All three use the MPEG-4/AVC codec, as the earlier release of X-Men III did, however this time round they've been given the full 50GB dual layer treatment and although a lot of this space would have been taken up by the extensive extras even on the first disc it does look that this has also helped with the films themselves as well.
All of the films are presented in the slightly wider ratio of 2.40:1 and naturally all come at 1080p.
The images we have on these three discs are a joy to behold with bold, deep blacks still offering up a wealth of detail in the shadows. The bar where we first encounter Wolverine has much more detail in the background with the baying audience now visible in their full glory, the drinks behind the bar easily identifiable. Senator Kelly's prison has a little more structure and depth to it and when he falls from his cell window there is a heightened sense of scale. X-Men II shows much better detail in the X-Jet chase sequence with the small tornadoes now looking like they have structure and are composed of individual dust clouds. The shadowy corridors of Stryker's secret base has better definition and again those shadows no longer swallow any visual information. The final battle scenes of X-Men III again has better depth and detail and this definitely adds a little punch to the whole proceedings.
On the other end of the scale whites are beautifully rendered with solidity and precision. None of the snowy whites when Wolverine and Rogue are ambushed in X-Men I or the hills surrounding Alkali Lake in X-Men II show any sign of blooming or creep into adjacent elements. Swathes of white are absolutely solid with no hint of any brightness of contrast fluctuations and no specks of dirt of other print damage to be seen. The range from white to black is as about as good as I have seen with the whole grey scale well catered for. Again this adds to the detail and sense of depth for the whole trilogy.
Like the whites, colours are deep and almost push themselves off the screen. Skin tones in general are what we would expect, light in colour and shade and only now and again verging on the red a little too much. Colours from Toad's sickly green, Mystique and Nightcrawler's blue hues and The Dark Phoenix's wonderful red hair are as we would expect. There is no sense of any smearing in the faster scenes and, again, no creep into any objects they stand next to. Swatches of these colours retain their solidity with no encoding errors to be seen.
That encoding is superb, all three films have absolutely no sign of any noise or blocking, a slight level of haloing on a few objects when starkly contrasted against a bright sky and no hint of any DNR either. That lack of DNR has left a subtle, but visible, amount of grain throughout all three films and for me this simply adds to the cinematic feel when watching these features.
Over and above their DVD counterparts these Blu-ray versions have much better detail, from the forests, the train station in X-Men I, pore, clothing and hair structure, Mystique's individual scales, the ripped skin on Wolverine's knuckles as his claws emerge, Magneto's plastic prison and the iron he rips from the guards body. The floating discs he rides on during his escape seem to have better structure in X-Men II as does the church in which Storm and Jean eventually find Nightcrawler. X-Men III has much better detail in Jean Grey's house, her destruction of Professor Xavier, with the skin ripped from his bones, Juggernaught's dodgy looking helmet, the individual feathers on Angel's wings.
All in all this results in a wonderful, almost perfect, Blu-ray transfer. There are one or two very very slight distractions but these are so fleeting it's almost not worth bothering about. Each film in this trilogy certainly gets a very strong 9.
The score across all three by Michael Kamen for the first, John Ottman for the second and John Powell for the final incarnation pervades the frontal array with width and depth. This music though does not encroach upon the spoken word and nothing can take away from the action scenes which I will come onto later. Each score, and of these II is my favourite, really sets up the background for each scene and certainly these tracks do all of them the justice they deserve.
Dialogue, as mentioned, above is never an issue with every single piece easily identifiable even through the controlled audio mayhem that surrounds it. The hushed tones of Sabertooth's low voice as easily heard as the shouted orders of Magneto in the final battle at the end of the third instalment. His growls are as deep and defined as the high pitched tones of Deathstrike's elongated adamantium fingernails rubbed against one another.
This is an action adventure film and as such we expect copious use of LFE, and we're not disappointed. The train station in X-Men I, the ripping of the train that Wolverine and Rogue are about to travel on, the explosion of Wolverine's ramshackle camper van, the collapse of the damn and the resultant flood of water in X-Men II and of course the final battle in the third instalment all have some incredibly deep, trouser flapping, LFE which did set one or two models in my cinema room vibrating a little. This LFE is not excessive though as it perfectly fits with the scene in question and is tightly controlled.
