X-Men: Two Disc Edition (Blu-ray) (2000)

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Released 6-May-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Science Fiction None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 104:20
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Bryan Singer
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Hugh Jackman
Anna Paquin
Patrick Stewart
Ian McKellen
Famke Janssen
James Marsden
Halle Berry
Tyler Mane
Ray Park
Rebecca Romijn
Case Slip Case
RPI ? Music Michael Kamen


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Thai Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Audio Commentary
Spanish
Portuguese
Thai
Chinese
Chinese
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    If you were to compile a list of the most underrated films ever made, Bryan Singer's peek into the world of the X-Men would come close to the top. They already share a place in the middle of a pair of lists that the autism civil rights movement presents as examples of where they are portrayed unintentionally. And that is a distinction that many films in receipt of higher praise from mainstream critics cannot dream of. More on such cultural relevance in good time, however.

    X-Men begins with two jarring scenes that let one know in no uncertain terms that Singer has decided the Tim Burton path is the better one than, say, the Schumacher, Martinson, or Ratner path. Beginning in a concentration camp in the Poland of 1944, we witness a group of Nazis wrest a teenage boy from his parents. As both scream and cry in another language, the Nazis attempt to subdue the young boy. But as he reaches out, a massive magnetic field emerges from him, bending a solid metal gate to a degree more indicative of a pick-up truck or bulldozer than the effort of a solitary teenage boy. Fast forward to what the film wisely specifies as merely the present day, and we find ourselves in the home of an American girl. (I say wisely because, as Jello Biafra once sang, this could be anywhere or everywhere, and I say it could be anywhen, too.) After a conversation about her plans for the future, this girl engages in a deep kiss with the boyfriend she has at her side. Without so much as a whiff of warning, said boyfriend reacts as if the soul is being sucked out of him, prompting a lot of screaming, both for an ambulance and to Get The Hell Away From Me™.

    From there, we jump to a hearing in an undisclosed government building. Doctor Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) gives an articulate, impassioned plea to the assembled Senators to vote against the so-called Combating Au... excuse me, Mutant Registration Act. She is interrupted in no gentle manner by one Senator Robert Kelly (Bruce Davison), who, like all proponents of genocide I could mention, wastes no time in exaggerating the threat he imagines the Mutants pose whilst at the same time making sure not to mention that they happen to be Human. This prompts a discussion between the teenaged boy of the prologue, now an elderly man who calls himself Magneto (Sir Ian McKellen in one of those roles that demonstrates why he has been knighted), and his opposite, Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart). Meanwhile, the girl in the second half of the prologue arrives in an isolated Canadian town where she encounters a grizzly pit fighter who calls himself Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). Calling herself Rogue (Anna Paquin earning her Oscar again for the umpteenth time), she and Wolverine basically form the heart and soul of the story.

    Set upon by one of Magneto's associates, a literal bear of a man called Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Rogue and Wolverine are quickly rescued by Cyclops (James Marsden) and Storm (Halle Berry). Taken back to Xavier's mansion, Wolverine learns that a growing movement to promote the rights of Mutants has begun, and has forked into two different directions. Xavier and his people have chosen to peacefully protest their civil rights to the Human leadership, whereas Magneto and his smaller collective have decided that they will have to defend their rights by force. Even if that means killing every Human on the planet. Once, I wrote that Magneto was an example of becoming exactly like your enemy, but the sad reality the real world's Mutants have to live with is that all the laws protecting their rights in the world will not make a difference if said laws are not backed by the requisite force, or credible threat thereof. The meat of the story is a forthcoming summit between the world's leaders regarding the best solution to the "Mutant problem", Magneto's plans to crash it, and where Wolverine and Rogue happen to fit in.

    Thirty to fifty years from now, university-level courses in media and the manipulation thereof will be using films like this one as a historical example of the promotion of not just Human rights, but the fact that the recognition thereof does not stop at differences one can see. About the only point in this growing social phenomenon that this film and its immediate sequel miss would be a merciless deconstruction of such ridiculous misleading phrases as Majority Minority, et al.

