X-Men Trilogy (X-Men, X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand) 
Blu-ray Action-Adventure
Written by Noah Fleming   
Wednesday, 29 April 2009

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Fox, in association with Marvel, has finally brought the rest of the X-Men collection to Blu-ray.  "X-Men: The Last Stand" was one of the first Blu-ray discs to hit the market.  The first two discs were mysteriously absent.  But now, not only has Fox released all three movies, they have released them as a boxset that includes nine discs.  Everything you need from the X-Men is included in this trilogy set.

("X-Men" - Film: 4/5)
In the summer of 2000, Fox released one of the most anticipated comic book films into theaters.  The film was well received, though it wasn't as good as it was hyped.  Nonetheless, the success of the first film spawned two follow-ups.  This weekend will mark an unofficial fourth X-Men film, "Wolverine."

"X-Men" introduces us to the primary X-Men characters.  All three films are essentially centered on the story of Logan, Wolverine.  Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart, who is absolutely perfect for the role.  I always envisioned him as Professor X.) has opened the School For Gifted Youngsters in upstate New York.  Some of his first students were Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Scott Sommers, Cyclops (James Mardsen) and Aurora Monroe, Storm (Halle Berry).  The mansion is filled with all our familiar mutants as youngsters.  Most of them are left unnamed, but are recognizable by the powers that they exhibit.

In this first installment, Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue )Anna Paquin) come to be saved by Cyclops and Storm.  Rogue takes well to the school, but Logan is the stubborn type that doesn't buy into any goodness.  He wants nothing but to escape from the school.  However, Professor X makes a deal with him.  He wants time to figure out what Magneto wants with him and in return he will shed some light on Logan's troubled past.

Logan agrees, however, mostly out of infatuation for Jean Grey.  Logan and Cyclops never really get along, as they both view for Grey's heart.  Of course Scott already has her heart.  Meanwhile, the politicians are trying to decide what to do with this "mutant problem."  Proponents want nothing more than to lock them all away.  Professor X believes in the goodness of mankind, while Magneto is the rival, believing that mutants should rule the world.

In an effort to speed up the evolutionary process, Magneto kidnaps Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison).  Magneto plans to infect the world's leading politicians with a radiation that will transform them into mutants.  Naturally, the X-Men are going to get in the way.

The first film, develops the relationships between the X-Men, especially Wolverine and Rogue.  The film has some good moments and bad moments.  I never understood why Jean Grey just keeps saying, "wait.  Wait" during the final sequence.  There is no reason to prolong Cyclops blasting.  Anyway, overall, "X-Men is a great theatrical screen presentation of a complex comic book.

("X2: X-Men United" - Film: 4.5/5)
The second film, "X2: X-Men United" is my favorite of the series.  The story is much more complex.  The only issue I have is that so many doors were opened in this film that were never answered in the film nor in the third installment.  That is ultimately where all the X-Men films fail.  There are several subplots that get introduced, on purpose and unintentionally that never get touched again.  That is the drawback of transforming any complex saga into films.

In X2, Wolverine is still searching for his past.  William Stryker (Brian Cox) is introduced to open up how Wolverine was created.  With Magneto in a plastic prison, Stryker becomes the villain of the film.  He plans to carry on with Magneto's plan, but in reverse.  Stryker wants to wipe out all mutants.  Stryker has developed a neural inhibiting liquid that he uses to find out about the School for Gifted Youngsters and Cerebro.  Stryker plans on using Cerebro to have Professor Xavier mentally kill all mutants.

X2 also pays more attention to Jean Grey and the powers that she has developed since the radiation storm at the end of the first film.  She is becoming more powerful with her mind as her psyche begins to split.  This will be the central element of the third film.

Magneto escapes from his prison with the help of Mystique (Rebecca Romijn).  He rescues the X-Men from a plan crash so that they may help him get to Xavier and reverse the machine to kill all humans.

This second film is non-stop excitement.  There isn't as much action as in the third film, but every scene is engaging and has something to offer.

("X-Men: The Last Stand" - Film: 4/5)
The final X-Men installment is "X-Men: The Last Stand."  This is the most action packed film of the three, and has a lot to offer in terms of mutant evolution.  I actually thoroughly enjoyed this film and find it equal to the first film, if not better.  It gets a bad rap as far as I am concerned.

Using the Phoenix saga of the X-Men story, Jean Grey is reborn after her needless martyr act at the end of the second film.  X-Men 3 is very dark, as Jean Grey psyche has splintered, releasing the dark within her, an area of her brain that Xavier had blocked off.  Once again, everything that happens in the third installment opens up unanswered doors.  Of course the ending leaves room for more X-Men films, but sadly there are none in development.  Instead the saga has been moved to focus on Wolverine's past.  Form the trailers it appears that the new film will have some mutants in it as well, such as Gambit, who was sorely lacking from all three original films.