Panning and steerage rarely gets any better throughout all of the films. Steerage from front to rear or visa versa is of the equal to the panning at the fronts; it is seamless and incredibly well timed. The many uses of the X-Jet, air fighters in X-Men II, the plethora of objects picked up and thrown in X-Men III all have the sound at the front and or rear exactly as you would expect. Planes and helicopters sweeping overhead or to the side, Wolverine's ride on the bike he stole from Cyclops, the magnetically controlled ball bearings which fashion Magneto's prison escape. There are a couple of positional inconsistencies in the mansion siege at the start of X-Men II, when helicopters are in the rear of the frame but their sound eminates from the frontal array, but that's the only minor let down. All this and more add to a totally immersive experience which doesn't really get any better.
Surround use is further enhanced by discrete effects such as Storm's controlling of the weather, subtle echo's from Professor Xavier's telepathic capabilities, his time in Cerebro, noise and chatter of crowds in the train station, the noise of soldiers as they traverse the labyrinthine corridors of the Alkali Lake base.
This is an incredible sound mix, controlled, deep when needed and timed almost to perfection. It doesn't really get any better than this and all three deserve the full marks.
All three have an equivalent Dolby Digital 5.1 or 6.1 offering and whilst these tracks are good enough they don't really match up to the full on DTS-HD version. There's just that little more depth and focus from the new codec which is rarely matched by their lossless cousins.
- Bonus View.
A good feature with Stan Lee on the Marvel/Fox collaboration and Singer on why mutants tend to show their powers in their teenage years. The majority of the cast have their own thoughts on the themes and their own characters, popping up as and when needed.
- In Movie Photo Gallery.
A collection of still images appear on screen at regular intervals.
- Commentary with Bryan Singer and Brian Peck.
Singer mentions the opening titles and how they set up the scene perfectly, the idea to start the film showing Magnetos past and the colours used during these scenes. Other specific scenes are discussed and on the whole this is an enjoyable commentary which never really lets up. There's a good rapport between the two which is always more enjoyable than a dry, almost to camera, commentary.
- Enhanced Viewing Mode.
When watching the movie this way 6 deleted / extended scenes will kick in automatically throughout the film. There are another 17 places where you can see behind the scenes footage whenever the X-Men symbol appears.
- Deleted / Extended Scenes. - 0:10:35 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of scenes which were either cut or reduced for the final print. There's a longer classroom scene with Rogue and Bobby, Cyclops giving car mechanic lessons. There's an interesting cut scene with Rogue asking if the professor can cure her. This fits in nicely to the third film and perhaps should have been left in.
- Fox Special: “The Mutant Watch”. - 0:21:57 - 480i/MPEG-2
A 'spoof' documentary, the sort that might have been made and shown in the mutant universe. This one covers the investigations that the world and Senator Kelly might instigate. It also has interviews with some cast and crew members.
- Brian Singer Interview. - 0:06:17 - 480i/MPEG-2
Charlie Rose interviewing Bryan Singer with the director indicating why he was attracted to the film in the first instance, how he related to being an outcast, and the difficulties in making a movie which combines so many special effects.
- Animatics. - 480i/MPEG-2
Standard Animatics for the Liberty Head and Train Station sequences.
- Art Gallery.
A selection of still images navigated with your remote control, divided into two sections, character design and production design.
- TV Spots. - 0:01:36 - 480i/MPEG-2
3 TV spots in all, as the name suggests.
- Music Promo. - 0:0:31 - 480i/MPEG-2
An advert for the soundtrack.
- Marvel Universe Trailers. - 1080p/MPEG-4
Trailers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men, X2: X-Men United. Off all the ones listed there I wonder which you'll be looking at?