    "You know, people like you are the reason I was afraid to go to school as a child..."

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Fox released X-Men on standard definition DVD no less than four times, and at least three of them seemed to have the exact same video transfer. As one might expect, my biggest complaint about the video transfer in question was aliasing. X-Men has many metallic sets with hard, rigid lines in them. This, combined with the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, made for quite the flickery bad time.

    The transfer on this BD-Video is presented in the aspect ratio of 2.40:1, within a 1920 by 1080 window. It is progressive. That means no aliasing. That alone justifies the upgrade.

    Another advantage progressive transfers have over interlaced ones is that unsharping filters (the traditional method of controlling the artefact known as aliasing) are also unnecessary. This allows the maximum level of detail through, relative to the source material. X-Men boasts one of the sharpest, most detailed video transfers I have seen so far. The fine details of the contact lenses used for effects shots are particularly noteworthy, and Wolverine's claws appear much sharper. Shadow detail is very good, but probably the sole clue to the age of the film (where did all that time go?), and there is no low-level noise.

    A particular colour scheme was chosen for this film, with a heavy emphasis on blues especially in locations particular to the Mutant factions. To say that this transfer represents these colours beautifully is like saying the transfer is sharp. It is just redundant. No bleeding or misregistration was noted.

    Compression artefacts were not noted in the transfer, in spite of the fact that much of the disc space is annoyingly taken up with special features (more on this in due course). The transfer is encoded in the AVCHD codec, with the bitrate varying between 18 and 31 mb/s. Film-to-video artefacts were not noted in the transfer, either, with no telecine wobble or aliasing in sight. The latter is particularly noteworthy, as the Cerebro set in particular was meant to be seen in a progressive format. Film artefacts may have been hiding in the odd frame here and there, but one would have to go over each frame with a magnifying glass to really see them.

    Subtitles are offered in English for the Hearing Impaired on this disc. There are some omissions, but their accuracy is almost always spot-on.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    When I originally reviewed X-Men on DVD, the other element that I repeatedly mentioned in my appraisal was the extreme directionality of the soundtrack. At that time, the sound of a disembodied voice travelling around the surround channels was quite a noteworthy difference. Some thought of it as gimmicky (and I cannot blame them for that), while others thought it was a long-overdue example of the surround channels being used well.

    A total of seven soundtracks are offered on this BD-Video. The first, and default, is the original English dialogue in DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, which the packaging describes as being lossless. The second soundtrack is the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 5.1, with dubs in Latin Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, and Thai in the same configuration. The fidelity of the Spanish and Portuguese tracks is very good compared to their English equivalent, but the Thai dub sounds like it was cobbled together like one of my early Mutants' Rights protest videos: on very cheap equipment in little time. The sixth and final main soundtrack is an English audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0, which I listened to in its entirety.

    I listened to the DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack and the audio commentary, in addition to some quick A-B comparisons between the DTS lossless soundtrack and the Dolby Digital offering. The Dolby Digital offering is good, there is no two ways about that. It is no more or less good than it was in 2001 when the film was originally released on DVD. It is just that the DTS lossless version is even better than that. Wolverine's punches during the cage match have a heavier clang to them, Professor X's voice sounds even more disembodied when he projects, and the score music during the climax of the Liberty Island battle is enough to bring tears to the eyes.

    The dialogue on every offering of X-Men to date has always been very clear and easy to understand. The dialogue is a very important and driving part of the film, so it stands to reason that in contrast to other recent blockbusters, the audio engineers would take great pains to make sure it can be heard easily. The DTS lossless soundtrack makes understanding the dialogue even easier. Again, it is the separation between dialogue, effects, and music that makes all the difference. Audio sync was almost always spot on, although the poorly-delivered "at least I've chosen a side" from Storm still sounds like it was phoned in from a satellite device somewhere in the Congo.

