X-Men Origins: Wolverine Blu-ray Review
Movies reviewSRP: £24.79
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
As this is a new release the print, which was transferred from Super 35mm to high definition, is immaculate and offers a very film-like presentation. The lighting can vary throughout, with some scenes appearing darker than others (especially in the opening scenes), leading to skin tone fluctuation. However, these scenes are few and far between and for the majority the multi-ethnic skin tonality of the various actors is perfectly represented. The colour palette is well saturated and vibrant. There are also some nice colour gradations, as exemplified by the pinkish tinge around young James' tear stained eyes and the much deeper royal red of his robe, or the deep blue of the Canadian skyline merging with an impending greyscale thunderstorm. The contrast ratio is strong, as demonstrated by the night time shots of the Canadian Rockies, which also boast some impressive shadow detail. Blacks are deep but don't quite reach those inky depths which BD is capable of. Facial close-ups can be stunning, with every facial hair, pore and bead of sweat standing out with sharp definition. There's also plenty of fine detail on view which expose some nice nuances. For example, the singed bullet holes in the army vests of Logan/Victor and the subtle degradation of metal surfaces in the island fortress (how cliché!). The main problem with this 1080p transfer is that is really highlights some of the aforementioned, poorly executed CGI effects but this is merely an observation, not a flaw. A fine layer of cinematic grain is present in the majority of the scenes which is always organic and unobtrusive.
The overall presentation has a very nice texture and feels very cinematic. The green screen factor can introduce flatness to the image when compared to the “natural” shots, which exude a very pleasing depth. There are also a few instances of that sought after 3D pop factor but they are by no means prevalent. Some of the long shots can suffer from some incidental softness but these instances by no means dominate, with the majority of the scenes appearing crisp and clear. The transfer gets a high eight but not high enough to warrant a nine, largely due to the aforementioned flaws causing fluctuations in the image quality.
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' comes packed with a 5.1 dts HD Master Audio lossless surround track.
The Wolverine/Sabretooth war montage is quite a strong audio opener and contains an impressive score, with gunshots and deep explosions ricocheting around the room. From this I was expecting something very special for the remainder of the presentation. Unfortunately, while this is most definitely a very strong presentation, it did not completely blow me away. Directionality is impressive with various effects, such as incoming helicopters, transitioning masterfully from left to right across the front channels. The dialogue is crystal clear, with the various testosterone fuelled roars and quieter vocals coming through with perfect pitch and tone. Unfortunately the surround channels were not as engaging as I had hoped for. There is activity but it seems to be a little low in the mix and is sometimes overpowered by the front channels. The surrounds do an admirable job during the action segments, conveying bullets and debris flying around the listening position, but they were a little subdued overall. Mid-range bass is beautiful, such as the steady “whump whump” of the choppers rotor (which underpins the helicopter chase sequence) or the frantic thumping of Logan's heart as he is infused with adamantium. Deep-bass presence is also very good but not excellent. Some of the scenes, such as the epic power station destruction, carry a beautiful weight, while others can seem somewhat lacking.
The score is most certainly not as impressive as Michael Kamen's efforts for the first movie, nor is it as engaging as Jon Ottoman's for the second. The score features predominantly throughout, as if was somehow trying to fill the void left by the disappointing nature of the movie itself. It does contain some rousing beats and has obviously been mixed very well but it just doesn't have anything to make it really special. Sonically, it's adequate, with decent bass, treble and surround bleed.
Overall the track was very pleasing and well delivered, albeit in a manner which I felt was slightly underpowered. The previous X-Men releases just sounder better and were far more engaging than this track. It's still impressive and contains a few scenes to show off your system (such as the thunderous nuclear chimney collapse) but overall it could have been improved upon in a number of areas. An eight is awarded but it most certainly is nowhere near a nine.
Like the previous X-Men releases, this two disc special edition is packed full of extra features. The tag of “2-disc special edition” is somewhat of a con though, as all the extra features are contained on disc 1, with disc 2 only containing the digital copy of the movie. BD-Live is included, with its usual slew of HD trailers and other features. A new feature, “Live Lookup”, is also included. This allows the viewer to access information from IMBD while watching the movie itself. There are two feature commentaries included for your listening pleasure.
Audio Commentaries - The first features director Gavin Hood. This track is somewhat limited, in that Hood basically focuses on explaining what's happening on screen for the majority. He dictates along with the images on screen, explaining the story and expands on how some of the scenes were shot, as well as providing location information. He also provides some background information on the characters and gives his opinion on the actors who play them. There are a couple of off camera anecdotes included but not as much as I would have liked. Although this commentary is somewhat worthwhile, it's not as informative or engaging as others I've heard. The same can be said about the second track, which features producers Ralph Winter and Lauren Schuler Donner. They both provide interesting background information on the characters, cast/crew and the sets, as well as expanding on the story itself and production values. This track sounds very businesslike and impersonal but I suppose they are studio executives. The lack of real passion for the source material on both commentaries reaffirms my opinion that this release was primarily a business decision.