- The Uncanny Suspects. - 0:24:16 - 480i/MPEG-2
Cast, Singer and Crew, predominantly producer Ralph Winter, having their day on the production, mentioning how they never really knew the comics, how Singer was devoted to the project from day 1 and needed to make it accessible to both lovers of the comics and those people who had never read them before. There are some cut scenes from the film which were never included and these are a good enough watch. Ian McKellan has an interesting point when he describes identifying with the mutant population; being gay he has often felt as though he was looked upon as an outcast. A few of the actors compliment Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan on their acting talents and wonder why people of that calibre haven't starred in such feature films before. Within this section you can dive deeper and see Hugh Jackman's first reading, a screen test by him and some galleries of the characters.
- X-Factor. - 0:22:47 - 480i/MPEG-2
Gordon Smith, Special Make-up Design, discussing how Singer wished to keep this as realistic as possible yet still have that fantastic feel to it. There are some screen shots, artistic pre-production designs and clips shown. Smith goes on to discuss the time spent on the “Wolverine” character; the look and feel they wanted.. Other characters discussed are Mystique, Toad and Sabretooth. It's interesting to see how they took some concepts from the comics and updated them a little for the movie version. The new costumes are also briefly touched upon. You can also look further into this
and examine costume tests for Cyclops, Storm and Toad, plus some further galleries.
- Production Documentary Scrapbook. - 1:03:26 - 480i/MPEG2
A video diary of sorts covering the pre-production meetings between Singer and his production team. There are some good discussions on financing and the impact it has on some of the items which needed to be designed and built. We get to see the back offices, some production concepts pinned to the walls, potential location shoots and the construction of some of the props. In addition to this we get the opportunity to look at the train splitting scene from multiple angles, a rehearsal of the fight between Wolverine and Sabretooth ( again using the multi-angle feature ), and an odd piece with the Prime Minister of Canada. From a production point of view this is about as definitive as it gets.
- The Special Effects of the X-Men. - 0:17:28 - 480i/MPEG-2
Only by the advances in visual effects can this film have been made for a somewhat relatively low price, Singer suggests that it perhaps could have been done earlier but at a greater cost. Michael Fink, Visual Effects Supervisor, mentions that his effects are just there to help Singer to tell the story he wants to. Some of the effects are discussed and how they fit into the specific scenes. Additional multi-angle shorts in this section include Senator Kelly and effects include the Liberty Head scene, Toad vs. Jean Grey, Wolverine vs. Mystique and Wolverine vs. Sabretooth.
- Reflection of the X-Men. - 0:08:38 - 480i/MPEG-2
Shot whilst on the set of X-Men II, we have a number of people, Xavier, Logan, Cyclops amongst others discussing their thoughts and feelings whilst making the first X-Men movie. When it finally had its premier the cast and crew were delighted with the reception it was given. Also shown are the Ellis Island Premier; the cast turn up casually dressed especially Halle Berry who comes in a bikini. Other premiers from around the world are also shown.
- Trailers & TV Spots.
As the name suggests, 3 full trailers and 9 TV spots.
- Internet Intersitials. - 0:11:00 - 480i/MPEG-2
12 short marketing pieces which were distributed over the internet in the first instance.
Extras - X2
- Bonus View.
A good bonus view feature with the usual faces popping up in that small lower right window offering further information on this sequel. The cast members appear discussing their roles, Lauren Donner has a lot to say and is essentially a repetition of her later commentary. Guy Dyas has input on the locations and how he dressed the sets to give the feel he wanted.
- In Movie Production Gallery.
A collection of still images which appear on screen throughout the film.
- Commentary with Bryan Singer & Tom Sigel.
Singer and Sigel discussing scene specifics, locations and scene concepts, that cast, effects and how they melded into the film. It's a good light hearted commentary and it is apparent that Singer really is dedicated to the features he creates, the attention to detail he puts into each and every scene. An excellent commentary to listen to, to learn a little bit more about this film.
- Commentary with Lauren Donner Ralph Winter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter.
Discussing the production which went into bringing this feature to the big screen. The sets which needed constructing, the planning which went into effects, the lighting and wire rigging. Lauren Donner mentions how the viewer can find all of the hidden Xs in the feature. Another good commentary to listen to.
- Marvel Universe Trailers. - 1080p/MPEG-4
As disc 1 with the addition of Daredevil and Fantastic Four.
