It’s taken a while, but probably spurred on by the soon to be officially released X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie, Fox have pulled their digital fingers out and delivered the three existing X-Men movies in glorious Blu-ray presentation.
Previously, only The Last Stand was available, but now you can get all three and in the review package they’re bundled into a uniform ‘Trilogy’ box set.
I have mixed feeling about this release, but it’s not because I’m a reviewer who has a reflex negative reaction to any film that’s comic-related.
I loved the first movie and appreciated the more action-orientated second; my issues come with the Brett Ratner directed third. The Bryan Singer-directed ones have a style and imagination about them that answers all those questions I immediately had when I first heard that an X-Men movie was planned. Translating some of the comic imagery from this source in a very literal sense could have so easily gone very wrong, but it didn’t.
The third movie, Last Stand, just doesn’t live up to the high standards Singer’s interpretation did. In comparison with X-Men and X2, Last Stand is both strangely disjointed and inconsistent. But I think what annoyed me most about it was the way that it truncated what, for the comic series, was a long and complex story that took Jean Grey to become Phoenix. For me, this was a wonderful X-Men storyline in both the comic versions and even the animated series, but here it’s bookended into a single movie. Before Singer left to do Superman instead he’d intended to allocate two movies shot back-to-back to this narrative, but Mr. Ratner wraps the whole saga up in just 104 minutes! In Lord Of The Rings terms, it was like the hobbits walked out of the Mines of Moria and found themselves at the Battle of Pelennor Fields.
Yes, I accept that the movies themselves aren’t really tied to canon events in the comics but their own stories, but the way this got treated didn’t respect the source material in the way that I thought the first two films did with what they referenced.
Leaving aside my misgivings about The Last Stand, the first two movies are good generally and brilliant in places, and elevated the X-Men from something a few geeks knew about to a much greater public awareness. However, The Last Stand made more money than the previous movies, so not everyone agrees with me, it seems.
I think the vision that Bryan Singer had was a solid one, and the casting of some very good actors for the main characters boosted those ambitions. Because of those efforts, Hugh Jackman will forever be associated with Wolverine, and Patrick Stewart managed, at last, to shake off the long shadow of Captain Pickard. The cast represented a strong ensemble, and they even managed to give Alan Cumming a decent part with Nightcrawler in X2. But the star of all three films is undoubtedly Sir Ian McKellen as Magneto, who gives a shaded and dynamic portrayal of a man unwilling to let the darkness from his past consume the future of mutantkind. It’s interesting to note that in the additional material, almost without exception, none of the actors or production people knew about the X-Men before the project, although most wanted to assure fans that being in the film had changed their perspective.
So what does Blu-ray bring to the mutant trilogy? It goes without saying, though I’ll confirm it anyway, that the reproduction of these films is super-crisp and gloriously saturated in high definition. But then they are recent movies, so if they’d looked horrible I’d be very confused. Each movie comes with an English DTS-HD and Dolby 5.1 soundtrack along with German and Spanish soundtracks both in Dolby 5.1.
In the UK Trilogy box set are six discs, allocating a Blu-ray for each movie plus a few extras and then another entire Blu-ray for each one chock full of additional material. I’d list it all but the fifth X-Men movie would arrive before I’d got through it all. There are more than 11 hours of bonus material ranging from deleted scenes to TV specials, animatics, interviews, screen tests, galleries and trailers. It’s an amazing collection, and one of the biggest collections of additional content I’ve seen. The catch, if you hadn’t guessed from other Fox releases, is that most of this material has been seen on special DVD editions before.
If you haven’t seen it then you are in for a treat, because they’ve found some very cool content about the origins of the X-Men, and the backgrounds to the characters.
But what I found rather disappointing is that, almost without exception, the extra content is not in HD, which makes me wonder why they bothered making the second disc in each case a Blu-ray. Scenes from the movies on some of the documentaries are often cropped both top and side, so that DVD sourced material isn’t rescaled. This suggests to me that, beyond the slick looking but very clunky interface, the Blu-ray team was instructed to minimise the effort needed to put this on the shelves.
Another minor complaint is that in the American version of the box set there are third discs for each film which contain a ‘Digital Copy’ of the movie and no extras. Here in Europe, we don’t seem to deserver that, although we pay slightly less than the Americans, thankfully.
The combination of movie and extras might tempt some, especially if they like all three movies and don’t own a DVD special edition. But, luckily, Fox will also be releasing them individually so you can get them progressively.
I love X-Men and X2, so it’s a no-brainer for me, but I’d understand if some people don’t go for this collection in its totality.
The Last StandFilm:Disc:
X-Men Trilogy Blu-ray is released on April 20th