'X2' is presented in widescreen 2.35:1 with MPEG-4 AVC 1080p coding.
The 'X1' Blu-ray release offered a significant upgrade to the already impressive DVD edition. The second movie is no exception to this trend and boasts an even more polished video presentation. The swirling mutated DNA strands of the opening credits are stunning, with impressive three-dimensionality and depth. As with the 'X1' BD release I'm delighted to report that there is absolutely zero grain present on this release. I recall that on the DVD release the opening Whitehouse scenes had a significant granular presence; it's a credit to the remastering team who have completely eradicated any evidence of this effect (although some may disagree with this choice). The colouring is also pristine throughout, with the deep reds of the carpets in the Whitehouse, the solid indigo of Nightcrawler's flesh and the subtle green hue of Alkali Lake all perfectly presented. The contrast ratio is very strong throughout with an increase in shadow detail. The print is also immaculate with zero traces of any print damage or compression artifacts.
The increase in the level of detail is phenomenal on this release. The vapor residue that Nightcrawler leaves following his teleportation has a sharp definition that is even more pronounced at 1080p. Nightcrawler himself also looks more menacing, especially during the opening sequence, which I attribute to the fact that his facial features are now perfectly defined. His eyes and pointed teeth glow brilliant white in stark contrast to the deep scarred indigo of his flesh. Individual ice crystals are visible on Wolverine's hand following Iceman's cold introduction; the decrepit interior of the Alkali Lake bunker with its pitted and dilapidated steel structure is now perfectly rendered; the sonic distortion created by the Bluebird and the rivets in its hull now stand out with sharp definition. The level of detail in clothing is also noticeable with the damage inflicted by Lady Deathstrike on Wolverine's jumpsuit, the sparkling detail of Nightcrawler's jacket and the subtle patterns of Xavier's suits now clearer than ever before. The scenic shots of the Canadian wilderness and Alkali Lake are presented with incredible definition, with perfectly rendered icy blues and jaw dropping depth. In fact the majority of the scenes do demonstrate depth, with the Cereboro chamber scenes and the fighter jet sequences (as well as some of the Alkali Lake bunker segments) being standouts.
There's also a couple of scenes which demonstrate that sought after “3D pop” factor, for example, the scene where Magneto “rearranges” Cereboro and the jet fighter sequence. The video presentation really is immaculate and there are a huge number of additional design aspects visible on this release when compared to previous DVD releases. So pronounced is this difference that it's almost like watching the movie again for the first time (even if you do know how it ends!). This really is a reference quality release and comes highly recommended.
'X2' comes packed with a powerful 5.1 dts HD Master Audio lossless surround track.
Like the video presentation the audio presentation on this BD release is vastly superior to the previous DVD dts track. The score/audio effects during the opening credits are sublime with powerful bass notes and impressive surround activity. This is merely a taster though as we move onto the Nightcrawler attack sequence. While being the most exciting opening to any movie, in my opinion, this sequence also has an incredible accompanying audio sequence. Nightcrawler's teleporting is accompanied by a beautiful “bampf” sound effect that almost pops as he rapidly disappears/reappears. He moves around the soundstage with pinpoint precision and at one stage he can be heard performing a full circle around the listening position as he circles the Oval Office on screen. The bodies that he drops from mid air also land with a resounding thump from the subwoofer with contributing cries of panic from the surround channels. The gunshots from the President's security guards also ricochet around the room and behind the listening position. This really is a demo piece of audio material and an audio delight.
The surround speakers are used to great effect at every possible juncture in 'X2'. Aside from the opening sequence, the effect as Jean hears other people's thoughts, multiple instances of Xavier using Cerebero and all the gunshots fired in the underground bunker provide very immersive surround activity and pin-point steerage. This lossless track grants the soundstage with a clarity and depth that was just not present in previous releases. When Jean's mind is intruded upon by the thoughts of others and when Xavier is using his powers against the mutants/humans (through Cereboro) the audio takes on a piercing quality which really enhances the on screen pain that those affected are experiencing. There are also plenty of subtleties throughout, such as the distant rumble of Wolverine's motorbike approaching in the distance, the chatter of malfunction as the Bluebird jet is hit by a missile, the distortion on Mystique's voice. All of the impact scenes from the Bluebird crash, the kick from its afterburner, Pyro's fireballs, Magneto's magnetic field, and the tornado's that Storm calls forth have a bass injection that is perfectly weighted which, in conjunction with the activity from the other speakers, lends a real presence to all these scenes. The colossal dam breach sequence literally flooded my living room with a sonic wave with all speakers, especially the subwoofer, coming into play.