- The Secret Origin of X-Men. - 0:15:26 - 480i/MPEG-2
Stan Lee and Chris Claremont discussing the origins in 1963 of the X-Men, how he decided to make them mutants to explain their super powers. However the powers that be thought that the term 'mutants' might not be accepted because people might not know what the term meant. They both go on to discuss why at the time it was pretty ground-breaking. Not only did it have strong female characters but one of these was coloured, and in the States at that time this would have been a no go area.
- Nightcrawler Reborn. - 0:07:37 - 480i/MPEG-2
Chuck Austen, writer of Nightcrawler, mentioning how he likes the character because he was one of the best he has worked on. He related to the persecution the character had gone through and how he went from Elektra and Iron-Man to this. He admits he was in the right place at the right time, and certainly appreciates the time he has spent with Marvel.
- Nightcrawler Attack - Multi Angle. - 0:02:05 - 480i/MPEG-2
4 angled scenes showing the animatic and unfinished effects scenes, and an amalgamation of the two.
- Evolution in the Details: Designing X2. - 0:18:01 - 480i/MPEG-2
Guy Dyas taking us through some of the pre-production which went into this feature. He's a man I have seen often whilst reviewing and can testify to the sterling work he does. He takes us on location in the school mansion and shows how that was reproduced in the studio. Although there is some specific detail here, this is basically a reproduction of what was included on the X-1 extras disc.
- United Colours of X. - 0:08:57 - 480i/MPEG-2
Louise Mingebach discussing the costumes used on X2. She acknowledges that each character has their own individuality yet need to still show some level of consistency as a group of X-Men. She goes through the costumes for most of the main characters.
- Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal. - 0:01:24 - 480i/MPEG-2
A short showing some of the wire-work that Kelly Hu went through when practising for this scene.
- The Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men:Making X2. - 0:59:27 - 1080i/MPEG-2
Check resolution. Cast, crew and writers discussing how they went from X1 over onto X2, providing continuity whilst not being repetitive. Singer especially indicating that he felt he was only doing half the job on X1; he wanted to explore the characters and their troubles further. Again there is some repetition with the X1 extras disc in terms of what some of the cast have to say, the stunts they went through and their thoughts on the characters but we do get some further insight into their thoughts and actions.
- Introducing the Incredible Nightcrawler. - 0:9:49 - 480i/MPEG-2
As the name suggests this is a brief introduction on the X-Men character. Alan Cummings has his say on the character and the role. Terry Notary, movement coach, also has some input and Cummings respects Notary's background and what he taught him. Some pre-production drawings of the character are shown.
- Nightcrawler Stunt Rehearsal. - 0:02:27 - 1080i/MPEG-2
Essentially a repetition of the earlier multi camera angle 'Nightcrawler Attack' addition, with the animatics and practice for Nightcrawler entering the Oval Office.
- Might-Crawler Time-Lapse. - 0:03:40 - 1080i/MPEG-2
Time lapse photography of Alan Cummings having his Nightcrawler make-up applied. We've all seen make-up extras before but this is interesting to see what is done from start to finish.
- X2 Visual Effects. - 0:24:58 - 1080i/MPEG-2
Michael Fink, effects supervisor, discussing the visual effects needed for X2. The cast have their say working in front of green screen, Fink is obviously a perfectionist as he always wished he could go back and redo some of the things he is unhappy with. That being the case he was happy to have another crack at the X-Men franchise with his film. The dog fight scene is examined in some depth as is Nightcrawlers teleportation and Magneto's plastic prison.
- Requiem for Mutants: The Score of X2. - 0:11:39 - 1080i/MPEG-2
Shots of the orchestra playing the music for X2 whilst John Ottman, editor/composer, telling us of the conductors in his past he grew up with and respects. He discusses themes for the film as a whole and for the individual characters.
- X2 Global Webcast Highlights. - 0:17:01 - 480i/MPEG-2
A collection of chats which were broadcast over the net when X2 was released. We have chats with Byran Singer, Hugh Jackman, Lauren Donner and James Marsden amongst others. It's a QA session with fans submitting questions over a chat room and people giving their responses.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:11:58 - 1080i/MPEG-2
12 deleted scenes in total with a Play All feature. There is an extended Wolverine/Deathstrike fight, Wolverine in action again against an intruder in the school mansion, Mystique looking through Stryker's files, Nightcrawler teleporting to save the students, Jean and Storm in the X-Jet, an extended museum scene, Pyro starting a camp-fire, a child being sick after teleportation, Rogue helping some children escape and Xavier and Cyclops arriving at an empty school. Although the additional Deathstrike fight is a little more interesting than that in the main feature there really is nothing here that should have been included in the final version.
