X-Men 2 (X2): Two-Disc Special Edition (2003)
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Audio Commentary-Bryan Singer (Director)
Audio Commentary-Lauren Schuler Donner (Producer)
Featurette-History of the X.Men: The Secret Origin of X.Men
Featurette-History of the X.Men: Nightcrawler Reborn
Multiple Angles-Pre-Production: Nightcrawler Attack: Multi-angle Study
Featurette-Pre-Production: Evolution In The Details: Designing X.2
Featurette-Pre-Production: United Colors of X
Featurette-Production: Wolverine / Death Strike Fight Rehearsal
Featurette-Making Of-Production: The Second Uncanny Issue of X.Men
Featurette-Production: Introducing The Incredible Nightcrawler!
Featurette-Production: Nightcrawler Stunt Rehearsal
Featurette-Production: Nightcrawler Time.Lapse
Featurette-Production: FX2.Visual Effects
Featurette-Post .Production: Requiem For The Mutants:The Score of X.2
Featurette-Post .Production: X.2 Global Webcast Highlights
|Year Of Production||2003|
|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 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Dutch Audio Commentary
Dutch Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
English Audio Commentary
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes, Car manufacturers|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Right from the start I will confess that I am certainly no X-Men expert, and in fact like millions of others I was pretty ignorant of these characters until the first movie came out in 2000. So this review is coming from the perspective of someone who doesn't know all the X-Men lore (although I've read a bit of it online in recent years), but who loves a good movie.
As most readers will be aware, the original film was largely responsible for the new Hollywood trend of turning Marvel comics into big-screen blockbusters, and with good reason. It was a film that had a lot of heart, and drew you into the story with interesting characters and themes rather than overwhelming, flashy special effects. It did well at the box-office (well enough for a sequel), but it was heavily edited and felt a little rushed and almost unfinished. Once the sequel was in production we were repeatedly told that now we'd be getting a more meaty movie, since the first one had done the work of introducing us to this comic-book world and now we could delve deeper. Was it just studio hype, or would the fans be getting what we all wanted?
X2 (or X2: X-Men United, or X-Men 2, or X2, depending on which promotional material you believe) continues the story of the plight of mutants, in a slightly futuristic world that is trying to come to grips with their presence. Mutants are described as the next step in evolution, and are those who are born with unique powers and abilities as a result of genetic mutation. Feared and misunderstood by those around them, mutants respond in different ways; Eric Lensherr (Ian McKellen), otherwise known as Magneto due to his power over metal, has had enough of persecution, and with his band of mutant followers he seeks to pre-emptively strike against a foe that he believes is ready to wage war on his kind. However, his childhood friend, Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a wheelchair-bound man with incredible powers of the mind, has taken a different stance. He has created a school for mutants, which is basically a haven for them to grow up and develop in, but where is also housed a secret underground area which is a base of operations for his older students (his "X-Men") to conduct missions to protect and help mankind.
Based loosely on the X-Men story God Loves, Man Kills, X2 follows on closely from the conclusion of the first film, where Logan ("Wolverine", played by Hugh Jackman) had gone off to the Alkali lake, looking for answers to his past. However, before we catch up with everyone's favourite side-burned mutant, we are witness to an incredible attack on the President of the United States by a teleporting mutant (Nightcrawler; Alan Cumming), who foils all the White House security. Fortunately, he is stopped at the very last second before he can kill the President, but it is enough to spark off heightened hysteria towards mutants, and leads the President to give free reign to his head of mutant affairs, William Stryker (Brian Cox), in his operations concerning the "mutant problem".
The militant Stryker has more of a relevant history than is first revealed, and has been using a mind-control drug to interrogate Magneto (imprisoned in a plastic cell after his capture in the first movie). The information he has gained is all he needs to put into action a plan that will rid the world of the mutants he hates so much. This plan requires the capture of Professor Xavier, as well as a raid on his school (which is a highlight for Wolverine fans, as Logan has now returned from his failed trip and is "baby-sitting" on the night of the attack).
I don't want to spoil any more of the story details, since it is a bit of a journey of discovery, but as the title suggests there is a fragile alliance formed between the escaped Magneto, his aide Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos), and the X-Men, in a struggle against their mutual enemy.
In a year of sequels and high expectations, I believe this is one of the few movies that actually delivered what it had promised. It really does build on the first film and explores the characters and themes in a much deeper way. However, it also tries to cover a few too many characters, causing some of them to suffer, with poor old Cyclops (James Marsden) being a prime example of someone that still comes across as being a little 2-dimensional. The fact that parties are split up, and so many different threads of story are being woven also doesn't help matters, but in general I think Bryan Singer did an excellent job of pulling it all together into a mostly coherent final product.
In addition to an interesting story, filled with multi-dimensional characters (played by a large collection of talented actors), we also have a film with excellent action sequences that aren't totally reliant on computer imagery. There's more of an edge of reality to the action than in a lot of films these days, despite its superhero/fantasy roots, with stuntmen and models featuring as much as (or even more than) CGI. When the effects shots are there, it's for a reason and not just to show off some fancy new effect. The tools are being used to tell the story, which is a nice change.
The underlying themes of the X-Men movies, involving racism or prejudice of any sort (as well as fear of what we don't understand), are not exactly hidden or overly subtle, but they are presented in a way that makes for compulsive viewing and even a little stimulation of the grey matter. I've always found it interesting that a medium like comic books, which are looked down upon by many of those with a literary bent, actually manages to present more relevant and thought-provoking themes than a lot of supposed "legitimate" literature.
I may not be aware of all the mistakes that have been made in X2 regarding X-Men lore, or all the areas where Brian Singer has not stayed true to the characters from the comics, but I know what I like - and I sure like these movies. Bring on the third instalment, I say!
You'd be expecting a pristine video transfer for such a recent blockbuster, and this DVD doesn't disappoint. A reference quality transfer is what we have here.
This transfer is presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.
This transfer is very sharp, with fine details being visible at all times (take for example the faces at 30:36 and 82:36, as well as the texture on the black leather at 86:11). There are a lot of dark and shadowy settings in this movie, so it's a good job that the blacks are rock-solid, with no hint of low level noise, and shadow detail is excellent.
This movie is not a brightly colourful one, with a lot of the settings being dimly-lit, and very few sunny daytime scenes. Even some well-lit scenes are limited in colours, such as Magneto's plastic prison. However what colour is there is spot-on for accuracy, well-saturated and exhibits no problems with bleeding or chroma noise. On the infrequent occasions when there are more colourful sets, then the brighter colours are very rich (such as the red carpet in the White House).
No MPEG artefacts are present. My first play of the DVD was using a progressive player with a CRT projector, and I did not see any hint of aliasing, which is impressive for such a sharp transfer. On my second viewing, using interlaced output on a 76cm widescreen TV, I noticed very rare instances of slight aliasing (such as round the TV set at 33:43), but you really have to look for it. I also thought I saw very infrequent examples of slight edge enhancement, such as around Kurt's face at 55:31 and the building at 21:54, but again I had to really look for it and doubt it would even be visible on most displays. Film artefacts do not exist in this transfer.
There are 13 subtitle streams on this DVD; English for the Hearing Impaired, English Audio Commentary, English Audio Commentary No. 2, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Hungarian Titling, Dutch Audio Commentary, and Dutch Audio Commentary No. 2. I sampled all the English subtitles. The English for the Hearing Impaired are fairly accurate, with the major content of all dialogue being present, but there are still words missing. Also, the font is rather thick and ugly (especially when italicised), if that's something that bothers you. I like the idea of commentary subtitles, since you can actually watch the film with the main soundtrack and still get all the information from the commentary if you so wish. These subtitle streams are more accurate than the ones for the movie dialogue, and nicely edit out all the "umms" and "aahs" from participants.
Both discs are dual layered, with the first DVD having the layer change so well hidden that even on multiple viewings I couldn't notice it. (Note: I've since been enlightened by a colleague with a more informative DVD-player. The layer change occurs at 61:05 and is excellently hidden in a still, silent shot, so that the pause and sound drop-out are almost imperceptable)
Like the video, the audio transfer is of reference quality. This will really give your home theatre system a workout. The comments below refer to the DTS soundtrack, but you'll find a comparison with the Dolby Digital track at the end of this section.
There are five audio tracks on this DVD; English Dolby Digital 5.1 encoded at 448 kbps, English DTS 5.1 (768 kbps), Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384 kbps), English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 kbps), and English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192 kbps). I listened to the two commentary tracks, the DTS track, and sampled/compared the English Dolby Digital track.
Dialogue was absolutely clear and easy to understand at all times. Audio sync was also spot on. I did find that a couple of scenes had too much of a volume change when the action kicked in, which meant that having the dialogue at a clearly audible level required decreasing the volume a little when things got loud. The most obvious example of this was when the attack on the school began, including the necessarily loud scream of one of the mutants. This is really being a little fussy, as the problem is mainly a personal one (I dislike large volume changes between dialogue and action effects), but I mention it for those of you who might feel the same way - just be aware that you'll need your remote handy.
The music by John Ottman is of the dramatic orchestral type, which fits this sort of movie perfectly. As one of the extra features points out, Ottman is heavily influenced by old school movie-score composers such as John Williams, and this is evident in his work. I didn't think it was up to the standard of a Williams or Hans Zimmer effort, and was a little disappointed that the first movie's themes were abandoned completely, but it is an often rousing and emotive score. I'm glad they didn't decide to follow the recent trends of putting in popular music from the time the film was made, thus preventing dating in this area.
Often at the cinema these days I get the feeling that some scenes are designed around the fact that really cool surround effects can be used for them. When seeing X2 at the cinema there were a number of scenes that struck me as being of this ilk, and the DVD highlights this to excellent effect. Right from the start of the film we are treated to immersive surround usage that puts us right in the middle of the action (Nightcrawler's attack is made for the surround channels), and it continues throughout. It's not just the flames, jets, explosions and sparks that put your rear speakers into gear either - there are a lot of ambient effects that take place in the many indoor settings, with echoes and dripping water being evident. Of course, mention has to go to the Cerebro scenes as well, which are plentiful in this outing, where the listener is engulfed in the sounds of people all around.
Like the surrounds, your subwoofer will become active right from the first moments and will be kept busy for the two hour runtime. Cerebro, the X-Jet, Storm's storms, helicopters, gunshots, flames, explosions and the music's bass all benefit from the LFE channel. There is in fact a certain destructive incident near the end of the movie that will have your walls shaking, and your neighbours banging on your door. Definitely one of those transfers to remind you of why you spent so much money on that subwoofer.
The higher bit-rate DTS track on this disc is excellent, but don't feel that you're missing out too much if you only have Dolby Digital capability. I compared numerous scenes to check for differences in dialogue clarity, surrounds and subwoofer usage between the two tracks and there wasn't a great deal of difference, although there was some. I don't claim to be an audiophile, but the main contrast I noted in the tracks was in sharpness and distinction of separate sounds. The DTS track does seem to be slightly clearer and richer, which was noticeable in dialogue (the church scene), surrounds and LFE channel (the X-Jet/Storm scene), and the LFE alone had a more solid sound (the (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) destruction of the dam). I'd imagine that the higher compression in the Dolby Digital track would be largely responsible for this slight loss in clarity, rather than any major differences in the formats.
|Surround Channel Use|
You want extras? We've got extras. Like the excellent X-Men 1.5 DVD set before it, this package covers almost everything you could possibly want to know about the production of the movie.
Menus are all 16x9 enhanced and the main menus for each disc contain both music and some fancy animations. My only complaint with the menu system is that you can't skip the animated transitions between different menus. They're not overly long anyway, but I do think we should at least have the option of skipping them.
Although billed as only being Bryan Singer, this commentary also has his cinematographer Tom Sigel. At the start Singer mentions how he's never done a commentary with Sigel before, and it will probably be a little awkward (Singer sometimes comes across as being slightly shy), but this couldn't be further from the truth. The two quickly settle in and banter back and forth about all the different aspects of making the movie. There are very few moments of silence, and the stories and details passed on are generally all very interesting. Sigel overdoes the jokes about how they shot certain scenes, but he also offers up some very interesting information about the cinematography. Singer has an endless stream of stories and things to point out, such as cameos (including his own), problems with getting enough snow for a shot, little nods to the real X-Men fans, and so on, as well as talking about the story, the actors, and the first movie. A very worthwhile and interesting commentary.
As a side note, is it just me, or do Hollywood directors use the word "ultimately" way too much? Bryan is certainly guilty of this, and I've noticed it being repeatedly used in other commentaries as well.
Once again, more participants than advertised, and in fact it's the writers that run the show here, with Donner saying very little throughout. Having enjoyed the first commentary, I wasn't expecting this one to be as good, but I actually found it more entertaining. The discussion is centred around the story, characters and actors, rather than the technical aspects (as you'd expect with these participants). There are interesting anecdotes and discussion of changes in the script, as well as info on the process of actually getting to the final story used. These men are easy to listen to, and speak freely with almost no silent spots. Two decent commentaries worth listening to, on the same disc, is a rare feat.
That's it for the extras on Disc 1. Disc 2 is broken up into seven sections; History of the X-Men, Pre-Production, Production, Post-Production, Deleted Scenes, Galleries, and Trailers. All these sections have their own collections of extras within them, and are outlined below.
I'm not a fan of the increasing trend to split featurettes and documentaries into dozens of little 3-5 minute segments. I like to sit down and watch extras, not sit down and wear my remote out by constantly selecting menu items every few minutes. However, I was pleasantly surprised that my initial impressions here were wrong, since the way this second disc of extras has been broken up is not too excessive, with all items being separated into logical divisions, and mostly being of decent lengths.
This featurette covers the origins of the X-Men through interviews with some of the creators of the comic books (such as Stan Lee and Chris Claremont), as well as those behind the films (Bryan Singer and Lauren Schuler Donner). An interesting, if somewhat brief look at how the X-Men made the 40-year journey from within Stan Lee's mind to the big screen, including info on previous failed attempts to get a movie made. Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
A short interview session with comic book writer Chuck Austen, talking about the character of Nightcrawler, and his job of writing the prequel comic of what happened to Kurt in the time leading up to the movie. We also get glimpses of the comic, which really illustrates how far the artistry of these books has come from the 1950s and 1960s. This featurette is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and not 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound.
This multi-angle extra lets you watch the opening attack in the White House in four different ways; as an animatic, the actual footage with unfinished effects, combination of animatic plus final composition, and a combination of unfinished effects plus final composition. This is certainly an interesting look at the progression of creating such an action scene, but be warned that this isn't the last time you'll see this scene on disc 2, and you might end up being sick of it by the time you've finished the extras. This is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and is not 16x9 enhanced.
From here on in, all the extras are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, unless otherwise stated.
This is a very interesting look at the production design, hosted by none other than the production designer, Guy Dyas. He takes us through some of the major sets in the movie, explaining what went into making them, and design decisions that were made. Sets covered are: X-Mansion, Museum, Plastic Prison, Church, White House, Stryker's base and the X-Jet. Lots of interesting snippets of info for budding movie-makers, including the fact that the Oval Office set was upholstered by the same people that actually upholster the real Oval Office. Also, Stryker's base was too big to build in the Vancouver Studio, so had to be built in a disused storage facility.
We also get to hear from Bob Snow who was the White House technical advisor, commenting on how accurate the set was.
A short featurette with costume designer, Louise Mingebach, who talks about the different costumes chosen for different characters, why they were chosen and how they were relevant for the character, as well as how they were made.
A very short look at the stunt rehearsal for this important fight scene (shorter than the fight itself).
