'X-Men' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
Right from the opening scenes, as we view the swirling DNA patterns during the opening credits, the increase in detail is evident. Previously on the DVD edition these swirling patterns, although pretty, never stood out with any great definition. Now all aspects of the opening sequence right down to the swirling blue eye on Cerebro's security “eye” are much clearer than ever before. The “mutative energy” from Magneto's weapon also has gotten a nice high definition upgrade and the energy can now be seen spilling over the edge of Magneto's island fortress. The black levels have also gotten a makeover for this release which is especially evident during the title sequence. Although they never really reach the depths of these opening scenes again, except perhaps the city-scape scenes, they are none the less very solid throughout. I distinctly remember a greenish tinge on the DVD release during the opening sequence depicting Magneto's episode during the Holocaust. This is completely rectified on this BD release and I'm also delighted to report that any grain which was evident on the DVD release is also more or less completed eradicated, with the long shot of the Whitehouse being the only standout which was marred by granular intrusion. The colouring is also spot on throughout with primary colouring receiving a boost (check out the red of the barman's shirt) which always appears realistic and vivid. In the snowy wilderness of Canada the bluish whites of dawn are perfectly presented (with beautiful powdery snow drifts) as are the flames which engulf Wolverine's camper van. The grey tones of the Polish Jew's gives them the appearance of the walking dead, with their yellow “Star of David” badges standing out brightly in contrast. The level of shadow detail has also been vastly improved with the night time city scape shots of NYC and Magneto's cavern now clearly visible through the gloom. Facial close-ups are for the most part sharp and focused although some of the long facial shots are somewhat soft on occasion.
The increase in detail in general is evident on this Blu-ray release with facets now visible that were pretty much indistinguishable on previous DVD releases. For example, the bar in which Wolverine is a cage fighter now looks considerably brighter with everything clearly visible. Damage sustained by Wolverine during these fight sequences and during the car crash sequence now stand out with sharp definition as do the individual pellets of shot from the barman's severed shotgun and the warts on Toad's face are now present in all their disgusting glory. One observation which really serves to sum up this point are the minute droplets of moisture which almost erupt like squeezed zits from the hand of Senator Kelly as Sabertooth tries to prevent him from falling into the sea. I never noticed this attention to detail on any of the previous releases, even in the cinema!
Although a distinct improvement over previous releases there are scant instances of that sought after 3D pop factor and some of the scenes, such as the train destruction sequence, did have moments of softness. The majority of the scenes did demonstrate depth, with the standout being some of the scenic shots in Canada with the distant snowy mountains visible. Unfortunately these scenes, and ones like the police standoff where the guns have an impressive three dimensionality, just don't have the “wow” factor when compared to releases such as 'The Dark Knight'. The scenes involving Xavier's school have a permanent “hazy” feel with lighting choices which seem to purposely soften the image (in conjunction with softer colouring) but I believe that this was Singer's intention. Overall detail is where this presentation shows its strengths and this Blu-ray really has a lot of hidden subtleties that were not previously visible.
With a powerful dts surround track available on the 'X-Men 1.5' DVD release I was very interested to see what improvements the 5.1 dts HD Master Audio lossless track would make on this BD release.
The opening scene where the juvenille Magneto first reveals his ability to control magnetic fields was impressive on the DVD release. Needless to say on this lossless track the bass tonality as the metal gate groans and buckles under Magento's unconscious will is immense. The bass extension created such a low frequency carpet under the listening position that it tickled my feet with its vibrations - highly satisfying! The rain effect during this sequence is also impressive with the precipitation cascading all around the listening position completely enveloping the listener. Dialogue is also crystal clear throughout with the rumbling roar of Sabertooth and the piercing shrieks of Rogue perfectly represented. Another delight on this release (and possibly a highly for me) was the sliding metal effect when Wolverine utiltised his claws. It almost sounds like a sword being drawn from its scabbard but amplified twenty times which is exactly the way I always imagined it should sound. During the cage fight sequence the punches and head butts thrown by Wolverine have a beautiful, and “heavy”, metallic clunk that is much more audible on this release.