Characters, Locations & Sets, Mutant X-Rays, Nightcrawler Circus Posters, On-Camera Graphics, The Unseen X2. You navigate through these galleries using the skip next / skip previous on your remote. All are interesting enough to some degree, my favourites were the Nightcrawler Circus Posters. The Mutant X-Rays are a little odd to say the least.
- Trailers. - 1080p/MPEG-4
3 trailers for you to look at.
Extras - X3
- Bonus View.
This is the usual Bonus view fodder with a number of different people popping up in a small window in the lower right, giving their opinion on either the series as a whole or the specific scenes in question. The original comic writers are there as are the writers of the screenplay, the director and producers. A better watch and listen than the commentary with some interesting snippets and much more laughs. What we do see here though we can see later in the individual extras package.
- In Movie Photo Gallery.
Throughout the movie still images of the characters appear in a small window.
- Commentary with Brett Ratner, Simon Kinberg & Zak Penn.
An uninteresting commentary with little in the way of information. It tends to be a rather dry scene by scene affair and as such doesn't really give any real insight into any aspects of the film, the characters or the production that we don't get elsewhere in the extras package.
- Commentary with Avi Arad, Lauren Donner & Ralph Winter.
All producers have their say on this second chat track and it's a much better listen that the earlier commentary. It's still a little dry, very professional and based more or less scene by scene. But they do deviate somewhat into additional territory, the roles they had to fulfil, the people they had to work with and the cast employed for X3. It does go a little quiet from time to time but is still a good enough commentary to fit in if you can.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:19:34 - 1080p/MPEG-4
A number of scenes which never made it into the final print. There are some interesting ones in there but in the main there is a good reason as to why they are deleted, although the extended fight sequence at Jean Grey's house was a little more interesting. One has Magneto in a rather dubious looking beard. There is an alternative ending which takes our story full circle.
- Marvel Universe Trailers. - 1080p/MPEG-4
As disc 2.
- Brett Ratner's Production Diary. - 0:41:21 - 1080i.MPEG-2
On location and set with Brett Ratner as he trawls his way through the production of X3. This is interspersed with some clips from the film, especially as we are seeing the shooting location. On the whole it's a good enough journey through the film's making. There are pre-production meetings to discuss scenes, writing or animatics. The sound is not quite right and sometimes you have to strain to hear what Ratner saying. Halle Berry celebrated her 21st birthday whilst filming Xavier's funeral.
- X-Men: Evolution of a Trilogy. - 0:44:58 - 1080i/MPEG-2
The usual EPK for the release of this film. Input from producer Lauren Donner, Patrick Stewart and other cast members. Stewart essentially gives a brief history of the mutants you can expect to find in these three films; the Brotherhood, those in his care and the ones who make up the X-Men team. There are clips from all three films, and it's a good enough documentary albeit one which tries to cover too many bases and would perhaps have been a little better if it had concentrated on just X3 itself.
- X3: The Excitement Continues. - 0:21:16 - 1080p/MPEG-4
A continuation of the previous documentary but only concentrating on X3. It's pretty much more of the same, with location shoots, cast members having their say with Ralph Winter (producer) contributing adding that it's good and important to see the same cast and glad that Ratner was brought on board for this instalment. Stan Lee's there again giving his opinion and relating this back to his original ideas.
- X-Men Up Close.
A Java controlled applet allowing you to look into the history of any mutant in X3 at your leisure. Controlled via your handset you navigate to your chosen mutant, press enter and you are then presented with a brief snippet of the character from the film followed by some facts and figures about them. There is a mass of information here which any X-Men fan will love trawling through.
- Anatomy of Science: Golden Gate Bridge. - 0:12:03 - 1080p/MPEG-4.