Ultimate X-Mode (Bonusview) - Three different viewing modes are also included. “X-Connect” provides the viewer with a sparse PIP commentary featuring Hood and Donner, who interject at various points to highlight links and tie-ins with the previous X-Men movies. “The Directors Chair” is a little more continuous and features plenty of backstage footage and interviews with Hood. Directorial techniques are the primary focus of this feature. “Pre-Visualising Wolverine” provides accompanying commentary from Hood and pre/post production CGI effects, as well as storyboards for many of the scenes. This is an interesting track and provides some insight into how the action segments were put together. “X-Facts” is a very interesting track which provides plenty of information about the movie. A wide variety of trivia and production information is included on this feature. There is some interesting content contained across these four tracks but it is sometimes sparse in its delivery.
“The Roots of Wolverine: A Conversation with Stan Lee and Len Wein” (HD 16mins) - Living legend Stan Lee and Wolverine co-creator Len Wen discuss various topics surrounding the movie. Lee expands on his collaboration with Jack Kirby, why he left the X-Men comic books and their continuing popularity. Wein discusses the origins of Wolverine and the evolution of the X-Men, with Lee adding his comments where necessary. Both also discuss their affiliation with the characters, Chris Claremont (the long term editor of the comic books) and Hugh Jackman. This is an amusing, interesting and worthwhile featurette.
“Wolverine Unleashed: The Complete Origins” (HD 12mins) - Jackman, Hood, Donner and other cast and crew members discuss the movie, the main character and future plans for Wolverine's story. They provide background information on the concept for this movie and how it was a natural progression from the original X-Men movies. Backstage, stunt and test footage (including special effects), as well as scenes from the movie itself, are also included. Worth a watch.
Weapon-X Mutant Files (53mins HD) - The characters of Sabretooth, Stryker, John Wraith, Silverfox, Blob, Bradly, Gambit, Agent Zero, Deadpool and Emma (Silverfox's sister) are all explored in this feature. Each character is discussed in depth (the main characters more so than the others), as is the part they play in the movie, with accompanying movie/backstage footage. Each character is also granted with their own intro for effect. The cast and crew (primarily Jackman, Donner, Winter and Hood) also comment on the various characters portrayed in this expansive feature.
"The Thrill of the Chase: The Helicopter Sequence" (5mins HD) - This short feature takes a look at the barn destruction and helicopter chase sequence. The CGI effects and stunt techniques for this set piece are explored. Commentary from various cast and crew members as well b-roll footage also features.
“Deleted/Alternate Scenes with Optional Director's Commentary” (9mins HD) - Four deleted/alternative scenes are included here, with optional commentary by Hood. “Young Storm” is a short deleted scene featuring Storm in her younger years. “Victor at the Boxing Ring” features Sabretooth getting information out of Blob after his boxing match with Wolverine. “Alternate Memory Erase Sequence” is pretty much self explanatory and depicts Wolverine asking Stryker to erase his memory. “Japanese Bar Scene” is an alternative ending, which hints at Wolverine's stint he spent in Japan (in the comic books). The commentary from Hood is interesting and the alternate takes on some of the scenes provide additional character information. None, however, would make the movie itself any better.
"Fox Movie Channel Presents World Premiere" (6mins SD) - This is Fox TV's short programme which was filmed during the world premiere of the movie.
'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' was released in May of this year (2009) and is the fourth instalment in the X-Men series of movies. Inevitably the most popular of the X-Men characters, Wolverine, has finally gotten his own movie. The origins of the aforementioned adamantium wielding mutant are explored, as is his complex relationship with his half-brother, Sabretooth (Liev Schreiber). While the action content is high and the pace relentless, there's nothing really new on show here (aside from a couple of new mutatnts). Jackman's performance certainly adds appeal but the disjointed plot and the attempt by director Gavin Hood to introduce too many characters puts this release firmly in the same category as 'X3'. While this movie, in the correct hands, could have been excellent, the obvious motivation for this movie was to make as much money as possible and the content has suffered as a result.
Both the audio and video presentations are very strong on this release but just fall shy of top marks. The video presentation is the more impressive of the two, appearing crisp, clear and well defined but is let down slightly by some softness and incidental flatness. The audio track can be impressive and engaging but overall sounds slightly underpowered and could have been improved upon in a number of areas. As usual Fox have included a wealth of extras and while some of these are a bit sparse in terms of worthwhile content, it is nonetheless a worthwhile collection of additional supplements. So while the extras, picture and audio quality are up to scratch, I'm afraid that the movie itself is most certainly not. For fans of this movie this BD release is a no brainer but I would recommend that those on the fence should rent before buying.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.79
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