    The score music in X-Men is credited to the late Michael Kamen, whom the IMDB states died of a heart attack in 2003. From the end of Patrick Stewart's opening speech to the end of the closing credits, Kamen walks, runs, and dances around the fine line between enhancing the mood of the scene to dictating it a la John Williams. Film scores rarely do so much to enhance the mood of the onscreen action, and there are many small moments when the score perfectly syncs with the onscreen action as if one was intended to be part of the other, or vice versa. One shot at 86:00 is such a prime example it made want to leap into the screen and shoulder-barge Magneto. Give me this score in 96 kHz, 7.1 channel form, and you shall make me a happy lad indeed (this is called a hint to the BD consortium, by the way).

    The surround channels are used aggressively to envelop the listener in the events seen onscreen. Among the sound effects to make the most use of the surround channels are the uses of Magneto's and Dr. Grey's telekenetic powers and Professor X's disembodied voice. The latter starts at 23:14 and is still an awesome demonstration of the possibilities of multichannel audio. Even during the relatively sedate, quiet moments (of which there are several), there is always something coming out of the surrounds that gives the viewer more of a sense that the environment that the characters are inhabiting is for real. At the same time, the additional separation of the lossless soundtrack makes these directional effects easier to localise and more diffuse, more difficult to localise, depending a lot on what the director and his sound engineers had in mind at the time. Simply put, this is a disc one can put on right next to the DVD and say "this is why I am happy to buy this film on disc again". Yes, it is still as gimmicky as it was the first time around, but once again, it is gimmicky in a good way.

    The subwoofer is also aggresively utilised to support the harder, more powerful parts of the soundtrack. Effects such as Sabretooth's growling, metallic doors clanking, or Cyclops' optical blasts, receive a powerful and well-integrated boost from the subwoofer. It does occasionally lapse into silence during quiet dialogue exchanges, but it always comes back with a well-timed vengeance that further immerses the viewer in the onscreen action.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    Allow me to quote Nate Boss from High-Def Digest, because I agree with him a hundred percent this time. This is where X-Men drops the ball, and makes me angry. It should not have made me angry.

    Yes, wrong comic book, but as I said myself in one article, get those s***ty-looking SD extras the hell off my disc!

Disc One

Menu

    One part that does not make me angry is that Fox actually bothered to give us a full, proper menu. And it has an adequate (more than adequate, in fact) number of Chapter Stops! I give credit where it is due: this is almost a reference quality menu system. Even the Pop-Up Menu is less irritating than usual. The one thing that holds the menus back from their proper glory is that navigation is frequently unintuitive, making it more of a task to select one's preferred language or viewing option than should be the case.

Audio Commentary - Bryan Singer (Director), Brian Peck

    This audio commentary is recycled from the previous 1.5-edition release of the film. In itself, this is not bad, as it is a fairly entertaining commentary. The subject of decisions made when one is adapting a film from a preexisting piece of fiction, in this case a comic book, always fascinates me. Peck moderates the commentary, occasionally asking Singer questions or prompting him in order to keep things moving. Singer announces early on in the piece that he does not read comic books, which casts a slight sense of mystery as to how he managed to make something so very close to the spirit of the source material. Let me summarise it this way: if you have any interest in directing or telling stories in any format, then you will definitely get something out of this commentary. If you have an interest in the film itself, ditto. Otherwise, you will not miss anything by skipping it.

"Enhanced" Viewing Mode

    This is basically the same non-seamless branching mode that was on the 1.5-edition. One would think that with the ability of BD to do true seamless branching as demonstrated on such releases as Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Fox might be able to whip together a seamless version of this feature. Not so. For one thing, the additional scenes are still only in Standard Definition. This causes a jarring pause whenever the player switches from HD to SD. If viewed separately, it is still basically wasting a HDTV watching SD material. I thought I was clear the first 50-odd times, BD consortium: I did not buy a HDTV to watch SD material on it.