Bridges were quite important in the X-Men comic world with Magneto using them time and again to his own advantage. The producers wanted something like that for this feature and so decided to instruct the visual effects team to start work on the Golden Gate Bridge. They worked on pre-production ideas and drawings before they finally came up with the scenes they thought would work well on film.
- Generation X: Comic Book History. - 1:08:32 - 1080i/MPEG-2.
A must for fans of the X-Men and comic books alike. Len Wein, co-creator and writer of the New X-Men initially introduces us to this piece telling us of the writers who worked on the project, the different formats of the magazine and how the characters evolved during its run. A number of different writers have their input and say on the pieces they worked on. There's a number of other facts and figures in this and it's a worthy watch.
- For Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School. - 0:26:14 - 480i/MPEG-2
Ralph Winter being questioned by three film school students. Questions such as... how did you get into filming, what do you enjoy about it, what screenings do you go to as well as licensing and marketing. This is a throw away piece really, but if you're currently studying film or media then this might be a good enough watch.
- Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session. - 0:10:05 - 480i/MPEG-2
Stan Lee saying this is like a soap opera so it's important to get the casting correct. The cast saying how they had to treat the characters with respect, Ralph Winter going on to say how they couldn't only make these characters for the comic book fans but those new to the series.
- Vignettes. - 0:27:05 - 1080p/MPEG-4
7 in total covering prophesies, politics, costumes, make-up, weapons, effects and flying. All cover various aspects of the three films which we have never seen before and are a good enough watch.
- Blogs. - 0:14:17 - 1080p/MPEG-4
4 Blogs with a Play All function. A selection of shorts which are essentially fast paced, fast edited video diaries of some aspects of production, specific scenes, and editing.
- Previz Animatics. - 0:25:45 - 480i/MPEG-2
A number of short pre-production animatic scenes. Just what you would expect from this kind of extra really. Some of the scenes never made it into the final version.
- Galleries for Characters and Concept Art.
The usual fodder navigated via the skip next / skip previous buttons on your remote. The character galleries ( 12 of them in total ) can be played individually Similarly the concept and art galleries are sectioned into storyboards, art and models for a number of specific scenes.
- Trailers. - 1080p/MPEG-4
Three trailers to choose from, the extended trailer alone runs at just over seven minutes.
Well there you have it, a selection of commentaries and Bonus View content for all three films coupled with a detailed selection of extras that any film and studio would have been proud of. For many a long time Fox were ridiculed by the sparten set of extras they used to provide on their back catalogue releases. That accusation cannot be applied here though, this is about as good as it's going to get from any extra package.
The disc for X1 makes use of a further Java applet which allows you to dig deeper into the documentary when the X-Men symbol appears on screen.
All three make full use of the colour coded buttons for accessing the audio commentaries, bonus view content and production stills. This is a fantastic use of these buttons and a great way to navigate through the commentaries and bonus view features.
There's a wealth of information over the three extra discs and it's not just there for the sheer sake of it either; all of it is more or less worth a watch, with a few certainly highly recommended. I can't mark this one any less than full marks.
Appropriately for this time of year, there's an Easter Egg on the third disc. Whilst on the main menu and the cursor is on the PLAY option, press the up arrow on your remote. A red X-Men symbol will appear taking you into a short additional deleted scene.
As a Blu-ray set though this is unlikely to be matched for some time. The video is head and shoulders over the earlier DVD releases and even X-Men III seems to score slightly over its initial BD release due in part to the amount of additional space on the dual layer discs these now come on. On the audio front there is no comparison at all, all three are wonderful pieces of technical achievement and these will be the discs you will be reaching for to demo off that sparkly new high definition capable audio receiver of yours. There is some duplication in the extras across all three discs but let's face it even with these trimmed out it still doesn't really get any better than this.
Pure and simple this is a must buy, it's a glorious trilogy to have your hands on and with X-Men Origins: Wolverine just around the corner this is the perfect time to sit back and reacquaint yourself with some engaging storylines and characters who have history, desire and purpose. Even though in recent years the whole comic book to movie system seems to rebooting itself annually, and going from strength to strength, these are still more than worthy of a place on those Blu-ray shelves of yours.
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