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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » X-Men (Blu-ray)
X-Men (Blu-ray)
Fox // PG-13 // April 21, 2009 // Region A
List Price: $34.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted April 29, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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I know it wasn't the first superhero movie to come along, but X-Men was certainly the film that started the everlasting trend. Superhero films have come a long way since its release, so it's interesting to see how this movie fares after so many other franchises have tried their hand at perfecting the formula. Unsurprisingly, this movie still holds up pretty well a decade after its initial release, although some of its flaws are more apparent to me now than they were when I first saw it during my teen years.

Knowledge of the existence of mutants has become widespread, and the human race is still teetering on how they feel about it. Some are scared for their safety and others are sitting on the fence, susceptible to whatever 'evidence' is put in their way to sway them. Senator Kelly sees an opportunity to pad his political career by proposing the creation of a mandatory mutant registry. Under the guise of his political platform, he warns everyone that's willing to listen that a mutant in a public school is no different than a child that brings in a handgun. A weapon is a weapon and mutants can wield theirs with a dangerous level of discretion, and such is the reason why a list of mutants along with their abilities should be kept on record.

Unfortunately for everyone involved, the message doesn't just penetrate into the core of the human population, it also causes a rift between many members of the mutant community. Professor Xavier runs a school for those that are gifted with powers, teaching them how to control those gifts so they're not a danger to other people, or even themselves. His goal is to ultimately see humans blend seamlessly into society. Magneto is on the opposite end of the spectrum, as he's trying to rally and seclude mutants from the rest of society to ensure their survival.

The political agenda from Senator Kelly, as well as the introduction of mutants Wolverine and Rogue, set the tipping point for Magneto to finally take action. A diabolical plan is set in motion that is meant to transform the biological makeup of every human into that of a mutant, forcing an end to the 'normies vs power freaks' debate. Not the worst theory in the world for peace despite how wrong it may be, but Magneto's method doesn't work as planned. Instead of turning humans into mutants, his methods instead break down a person's DNA until they're nothing more than the most basic element of the body, water. Magneto could care less that his plan of mass mutation has transformed into the extermination of the human race however, and is determined to carry it out no matter what the cost. Professor Xavier knows the only way mutants will ever be accepted, is if they can prove their worth in the society they've already existed in for so long, and that dream will never come to fruition if Magneto is successful in his wage for war against humanity. Knowing the plan for extermination must be stopped, it's up to him and his trusted band of protectors, the X-Men, to put an end to the human apocalypse.

As far as the plot is concerned, its execution is near flawless throughout the first half of the film. Character introduction was as good anyone could have hoped for, and the mounting tension between different players in the mutant community was incredibly effective. Watching the politics at play within Washington had clever enough writing to back it as well, making it feel like it was a page from a history book from an alternate reality. Even after seeing superhero flicks like The Dark Knight or even Iron Man, I found myself still totally immersed by the story as it was unfolding.

Bryan Singer had the incredibly difficult task of introducing the X-Men to the big screen without disappointing a rabid fan base, and he did a pretty decent job. Although it's true plenty of liberties were taken with the costume design and some of the back stories, I feel most of these changes were justified because they're effective enough to bring the audience closer to the 'reality' presented in the film. What really drove the characters home though were the spot on portrayals of Wolverine, Professor Xavier, Jean Gray, and Magneto. There were a lot of characters Singer had to juggle between though, and it becomes blatantly obvious it was a bit much for him to handle in the latter half of the film. Storm and Cyclops were much weaker in both presence and personality than we're used to seeing from the comics for example.

Magneto's team undoubtedly took the biggest hit of all though, because iconic villains such as Mystique, Toad and Sabretooth, were all reduced to cartoonish goons. In fact, once Magneto's team really comes into play is when the movie starts to finally lose its steam. The first half of the movie is all about character introduction, character development from within the core of the X-Men, and the progression of the plot. All of a sudden Magneto's squad of buffoons come in to try and stop the iconic clan of heroes, and the rest of the movie is reduced to nothing more than a summer popcorn action flick at best.

So the first entry of the X-Men film franchise ended up being far from the perfection die-hard fans had been waiting for. It started off on solid enough ground though. The plot was fascinating and brought its universe to life well enough, but eventually ended up collapsing under the number of characters it had to maintain. It doesn't help that many of the special effects look absolutely hideous either. That being said, the good aspects of the film outweigh the bad just enough to still be an entertaining flick that's bound to gain repeat viewings for some time to come.


Video

X-Men is encoded at 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC codec, and is faithfully presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

The transfer of this Blu-ray is excellent for a film that's a decade old. Colors were incredibly vibrant and jumped off the screen throughout most of the picture, and were further enhanced by a contrast level that was able to produce shockingly bright white levels, while keeping black levels fairly dynamic throughout most of the film. This movie boasts so many different visual styles that I'm surprised at how well the film looks in its entirety. Everything from the night scenes to the day scenes were spot on. Heck, even the color tweaked origins of Magneto and Wolverine were presented without looking too dull or having the colors blown out.

