aside from some behind-the-scenes footage, it feels more like an extended electronic press kit. The addition of the theatrical trailer in the ratio of 2.35:1 is kind of redundant...
...and this is why. This one minute and forty-five second theatrical trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 with a rather quiet Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. It is not 16x9 Enhanced. Once again, it appears that a) Rogue and Wolverine are almost carrying the whole film, and b) the actors playing them will deliver performances worth the price of admission by themselves.
This ninety-two second trailer for a video game titled X-Men: Wolverine's Revenge is presented in the aspect ratios of 1.33:1 (windowboxed) and 2.35:1 (not 16x9 Enhanced) with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.
This one minute and forty-six second trailer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (not 16x9 Enhanced) with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Like the time when I saw this trailer in the theatre, I have walked away thinking "tryhard X-Men". That has only been my first (and second) impression. Let's just say it looks more like a Bruckheimer comic-book adaptation than a Tim Burton (or Bryan Singer) one.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
From reading about the American Region 1 version of this disc, it doesn't seem as if there are a lot of differences, except that the Region 1 version bears a price tag of US$29.98, which is a little more than I am prepared to pay for an import at present. For all intents and purposes, we can call this one even.
A few comments about the differences between the old Special Edition release and this new X-treme edition have filtered down to me, so I thought I would spell it out in clear terms here.
If you have the Special Edition, you may want to keep it because of some of the supplemental material that doesn't appear on this new edition. These include the Spiderman "cameo", production art galleries for two mutants that don't appear in this film or the sequel, the theatrical trailers, and most importantly (to me anyway), the Mutant Watch featurette. However, I do tend to agree with Michael that it is all about the film, especially in this case, and the DTS soundtrack absolutely craps on the Dolby effort from an almighty height, so serious home theatre users will want this version, too.
Comic book adaptations like X-Men are the gems in the roughage that make sifting through pieces of thoughtless crap such as Batman & Robin, or any of the garbage gracing afternoon television these days, worthwhile. With a cast that gels together and, with a few notable exceptions, play the roles exactly as some would imagine, this is evidence that creativity isn't quite as dead in Hollywood as some would like us to believe. I can't recommend it highly enough. However, I am puzzled by Fox's inability to get it right in terms of a special edition, with the second disc in particular leaving me asking "is this the extra material I've been waiting for?". Don't even think about getting me started on the "seamless" branching.
The video transfer is much the same as was on the original single-disc edition. It is very good, but not perfect.
The audio transfer is of reference quality, with the DTS soundtrack taking the medal in terms of fidelity.
The extras are huge in number, but they are often just a load of disc filler. The lack of 16x9 Enhancement on the widescreen featurettes is especially disappointing.
|DVD||Toshiba 2109, using S-Video output|
|Display||Samsung CS-823AMF (80cm). Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL).|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Sony STR DE-835|
|Speakers||Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer|