X-Men 3: The Last Stand (Blu-ray) (2006)
Audio Commentary-Brett Ratner, Zak Penn, and Simon Kinberg
Audio Commentary-Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner, and Ralph Winter
Deleted Scenes-12 deleted and alternate scenes
|Year Of Production||2006|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Brett Ratner|
Twentieth Century Fox
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English DTS HD Master Audio 6.1 ES Discrete (1536Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.40:1|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.40:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||Yes|
|Action In or After Credits||Yes|
X-Men: The Last Stand is reputedly the last in the series. It is first and foremost an exciting action movie, but sadly, a good action spectacle often comes at a cost. The character development and genuine emotion of the previous two films has been replaced with explosions, and more explosions. Similar to the original Star Wars Trilogy, the X-Men Trilogy peaked with the second instalment, only to be followed by an entertaining but ultimately flawed finale. But on the other hand, unlike many blockbusters of 2006, this movie actually pretty much delivers what's promised in its trailer.
Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the X-Men made their debut for Marvel Comics in 1963. The X-Men are a group of mutants who have gained individual superhuman powers - usually at puberty. Some scientists view the development of the x-factor-gene that caused this, and the resulting mutants, as a giant leap forward in human evolution. But on the other hand, many humans, and their Governments, develop a deep suspicion and even resentment toward this unusually powerful minority.
Naturally, some mutants use their powers, such as the ability to walk through walls, for evil or criminal purposes. But others, such as Professor Charles Xavier, founder of a school for gifted mutants, believe that mutant powers can be used for the good of all people - human and mutant. Professor Charles Xavier is also the founder of the X-Men Alliance, which is a band of superheroes acting for good. They continually battle Magneto's Brotherhood, a group of Mutants who see themselves as superior to humans, yet victimized by them.
A very successful comic series for Marvel from the very beginning, the X-Men have also appeared as an animated series on television, and after a number of false starts finally made it to the big screen in 2000. The commercially and critically successful film adaptation was followed by successful sequels in 2003 and 2006.
Bryan Singer, who directed the first two films, was originally announced as the director of X-Men: The Last Stand, but he later declined the opportunity to rather take on Superman Returns. After a few other people were approached by the producers, finally Brett Ratner took over as director just two weeks before the cameras were due to start rolling.
While some fans were disappointed, and even surprised, with Ratner's appointment, he has answered that criticism at the box office as X-Men: The Last Stand has become the most successful movie of the franchise, raking in over US$450 million.
Sadly, however, in X-Men: The Last Stand, Ratner has replaced a lot of the character development and genuine emotion of the previous two films with explosions and more mutants. It’s a shame as the movie's premise is great: A "cure" for the mutant gene has been developed - a drug that will instantly "suppress the mutant gene" permanently. This potentially offers mutants everywhere the chance to become "normal" again. A Californian drug company, led by Warren Worthington Jr. (Michael Murphy), and endorsed by the US Government, have developed this "cure" using the DNA of a mutant child Leech, whose mutant power is to rob other mutants of theirs. This "cure" naturally leads to a split within the mutant community, with many mutants offended and even threatened by the development. Indeed, the scenes outside the "cure centers" resemble the current protests outside abortion clinics in the US.
Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is sceptical, but open to the idea of an "optional cure", especially as the US Government has become more inclusive and understanding of mutants since X2, even appointing a mutant, Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast (Kelsey Grammer) as the Secretary of the Department of Mutant Affairs. As Dr McCoy observes, many mutants would welcome being "normal", and fitting in with mainstream society. For example, Rogue (Anna Paquin) sees the "cure" as an opportunity to shed powers that have become an unwelcome burden.
However, Xavier's long-time nemesis, Magneto (Ian McKellen), sees the cure as a weapon to exterminate mutants, in that it destroys what makes them special. Magneto sets out to stop this latest government initiative with his usual lack of subtlety.
The X-Men movies have always dabbled in social issues. The mutants represent the next stage of human evolution ("homo sapiens superior"), a point that raises all sorts of uncomfortable issues, such as genetic manipulation and racial superiority.
Furthermore, the openly gay Singer seemed to accentuate the homoerotic elements of the X-Men story. Indeed, one could often replace the term “mutant” with “gay”. Or perhaps that undertone was always there? After all, the mutant teenagers discover that they are "mutants" during puberty, as their sexuality develops. They then face alienation, and often run away from home to be with others like them. The allegory was no more obvious than in X2, when a desperate mother asks her son: "Have you ever tried … not being a mutant?"
That said, I think it's fair to say that the X-Men's legacy was its embrace of all forms of alienation.
However, in the third film instalment, these weighty issues are largely rushed through in favour of the bigger stunt and SFX set-pieces, which culminates in a climactic battle between the X-Men Alliance and the Brotherhood of Mutants. Ratner has built a reputation in Hollywood on stunt-filled, over-the-top action sequences, such as in the Rush Hour movies, and he does not disappoint.
Apart from the "cure" issue, the film's other storyline is a loose re-telling of the seminal "Dark Phoenix" saga, in which Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) returns from the bottom of Alkalai Lake as a quick-tempered super-powerful mutant with a problem controlling her awesome powers. The now evil Jean/Phoenix joins up with Magneto's Brotherhood as they march on the source of the "mutant cure" - a boy (Cameron Bright), heavily guarded by the US Government in Alcatraz, San Francisco.
Sadly, Ratner ignores the opportunity to explore Jean's resurrection and corruption, rather focusing entirely on setting up the mutants for the climatic battle.
In this final instalment, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Storm (Halle Berry) again take centre stage, but writers Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn also introduce a few new and interesting mutant characters, including the aforementioned Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast, Warren Worthington III/Angel (Ben Foster), and Juggernaut (Vinnie Jones). But sadly, only Dr. McCoy gets any reasonable screen time or attempt at character development. To make way for all the new faces, and lengthy action set pieces, some familiar characters, including Cyclops (James Marsden), Rogue (Anna Paquin), Mystique (Rebecca Romijn), and even Xavier are absent for much of the film.
Indeed, there's a lot going on in this film, and considering the relatively short running time perhaps the attempt at telling the "Dark Phoenix" saga should have been dropped and left for a film of its own. The movie often has a cramped, rushed feeling. The convoluted stories and relationships are not given time to breathe, as a relentless momentum propels everything forward. There is often a disorganized feel to the narrative, which forgets and then remembers subplots at random; and the script is built on a story with no compunction about removing veteran characters, while introducing an array of new ones.
Visual effects supervisor John Bruno and stunt coordinators Wade Eastwood and Mike Mitchell provide us some of the most exciting scenes of any of the X-Men films; while Dante Spinotti's fluid cinematography gives the film a very polished appearance. Indeed, there are some great action sequences and impressive special effects here, such as a lengthy flashback where new CGI technology has made Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen appear 20 years younger. And of course there is also the eye-popping CGI and green-screen-heavy set-piece with the Golden Gate Bridge.
Although X-Men: The Last Stand has a few emotional moments that build on the first two story lines, ultimately the film lacks any real emotional resonance. For example, several major characters die, yet there seems to be no great impact on the other characters, let alone the audience.
The transfer is outstanding, and has been mastered in 1920 x 1080p, using AVC MPEG-4 compression.
The High Definition transfer is presented in a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in a native 16x9 frame. This is the film's original theatrical ratio.
The sharpness of the DVD's picture was excellent, but the high definition BD raises the bar to a whole new level. For example, consider the clarity in the exterior shot of the Department of Mutant Affairs at 9:20 and the incredibly detailed exterior of the school grounds at 12:19. The black level is perfect, with true deep blacks. The shadow detail is also excellent. For example, consider the scene in the dimly lit exterior of the church at night at 17:52 or the interior of the house at 58:03.
The colour is magnificent, with a rich palette of perfectly-saturated colours to suit the film's moods. The flesh tones are accurate.
While there is some film grain noticeable at times (common in Super-35 productions), this lies in the source material. There are no problems with MPEG or Film Artefacts. Fortunately, the problems with the Aliasing that marred the DVD release are not present. This is a noticeable improvement to the transfer overall. As with the BD, there are now no problems with film-to-video artefacts.
20 subtitle streams are present - English and a variety of Scandinavian languages. The English subtitles are accurate.
This is a BD-25 disc (single layered 25 GB disc), with the feature is divided into 24 chapters.
As with the other X-Men films, the movie boasts a wonderful sound design, and as with the DVD, the BD's audio is excellent.
Originally released theatrically in Dolby Digital, dts, and SDDS surround audio, there are three audio options on this DVD: The first is an English dts-HD Lossless Master Audio for the feature. This format can potentially support an unlimited number of surround sound channels, and downmix to 5.1 if required. As I mentioned in a recent review, this is 'future-proofing' as currently there are no Blu-ray or HD-DVD players that are able to decode the dts-HD Master Audio, but all Blu-ray and HD-DVD players can currently decode the dts-HD "core" 6.1 Discrete audio at 1.5 Mbps. I understand that firmware upgrades in the near future (via download) will address this situation. The two audio commentaries are presented with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio (224 kbps, and two English Audio Commentary tracks - Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s).
The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent throughout.
The musical score is credited to John Powell, and the film features a traditional orchestral music score which underpins the action very well.
The movie boasts a wonderful sound design, and the surround presence and activity is excellent. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score and provide a lot of ambience. There are a number of rear directional effects, which includes panning between speakers during the battle sequences, such as at 62:10 and 79:46. There are also some nice touches of more subtle ambience, such as the crowds in the city at 61:27.
The subwoofer is also utilised very effectively throughout, and the LFE track is used well from the rumble of jet engines to the many explosions throughout.
While the DVD had a dts track, it was only 5.1, and encoded at the inferior 768Kb/s. Both the DVD and the BD's dts tracks are excellent in their clarity, range, and depth, but the dts-HD 6.1 Master Audio creates a truly enveloping presence that fills the room, and surrounds the listener.
|Surround Channel Use|
There are a few genuine extras, but the vast majority of extras included on the 2-Disc DVD (Region 4) are missing. Perhaps a BD-50 disc could have been used to preserve these extras, and add the new ones?
Audio Commentary 1
Director and Writer commentary by Brett Ratner, Zak Penn, and Simon Kinberg. who provide a joint screen-specific commentary in which they focus on the film's story and characters. They also provide a number of anecdotes along the way. This commentary was strangely not included on the 2-Disc DVD release.
Audio Commentary 2
Producers Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner, and Ralph Winter provide a joint screen-specific commentary in which they discuss everything from the film's locations, SFX, actors, and crew through to the production design and costumes. Their commentary understandably focuses more on the technical aspects of the production rather than the story. This extra has been lifted from the 2-Disc DVD release.
Text-based trivia that appears onscreen, and focuses on background information relating to the stories and characters in the X-Men comics.
Deleted Scenes (9:13)
12 deleted and alternate scenes including an alternative ending. These can be viewed with an optional Director and Writers' commentary. Fortunately, they are presented here in high definition video, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (448 kbps).
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
X-Men: The Last Stand was released on Blu-ray in Region A (North America). In terms of content, our disc's are identical, except the Region A also gets French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 audio options. X-Men: The Last Stand has not been released on HD-DVD.
Note, the 2-Disc DVD (Region 4) had plenty of extras, most of which are missing here. On the other hand, the BD provides some new extras, most notably the Director and Writer audio commentary.
X-Men: The Last Stand provides an exciting blend of eye-popping special effects and stunt-filled action sequences, but don't expect much depth or subtlety. The high definition BD not only substantially increases the quality of the picture, but the dts-HD 6.1 Master Audio is one of the best dts surround experiences I have heard.
The video quality is excellent.
The audio quality is also excellent.
The extras are slim, but genuine.
|DVD||Sony Playstation 3 (HDMI 1.3) with Upscaling, using HDMI output|
|Display||Panasonic High Definition 50' Plasma (127 cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Samsung Pure Digital 6.1 AV Receiver (HDMI 1.3)|