Rogue begins to truly long to be normal so that she is capable of human contact.  It just so happens that a laboratory has announced the cure for mutants.  Rogue takes off in search of this cure, especially when she sees her boyfriend Bobby hanging around with Kitty (Ellen Page).  Sadly, this is one of the drawbacks of the film.  Rogue is absent for pretty much the entire film and only shows up at the end.  She doesn't take place in any of the central plot elements.

Jean Grey has teamed up with Magneto, who has recruited an army of mutants, and plans an onslaught of the laboratory with the cure.  Dr. Hank McCoy, Beast (Kelsey Grammer) joins the X-Men squad, with which he apparently had a past.  With Xavier gone, the X-Men must regroup in order to stop Magneto.

Bryan Singer departed from the direction of this film so that he could take on "Superman Returns."  Instead Brett Ratner directs the third X-Men film.  However, I don't think it was his directing that disappointed fans, it was more of what happens to Xavier, Jean and Scott.  It just makes this a depressing blockbuster action film.

("X-Men" Video Quality – 4/5)
"X-Men" comes to Blu-ray with an AVC MPEG-4 video transfer and a 2.35:1 aspect ratio.  The video is stellar, but not quite up to par with newer Blu-ray transfers.  The colors are accurate for each of the scenes.  Outdoor scenes are vibrant, while the interior cave scenes are appropriately drained.  The details are clearly visible, however they do lack utter sharpness.  The fleshtones tend to be unbalanced, pushing toward the higher end of the spectrum.  Black levels are good but not as full range as they could be.  Film grain is extremely minor in this Blu-ray transfer and there are only occasional blemishes.  This transfer bests the previous standard definition transfers with ease.

("X-Men" Audio Quality – 4.5/5)
"X-Men" comes with a DTS-HD 5.1 audio track that is stellar.  It would be given a 5 star rating, however, it falls short of the bar set by "X2."  So, "X-Men" gets docked a half of a star just because it is outshined by "X2."  The dialogue is clear but slightly unstable.  The surround channels are terrifically used.  Front and rear divergence is effective.  The panning is near flawless.  The dynamic range is extensive and the frequency response is near perfect.  The LFE channel shines when necessary but drops just a little too much during some sequences.  The DTS-HD track does wonders for the clarity of the soundfield.

("X2: X-Men United" Video Quality – 4.5/5)
The MPEG-4 transfer of this second film in the trilogy is better and worse than the first film.  Ultimately, the transfer benefits outweigh the drawbacks to become a better transfer than its predecessor.  The black levels are slightly improved, but still suffer from a lack of shadow delineation.  The details are much sharper in this encode.  Textures pop off the screen.  The fleshtones are improved but still slightly over saturated.  For some reason or another film grain has also increased in this second film.  However, the improvement in the fleshtones and details more than make up for any shortcomings.

("X2: X-Men United" Audio Quality – 5/5)
As mentioned above, the audio quality of "X2" is exquisite.  There is really nothing to fault here.  The surround use is lively and appropriate.  The front/rear divergence and panning is all exceptional.  The dialogue is stable and clear.  LFE use is perfect.  There is nothing more to say about this audio track.  The DTS-HD track has great frequency and dynamic range.

("X-Men: The Last Stand" Video Quality – 4.5/5)
The third X-Men film was originally released back in 2006 and is being re-released as a special edition and part of this trilogy boxset.  While the disc has been upgraded from a single layer to a dual layer disc, the video quality remains roughly the same.  This transfer contains the most film grain of all three films.  It becomes slightly annoying here and there, but nothing to get in tizzy over.  The details are equivalent to those in the first X-Men film.  This is mainly due to the softness created by the CGI effect sequences.  The colors a nicely saturated and fleshtones appear accurate.  The black levels are consistent and shadow delineation is impressive.  The vertical banding that was present in the previous encode are virtually eliminated in this release.  Still, there isn't enough difference between the first and second releases of this film to make this a worthwhile upgrade.  However, when considering this as part of the X-Men boxset it is certainly worth it.

("X-Men: The Last Stand" Audio Quality – 5/5)
Fox has given us the same stellar DTS-HD audio track here as the 2006 release.  Alone among the X-Men Blu-ray transfers, this disc contains a 6.1 audio track which is actually worthwhile.  The LFE channel is bombastic.  It is always on par with the scene.  The dialogue is crystal clear.  Surround use is extensive and well balanced in the soundfield.  The front and rear divergence is perfect, as is the panning from channel to channel.  This is a film that could truly benefit from a 7.1 mix, but alas we only have a 6.1 track.  But the additional rear center channel is used quite nicely.  However, be forewarned.  If you are using bipolar or dipole surround speakers then you will hear absolutely no benefit in the additional center channel.  Directional speakers are necessary to here the panning from left surround to rear center to right surround.