The film has a piece of dirt that shows up from time to time, but the print is much cleaner than I expected it to be. There are no compression artifacts or EE to complain about, and the film's grain has been preserved in full. The only real complaint I have about the Blu-ray release is how wildly inconsistent the clarity and sharpness was. Much of the film is much more detailed than I ever thought would have been possible, providing an amazing level of dimensionality to everything on the screen. Other scenes are incredibly soft though, if not blurry, completely destroying that level of depth that appears so dominantly throughout the rest of the film.

That being said, this is the best X-Men has ever looked on home video. Fox has once again provided a very nice release for one of its most anxiously awaited titles to the format.


Audio

Wow. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is stellar. The dialogue is crisp and clean, the music swells majestically, the bass is thunderous, and that's just the beginning. The film is completely immersive from frame one, utilizing the rears not just for subtle sounds from the environment, but makes fantastic use of them in all the action sequences. The dynamic range is just as impressive. One minute you'll be listening to some quiet dialogue and the next you're going to be blown off of the couch! If you're not impressed enough with the video transfer, the audio track is enough of a reason to upgrade from your old DVD alone!


Extras

Disc 1 -

Commentary with Director Bryan Singer and Brian Peck - This commentary pulls out all the stops that a commentary fan could ever want. The conversation never gets too dull or dry, and that's because the duo behind the mic is incredibly informative in numerous areas of the film's production, and there's hardly any dead air to complain about. If you're a fan of this film or the X-Men in general, you're going to want to check this out.

Enhanced Viewing Mode - The enhanced viewing mode enables the audience at home to add a variety of extended and deleted scenes into the film, as well as being able to listen to extended commentary with the additional footage. Also accessible through the Enhanced Viewing Mode menu are some Behind the Scenes Footage.

Deleted/Extended Scenes with Optional Commentary - The additional scenes that are able to be inserted into the film directly via the Enhanced Viewing Mode are available on their own here, again with the option to listen to a bit of commentary with each.

The Mutant Watch Featurette - I'm not sure if this ever aired on television or not, but it's just under 22 minutes in length, which is just enough time for it to fit in a half hour time slot with commercials. It's a fairly interesting bonus feature, as it does a splendid job at furthering the 'reality' the film tries to create by acting as a news report on the prevalent mutant threat in our society. Senator Kelly is the main star of this aspect of the featurette, but there's also some cast and crew interviews discussing the ideology behind mutants.

Charlie Rose Interview with Bryan Singer - There's plenty of information in the commentary track, but at just under 7 minutes in length, this interview covers the personal aspects of how and why Bryan was ultimately able to bring X-Men to the big screen.

Also available on the first disc are a couple of animatics, as well as some character and production design stills.

If you own a D-Box Motion Control System, this film delivers this enhanced experience for you. This is something I'm seeing titles role out more and more lately, and although it's an interesting concept, I don't own one of these systems and can't comment on how much it adds to the overall experience.

Disc 2 -

Introduction by Bryan Singer - This is a brief interview before you head to the main menu of this disc. Bryan is on the set of X2, and also conducts an orchestra while they play the 20th Century Fox theme.

Five-Part Interactive Documentary: The Uncanny Suspects; X-Factor Costume/Makeup Tests and Image Gallery; Production Documentary Scrapbook; The Special Effects of the X-Men; Reflection of the X-Men Retrospective - If you appreciate documentaries more than commentaries, then this collection of behind the scenes sootage is exactly what you're looking for. Running at well over 2 hours in length, this documentary covers cast impressions of the X-Men universe, comparisons between the universe on paper and on film, character and stage design, special effects and more. The interactive part of this documentary comes in whenever you see an 'X' on the screen, as you'll be able to tell the documentary to branch off into additional footage via seamless branching.

Also available on this disc is a quick featurette about the marketing behind the film, theatrical/television trailers, and internet interstitials.

The third disc that's included is what most of you would likely refer to as a coaster disc, as its sole purpose is to provide us with a digital copy of the film.


Overall

X-Men holds up almost as well today as it did during its initial release. Bryan Singer had an incredibly difficult task in bringing so many classic heroes and villains to life, but eventually succumbed to the pressure and made the film finish with more of a whimper than a bang. The first half of the film was executed so well however, that the less than impressive confrontation before the end of the film is easily forgivable. Bryan Singer nailed the plot as well as the main character introductions, and those are the most important aspects of this film, are they not?

X-Men has never looked better, thanks to the fantastic job on the transfer from Fox, and the lossless audio track is sure to blow everyone away. Topped off with some very in-depth and informative extras, there's no reason why this release shouldn't be recommended to everyone. The only thing holding this three-disc set back from being given a higher recommendation is the film itself. This is a rare occasion where I recommend a purchase for everyone regardless, as this isn't just the film that lead up to the release of one of the better comic book films to date, X2, but was the beginning of the superhero film trend in general.

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