The score (Jon Ottman composed this time around), like in 'X1', is immense and really adds to the entire presentation. It comes to the forefront to add excitement to the action sequences while also seeping into the soundstage to fill the gaps left by some of the more subdued moments of reflection and breaks in the action. For example, the rendition of Mozart's "Dies Irae" during Nightcrawler's opening segment adds weight and presence to the already impressive audio effects during this sequence. The score sits perfectly in the mix and has perfectly balanced tonality and surround bleed.
The high definition upgrade on this release is most definitely audible and this BD release contains a reference quality surround track. It's a constant high quality aural assault that comes highly recommended.
'X2' comes to Blu-ray as a feature packed two disc edition and also has two commentary tracks. . Like the BD release of 'X1' the majority of extra features on 'X2' are a direct port from the DVD release, although the branching and multi—camera angle features of 'X1' BD are absent here. We've also got the D-Box motion code which will come in handy when I win the lotto!
Tom Siegal, the director of cinematography on 'X2', joins director Brian Singer on the first commentary track. This is, for the most part, a technical commentary which focuses on how all the scenes were put together (with insight into CGI effects) and character concepts/development (as well as explaining new character introduction). Both add a huge wealth of background information on the making of this movie, right down to titbits such as importing 20 tonnes of snow for the Alkali Lake exterior sets and Singer making a cameo! There's not a whole lot of banter between the two so the presentation is somewhat dry (with a few silent segments) but extremely interesting. Singer does most of the talking and makes the commentary a bit more personable with insight into how the actors behaved off camera and shares some amusing anecdotes. The second commentary features Lauren Schuler Donner (producer), Ralph Winter (producer), Michael Dougherty (co-writer), Dan Harris (co-writer) and David Hayter (screenwriter). Again this is a very technical track which explores all facets of the various scenes and how they were shot and conceived, as well as giving explanation on the story. These guys know the source material inside out and provide a very informative track, even if the participants seem somewhat nervous leading to a couple silent segments
Marvel Universe Trailers - A collection of high definition trailers for 'Wolverine: Origins', 'X-Men: The Last Stand', 'X-Men 2', 'Daredevil' and 'The Fantastic Four'.
“The Secret Origin of the X-Men” (15mins) - A feature with Stan Lee and Chris Claremont (X-Men writer) explaining the history of the X-Men from their origins 1963. They also provide expansion on the characters themselves. It's interesting to note that an X-Men movie was planned in 1989 with James Cameron on board to direct but the movie ultimately didn't come to light. The crew of 'X2' (including Singer the producers) also give insight into how the X-Men finally made it to the big screen.
“Nightcrawler Reborn” (7mins) - A feature with Chuck Austen (Marvel “Nightcrawler” writer) on Nightcrawler. There's information on the comic book evolution of Nightcrawler and the concepts for his story in the movie. There's also an in depth look the accompanying movie comic book prequel.
“Nightcrawler Attack” ( 2mins) - A short feature on the Nightcrawler Whitehouse sequence with four camera angles, each with varying levels of special effect completion.
“Evolution in the Details” (18mins) - Guy Dyas ('X2' production designer) hosts this feature on the various design aspects of 'X2'. We get to see various aspects of set, costume and character design as well as plenty of concept artwork. Guy also takes us onto the sets and shows us plenty of behind the scenes footage. It's clear from this documentary that the attention to detail is phenomenal on 'X2'.
“The Colours of X” (9mins) - Louise Mingbachv ('X2' costume designer) hosts this feature which focuses on the costume design of 'X2'. As with the production aspects, the attention to detail is immense (such as an effort to include “X's” on all the clothing where possible). There's some concept artwork and explanation on the upgrades and improvements which were made to the costumes for the second movie.
Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal (1min) - A pretty cool featurette (with completed audio effects) of the Wolverine/Deathstrike fight rehearsal with stunt doubles.
“The Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men - Making X2” (59mins) - This is an in depth documentary which looks at the creation of 'X2'. Singer gives insight into the creation process for this movie and how he felt as though the first movie was almost like a trailer for a bigger movie. The screenwriters also speak on how the intellectual plot of the second movie was of some concern. All the cast also comment on how the second movie was a much bigger and better affair, with everyone much more comfortable on set. There's also plenty of behind the scenes footage (such as the 3, 500 pound wall of ice arriving and Anna Paquin's stunt sequence) as well as excerpts from the finished product. Almost all aspects of the creation of 'X2' are explored in this highly informative documentary.
“Introducing the Incredible Nightcrawler” (10mins) - An interview feature with Alan Cummings wherein he explains all aspects of playing the role of Nightcrawler (including 8 hours of makeup!). There's also plenty of behind the scenes and rehearsal footage.
“Nightcrawler Stunt Rehearsal” (2mins) - Stunt rehearsal footage, including animatic footage, of the Nightcrawler attack sequence.
“FX2 Visual Effects" (24mins) - Michael Fink (visual effects supervisor) speaks about all the special effects on 'X2' and how he was not 100% happy with the visual effects from 'X1'. He explains that there is almost twice the number of visual effects in the second movie, all of which are more complex. The tornado/jet sequence, Nightcrawler's teleporting effects, Magneto's prison escape, the Cereboro “search” sequences and the dam burst all feature, with insight from the CGI wizards who made them possible.
“Requiem for Mutants: The Score of X2” (11mins) - A featurette on the score of 'X2' which features an interview with John Ottman and also behind the scenes footage of the orchestral rehearsals. Each of the various themes from the movie are explored here, with excerpts from the movie with an isolated score.
“X2 Global Webcast Highlights” (17mins) - A feature which is basically
Singer, the producers and cast answering questions posed to them from fans around the world following the global release of 'X2' (which was the largest simultaneous global movie release at the time).
Deleted Scenes - A collection of ten deleted/extended scenes from the movie. The first is an extension of the Wolverine/Deathstrike fight. The second is the scene from the movie where Wolverine kills one of Stryker's soldiers (I couldn't see any difference). The third is an extension of the scene where Mystique infiltrates Lady Deathstrike's computer. The fourth is a slightly different take on the Nightcrawler/mutant children rescue scene. The fifth hints at Jean's hidden power. The sixth is an expansion on the opening museum sequence which features Jubilee. The seventh is a deleted scene which hints at Pyro's true feelings. The eigth shows a young mutant being sick following a Nightcrawler teleportation. The ninth is an expansion on the school escape sequence. The tenth is a deleted scene where Jason helps Xavier “escape” from the bunker. Most are interesting but are no great loss to the main feature.
Galleries - A huge collection of high definition stills and images from 'X2' covering all aspects of the movie including the characters, sets/locations, mutant X-rays, Nightcrawler's circus posters and also artwork featuring Angel, the danger room and the Sentinels, which all failed to make it into the finished product.
Trailers- A collection of three high definition trailers for 'X2'.
With 'X2' Singer has taken every aspect of the X-Men's first big screen outing and improved on it. There are larger action set pieces, an even more exciting plot and plenty of opportunity for all the mutants featured to show off their special abilities at some stage. We've also got a couple of new characters one of which, Nightcrawler, opens the movie with a sequences that will blow most viewers away the first time they it. Singer directs in a manner which is highly stylized and really brings out the best from the perfect ensemble cast. 'X2' comes highly recommended and is one of those rare instances where a sequel betters the original by a considerable margin.
Both the audio and video presentations on 'X2' offer very significant upgrades from previous DVD releases. With a pristine video presentation with bold colouring and a striking high definition picture, in conjunction with a reference audio track, this should be in every home cinema enthusiasts arsenal.
'X2' comes as a double disc set with plenty of extras that provide plenty of behind the scenes footage. There's also two commentary tracks which are very informative, with Singer's track providing invaluable insight into the movie-making process on 'X2'. With an excellent movie, a reference quality audio and video track and a whole host of extras there's nothing to stop you from buying this release!
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