All of the explosion/impact sequences such as the Wolverine camper van explosion, Cyclopse's energy beam tearing the roof off the train station and Magneto's locomotive destruction all have impressive bass interjection and surround activity, which impressively betters the efforts of previous DVD releases. Like the video presentation, the audio presentation also contains a lot more detail, such as the pulsing sound as Rogue drains the life-force of others, the surround computer chatter from Cereboro and the news channel broadcasts are now completely audible. Magneto's magnetic field also has a beautiful pulsating effect which again was a facet that I had not previously noted on the DVD release. There were also some impressive demonstrations of audio steerage during the presentation with Wolverine sliding from right to left sound field following his car crash as the snowstorm generated by Storm swirls powerfully around the listening position. There is also ample surround activity from the various choppers which fly around the listening position and also from the mighty Bluebird jet. One of the most immersive pieces is during Wolverine's “escape” from “The School for Gifted Youngsters” where Xavier's voice drifts effortlessly from speaker to speaker with pinpoint accuracy. Storm's windy capabilities come in a close second.
The score is also very impressive on this track and the high definition upgrade is evident right from the opening sequence. It sits perfectly in the mix at all times and really starts pumping during the action sequences, coming to the forefront to inject excitement to the on screen proceedings with nice bass tonality, presence and surround bleed. For example, during Wolverine's nightmare sequence, the score kicks up “shrieks” of noise which swirl around the soundstage and really add to the atmosphere. It can also have its moments of tenderness during some of the more subdued scenes but overall it is impressive with a real “epic” quality to it. Kudos to the late, great Michael Kamen.
Overall this surround track offers quite a noticeable step up from previous standard definitions and comes highly recommended.
This Blu-ray release of 'X-Men' boasts a double disc feature laden package. In saying that, upon comparison of the list of extras, many of them are direct standard definition ports from the 'X-Men 1.5' DVD release. Still though, it's nice to at least see this comprehensive package included on this release. There's a feature commentary track with director Brian Singer and actor (and Singer's pal) Brian Peck, who makes a cameo in the movie. The commentary was recorded five months into the filming of 'X2' which Singer discusses at the end of the track. This track is highly informative (and sometimes amusing) with Singer expanding on many of the production values and directorial choices that he made on this movie (with plenty of trivia thrown in). Peck also offers his knowledge on the filmmaking process while coaxing Singer to elaborate on his points with his questions. The two go into great depth on many of the facets of the X-Men universe and the movie itself. Well worth a listen. The disc also features an enhanced viewing mode which takes the viewer to various behind the scenes and deleted/extended segments (which are also available for individual selection) at various points throughout the movie. We've also the D-Box motion code which, when I win the lotto, I will have!
“Deleted Scenes/Extended Scenes” - A collection of scenes which didn't make it into the finished product. These also feature an optional commentary with Peck and Singer. The first is an extension of the classroom scene where Rogue first meets Iceman. The second gives a sneak peek into the classroom activities at Xavier's school and also expands on Rogue/Iceman's relationship. The third reinforces the relationship between Jean and Cyclopse and also shows how powerful Cyclopse is. The fourth builds on Rogue/Iceman's relationship and also hints at Jean's hidden power. The fifth and sixth are short segments featuring Xavier drinking tea and Cyclopse discussing his wardrobe with Wolverine! The scenes, although interesting, are no major loss to the feature presentation. Singer/Peck's commentary adds to the value factor.
Fox Special “The Mutant Watch” (21mins) - A feature from Fox on the X-Men. There is plenty of behind the scenes footage on this feature including interviews involving Singer and the cast and crew, who comment on the concepts of the X-Men and the characters they play. The pseudo news programme manner in which this feature is presented is somewhat lame, even if it does feature Bruce Davidson!
Brian Singer Interview (39mins)- This is the television programme which featured Singer on “The Charlie Rose Show”. Singer talks candidly about the challenges of making a big budget movie, how he adapted the X-Men for the big screen and why he chose this movie as well as what he learned from working with various actors and the techniques he uses to get the best from them. Highly interesting stuff.