This is the real meat and potatoes of the featurettes, covering the actual production part of the movie-making process. It consists of a lot of interviews with cast and crew, as well as behind the scenes footage of the film being shot. It's a very good documentary with only a few failings, one of which is the tendency for the interviews to have a little too much back-slapping and self-congratulatory stuff in there. Another issue is the repetitive comments about how the second movie could build on the introductions made in the first one - all right, I think we've established that fact by now. All that's being a bit picky though, since much of the interview footage is also filled with interesting anecdotes and memories of making the film.
The behind-the-scenes footage is also fascinating; seeing Bryan Singer direct his actors, discussing possible methods for a fight scene, and even getting detailed descriptions of some of the stunt work (the catapulted car will be of real interest to any engineers out there). I was also surprised to see that the wall of ice in the X-Mansion was indeed a wall of real ice, which must have put the pressure on getting the shots done in time!
This featurette finishes on the question of whether there'll be a third instalment, and I think you'll like the response.
It's good to see the increase in the number of proper documentaries coming out on DVD these days, as opposed to the all-too-common promotional EPK-style extras we've been fed for so long.
Some time with Alan Cumming talking about what he went through to become Nightcrawler, including the nightmare of getting his make-up applied (he and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos were their own little "support group" on the topic). It also concentrates on the movement training he went through to get Nightcrawler's motion to be believable, as well as a look at his tail attachments.
Animatics mixed with footage of the stuntmen going through rehearsals for the White House scene.
If you're thinking there's a lot of stuff on Nightcrawler then you'd be right. This one is hours of make-up application condensed down into under four minutes. It isn't technically a real time-lapse, since it jumps quickly from point to point in the process, rather than being the whole thing sped up.
Another substantial documentary covering the visual effects for the film, with the main participant being the visual effects supervisor, Michael Fink. This featurette covers a number of specific scenes, as follows:
Interviews with John Ottman, the composer of the score, as well as footage of the orchestra being conducted (including a surprise visit by Bryan Singer and Patrick Stewart). Ottman also takes us through each individual theme that he wrote for different characters. I found this to be quite an informative little extra, as I've always wondered where movie-score composers get their inspiration from.
This movie was released in the cinema globally on the same date. At the time, it was the largest day-and-date release worldwide (I'm not sure if that record still stands), and this is a highlights package from a webcast that was done as a pre-release promo item. It consists of Fox's head of publicity, Michael Brody, asking questions of cast and crew, whilst in an Internet chatroom. Most people only get two questions to answer, and there's not a whole lot that's new or exciting in the answers.
Call me crazy, but I thought deleted scenes were meant to be scenes that had been deleted from the movie. Admittedly, we do have deleted scenes here, but with a mixture of "extended" scenes that I couldn't distinguish from what was already in the movie. There are eleven in total, and all are presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, 16x9 enhanced, but with average video quality.
This huge galleries segment is broken up into six sections, some of which are in turn broken up into more sub-sections. They contain a mixture of photos, drawings, and storyboards and are as follows:
Theatrical trailers A (teaser), B and C, running for 0:42, 1:45 and 2:27 respectively. Trailer A is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1 and is 16x9 enhanced, whereas the other two are presented in an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 letterboxed and not 16x9 enhanced.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;
The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;
The two versions seem almost identical except for some language differences. If these aren't an issue for you then I'd go with the local copy. I have read a Region 1 review that mentions problems with dot crawl and pixelization in any bright colours, which I certainly didn't see in our Region 4 version. However, I've not read of the same complaint anywhere else, so it may have been something to do with their equipment.
An excellent follow-up to a promising first X-Men movie, which was one of the few sequels this year to really deliver the goods. More than just a mindless action film, the story and characters are actually important for once. It's not perfect, but still comes highly recommended.
An excellent video transfer.
A very solid DTS soundtrack with a good, if slightly less dynamic, Dolby Digital 5.1 alternative.
A very comprehensive extras package, with the occasional dubious entry, but on the whole extremely informative.
|DVD||Omni 3600, using RGB output|
|Display||Sony 1252QM CRT Projector, 250cm custom built 16x9 matte screen. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS797- THX Select|
|Speakers||Accusound ES-55 Speaker set, Welling WS12 Subwoofer|