This trilogy boxset of the X-Men films comes in a 9-disc package, which is simply incredible.  Inside the cardboard box you will find three standard plastic Blu-ray cases, each containing three discs.

("X-Men" Special Features – 4.5/5)
The first X-Men film comes with two discs of special features and a digital copy disc.  The first disc contains the feature film and an assortment of special features.  There is an audio commentary with director Bryan Singer and Brian Peck, a friend and cameo actor in "X-Men."  This commentary is broad and offers lots of information.  Behind-The-Scenes Footage can be viewed during playback of the film and offers little tidbits.  There is a section of typical deleted/extended scenes with an optional commentary.  "The Mutant Watch" is a featurette covering the mutant problem.  "Charlie Rose Interview with Bryan Singer" is self-explanatory.  Disc one also contains an art gallery and a few TV spots.  Lastly, the first disc contains Animatics of two different sequences.

The second disc contains a section called "Evolution X."  This material is available during the playback of the film when an "X" appears on the screen.  First there is an introduction by Bryan Singer.  There are five parts to the documentary.  "The Uncanny Suspects" examines the casts' prior knowledge of the X-Men characters.  Screen tests are also in this section.  "X-Factor Costume/Makeup Tests and Image Gallery" contains a plethora of information in this section about the creation of each character and the costume/makeup process.  "Production Documentary Scrapbook" contains pre-production process information.  "The Special Effects of the X-Men is self-explanatory.  Lastly there is a featurette called, "Reflection of the X-Men Retrospective" is a reminiscing feature.  Lastly, the second disc contains "Marketing the X-Men," Theatrical Trailers, TV Spots and Internet Interstitials.  The third disc is a digital copy of the film.

("X2: X-Men United" Special Features – 4/5)
Disc one of "X2" contains two audio commentaries.  The first is with director Bryan Singer and Cinematographer Tom Sigel.  This commentary is an easy listen but still full of information.  The second audio commentary is with and assortment of writers and producers.  This commentary is a little bit more difficult to follow and should be reserved for hardcore fans of the film.  The only other feature on disc one is that it is enhanced for D-Box.

The first feature on the second disc is "History of the X-Men."  In this featurette there is "The Secret Origin of X-Men" and "Nightcrawler Reborn."  This featurette discusses the characters of the "X2" film.  There is extensive making of featurettes that are included in the "Pre-Production," "Production" and "Post-Production" sections.  "The Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men" is a making-of documentary.  The second disc also contains a section of deleted scenes, still galleries and theatrical trailers.  The third disc is a digital copy.

("X-Men: The Last Stand" Special Features – 4.5/5)
The final X-Men installment also contains three discs.  The first disc contains the feature film along with d-Box enhancement and two audio commentaries.  The first commentary is with director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn.  The second track is with three of the film's producers.  Both tracks are decent but not as good as any of the first two film's audio commentaries.  Nonetheless, the commentaries will offer fans some interesting behind the scenes information.

The second disc contains the bulk of the special features.  This disc contains the following: "Brett Ratner's Production Diary," "X-Men: Evolution of a Trilogy," "X3: The Excitement Continues," "X-Men Up Close" Still and Video Gallery, "Anatomy of a Scene," "Generation X: Comic Book History" Documentary," "Fox Movie Channel Presents Life After Film School," "Fox Movie Channel Presents Casting Session," "High-Definition Vignettes and Blogs," Previz Animatics, Behind-the-Scenes Still Galleries and theatrical trailers.  The third disc contains a digital copy of the film.

The X-Men trilogy is a long awaited Fox release.  And Fox surely does not disappoint.  The video quality is exceptional and the audio quality is absolutely superb. The release has also been packed with special features beyond the scope of most releases.  There is no way that I am not going to see the Wolverine movie that is coming out this weekend.  I suggest that you get this trilogy at once.  It is a must own for any Blu-ray collection, both for movie caliber and video/audio quality.
Studio 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
MPAA Rating PG-13
Starring Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Patrick Stewart, James Marsden, Ellen Page, Rebecca Romijn, Bruce Davidson, Ian McKellen, Brian Cox, Alan Cumming, Kelly Hu, Shawn Ashmore, Kelsey Grammer
Director Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner
Film Release Year 2000, 2003, 2006
Release Year 2009
Resolution(s) 1080p (main feature) • 1080p (supplements) • 480i (supplements)
Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 • 2.35:1
Running Time 1 hr 44 mins., 2 hr. 14 mins., 1 hr. 44 mins.
Sound Formats English Dolby Digital 5.1 • English DTS-HD Master 6.1 • French Dolby Digital 5.1 • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles Cantonese • Chinese • English SDH • Korean • Portuguese • Spanish
Special Features Director, Producer, Screenwriter Audio Commentaries; Deleted Scenes; Still Galleries; Theatrical Trailers; Featurettes; Animatics
Forum Link http://www.avrev.com/forum
Reviewer Noah Fleming

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