Animatics - Computer generated animated storyboards of the Statue of Liberty and the train station fight sequences with no audio
Art Gallery - A collection of 175 high definition drawings and other artwork which were used as production and character design concepts for the movie.
TV Spots - Three television trailers for the movie.
Music Video - An advertisement for the original motion picture score composed by the late Michael Kamen.
Marvel Universe Trailers - High definition trailers for 'Wolverine: Orgins', 'X-Men: The Last Stand' and 'X-Men 2'.
Disc two features “Evolution X” which allows the viewer to access additional segments in this in user control feature. There's even an introduction from Brian Singer to this special edition from the set of 'X2' complete with an orchestrated 20th Century Fox theme! Again all of these features are ported directly from the the 'X-Men 1.5' release and are in standard definition but many of the documentaries do feature branching segments and multi-camera angles which is a nice option.
“The Uncanny Suspects” (24mins) - A documentary featuring the cast, producers and Singer and how they brought the characters from the Marvel comic books to life. Not all of the cast were familiar with the X-Men comic books but all grew to appreciate the story of the X-Men and their world. There's also plenty of behind the scenes footage and expansion on the story and how many of its concepts are relevant in the real world. Production values and character development are also explored. Also included are Hugh Jackman's screen test and first reading as well as a character stills gallery.
“X-Factor” (22mins) - A feature looking and the design aspects of 'X-Men' which features Gordon Smith, the rest of the design crew and the cast. The comic books were referred to for inspiration but the decision was made to really make the characters as believable as possible. A lot of work was put into the character design and it certainly shows in the finished product. Plenty of behind the scenes and B-roll footage is included in this interesting feature. Also include are costume tests and image galleries.
“Production Diary” (65mins) - Documentary featuring all the crew who worked on making 'X-Men' a possibility. This is an incredibly in depth, amusing and information documentary covering almost all facets of making the movie. There's workshop footage of the creation of the sets/props, early walkthroughs of some of the scenes, location scouting footage with Singer in NYC, footage of Singer signing the budget for the movie, costume design with the cast, orchestra rehearsal footage, interviews with the cast, behind the scenes footage and much more! This documentary also reveals how passionate Singer was about this project.
“The Special Effects of the X-Men” (17mins) - A feature discussing the special effects of 'X-Men' featuring Singer and special effects supervisors. This is a very interesting look at the modern day technologies which made the special effects in this movie both possible and believable. Most of the major action sequences are included with explanation on the effects and how the finished product will look once CGI effects have been applied. We also get to see the CGI wizards in action (Wolverine's blade effects are especially interesting). Also included are animatic versions of the fight sequences.
“Reflections of the X-Men” (8mins) - Interviews with the cast and crew as they discuss their experiences following the completion of 'X1' from the set of 'X2'. Most of the cast and crew were under pressure and felt nervous following the movie's release given the anticipation and excitement from the fans. Also included is footage from two of the premieres of the movie.
Marketing the X-Men - A collection of tv spots and trailers for the movie.
Internet Interstitials - Thriteen mini-featurettes from xmenthemovie.com.
Although offering basically the same collection of extras which featured on previous DVD releases this is still an impressive collection of extras. I was slightly disappointed that a PIP feature was not included on this BD release.
'X1' is intellectual, realistic, entertaining and boasts a fast paced, interesting plotline. The acting is spot on throughout with fine actors such as McKellen, Stewart and Jackman doing an impressive job bringing Marvel's larger than life characters to the big screen. Singer manages to keep proceeding believable without toning down the mutants' special abilities and has created a faithful cinematic representation of the X-Men universe that most fans will find to their liking. As a first foray into the world of the X-Men this movie is a worthy base to build upon.
The high definition upgrade on both the audio and video presentations is very noticeable. The video shines through in its increased level of detail and boasts bold blacks and strong primary colouring. The audio presentation is especially impressive and the lossless track is leaps and bounds ahead of previous DVD tracks. Coupled with an immensely epic score this is definitely worth the upgrade.
The extras package, although ported directly from the standard definition release, does contain enough features to keep the most avid fan occupied for hours. All in all this a top notch package and deserves a place in any comic book fan's collection.
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