Deleted Scenes

    Six scenes that were cut from the theatrical release for various reasons. Some of them could have added something to the film, but were underwritten enough to prevent this. The fact that they are in SD, as previously mentioned, makes them a liability rather than an addition.

Featurette - The Mutant Watch

    Aside from one moment in the featurette that gives us a backhanded look at how normalists inevitably end up hunting and targetting their own children (and was done much better in the Anna Paquin-starring Mosaic), this featurette is really of limited value. It is a slightly more creative electronic press kit than the others, but it is still an electronic press kit.

Featurette - Bryan Singer Interview

    Just what the title says. Six minutes and sixteen seconds of Bryan Singer explaining to Charlie Rose such things as why he chose to direct the film. SD, 1.33:1 (film footage in 1.85:1), with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio.

Featurette - Animatics

    Another recycled featurette, divided into the Liberty Head and Train Station animatics.

Art Gallery

    Stills divided into two categories, these being Character Design and Production Design.

TV Spots

    Three TV spots presented in a rough 1.85:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. One minute and thrity-five seconds total running time. In SD.

TV Spot: Music Promo

    Presented in a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Thirty seconds. In SD.

Trailer: X2: X-Men United

    Presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, and high definition. A basic attempt to cram the awesomeness of the film into a two minutes and twenty six second summary. Many would argue, rightly, that this is impossible.

Trailer: X-Men: The Last Stand

    I call false advertising. The proper name of this piece of s*** is X-Men In Name Only. Ninety-five seconds is nowhere near enough to catalogue how supremely they failed with this effort. High definition, 2.35:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. In case I did not make it clear already, I will put it in terms me and mine will grok: a curebie wrote this steaming, insulting t***.

Trailer: Daredevil

    One minute and forty-four seconds, 2.35:1, high definition, Dolby Digital 5.1, about as memorable as a dream of staring at a white wall.

Trailer: Fantastic Four

    Again, false advertising. The proper name is The Barely Adequate Four. Two minutes and twenty-six seconds. High definition, 2.35:1, with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Disc Two

Featurette - Introduction

    Presented in the aspect ratios of 1.33:1 and 1.85:1 with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Not 16:9 Enhanced, and in SD to boot. Sixty-nine seconds.

Featurette - The Uncanny Suspects

    Two hours, sixteen minutes, thirty-nine seconds. In 1.33:1, 1.85:1, and 2.35:1 aspect ratios, with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Not 16:9 Enhanced, and SD.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region B version of this disc missed out on;

    I should not need to say more in this instance.

Summary

    The first of the real X-Men films is a bit like that first date with that busty little Italian woman who manages to impress you with the extent of what she knows, and begins to challenge you with the extent of what you do not know. You remember it for all time, fondly and possibly even through rose-coloured glasses. People call it an origin story, but it is so much more than that. It manages to encapsulate what the struggle of its titular characters, and several groups of real-world people in the bargain, is all about. And that is an achievement beyond those of many other films, including comic book adaptations that have inexplicably received higher praise. One serious miscasting aside, X-Men is easily the equal of more overt Fight The Oppressors pieces as V or Zwartboek, and several steps above the recent Batman films regardless of what those who do not fully grok it have to say. Highly recommended viewing.

    The video transfer shows how the film has aged, but is awesome nonetheless.

    The audio transfer is of reference quality.

    The extras are numerous, but are really almost entirely recycled from earlier DVD releases. Disappointing.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Dean McIntosh (Don't talk about my bio. We don't wanna know.)
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic Viera TH-42PZ700A. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR606
SpeakersYamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Wharfedale Xarus 1000 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NSC-120 Centre Speaker, Wharfedale Diamond SW150 Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
PIP ? - Anonymous
get those s***ty-looking SD extras the hell off my disc! - Nick REPLY POSTED
Extras... - Le Messor (bio logy class) REPLY POSTED
No Seamless Branching, No Sale - Daria Nicolodi's Fringe