review contains minor spoilers
Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry
X-Men mutants unite to fight prejudice and a military scientist with a
Bryan Singer calls X-Men a rehearsal for X2, and he's right:
the sequel is a bigger, bolder and better film. It's obvious that everyone
had more faith in the second film, following the enormous success of X-Men
all around the globe.
got a lot of flak for releasing a basic X-Men DVD and then
following it up with the feature-packed
disc. This time they've done it right the first time, with an all-singing,
all-dancing two disc version of X-Men 2 (which, incidentally, is
simply called X2 on-screen).
first disc contains the film and two commentary tracks. The film is
presented in anamorphic format, in a ratio of 2.4:1. The transfer is
excellent, with good detail, vibrant colours, perfect black levels and
contrast. X2 is a much better looking film than X-Men, which
had a relatively drab, gray colour scheme. X-Men was shot in
Panavision, but for X2 the producers chose to use the Super 35
format, to allow for shooting in lower-light conditions. There's the
slightest hint of edge-enhancement on shots where it would be most obvious
(on areas where there are sharp, contrasting edges), and a few tell-tale
jagged diagonal lines, but these problems are fleeting, and shouldn't
irritate. There are no apparent MPEG encoding artefacts. The average
bitrate is a reasonably healthy 6.34Mb/sec (during the end credits this
plummets, and probably pulls the average down a touch). The bitrate on the
US disc is 7.38Mb/sec (but this would include the two extra 2.0 audio
film is presented over both layers of a dual-layer disc, with a good layer
change (where there's no sound to be interrupted). This is about 1h1m7s
into the film, between a shot of Bobby Drake on the X-Jet and the shot of
Professor Xavier standing, looking out of the window. The film's one
caption ("Boston") is burnt-in, and is not player-generated.
Subtitles are available in English for the hearing impaired, on both the
film and the supplements. The disc is coded for Regions 2, 4 and 5.
audio mix is dynamic, with good separation. Sound is frequently thrown
into all the speakers, but much of the time it's weighted to the front
three channels. The film doesn't have a reference quality mix, but is
nevertheless generally impressive. There's a choice of Dolby Digital 5.1
(at 448kbps) or DTS (at 754kbps) formats. The DTS track seems to handle
things more smoothly when there's a lot going on, and presents more
enveloping atmospheres in quieter moments. Unusually, the disc allows for
switching audio tracks on the fly, so it's quite easy to compare the two.
The American disc has French and Spanish tracks, but the UK disc is in
disc carries two commentary tracks. The first, identified on the menus as
"Bryan Singer", is by Singer and cinematographer Newton Thomas
"Tom" Sigel. The second, listed as "Lauren Shuler Donner"
is actually a group commentary, by Producers Ralph Winter and Lauren
Shuler Donner, and writers David Hayter, Dan Harris and Michael Doherty.
Curiously, all the contributors are credited on the US disc's menus.
naturally dominates the first commentary. It concentrates on the technical
aspects of the production, and is delivered in a matter-of-fact style.
Despite Sigel's best efforts, it's almost entirely humourless. You will,
however, learn plenty of trivia, like which shot was inspired by an
episode of The Twilight Zone, and why Singer's production company
is called Bad Hat Harry Productions. More interesting are Singer's
thoughts on the relative merits of using wire effects (and the associated
wire-removal CGI costs), as opposed to the traditional methods of
compositing. If you've ever wondered how a movie can cost $110m (as this
one reportedly did), you'll also discover that they had to CGI the foam on
the pints of ale that Mystique gives to the guard, to prevent an
irritating continuity error!
group commentary is more informative (it notes where the "Danger
Room" scene would have been placed, and where the Sentinel robot
would have been used, for example), but is generally more anecdotal, and
more entertaining. Both are worth listening to, although some information
overlaps both tracks. There was a minor dropout problem around the 1hr 49m
mark with the audio on this track, which should be corrected by the time
the disc hits the shops.
is usual on Fox's discs, the presentation starts with a bunch of trailers,
which can be only be skipped by using the MENU button. These are for Peter
Weir's Master and Commander, The League of Extraordinary
Gentlemen, Fox's highly-anticipated Alien Quadrilogy DVD box
set, and their forthcoming theatrical release Runaway Jury. These
might have been more exciting if they'd been presented in anamorphic
widescreen, and with 5.1 audio, but they're not. Once watched - or skipped
- there's no way of getting back to the trailers using the menus: you'll
have to re-start the disc.
disc has some nice moving menus, with animated transitions between
screens, but they don't feel particularly elaborate (the chapter selection
menus are static, for example).
second disc contains all the other bonus features, which are broken
down into seven categories: History of the X-Men, Pre-Production,
Production, Post Production, Trailers, Deleted
Scenes and Galleries. Some of the featurettes are
presented in anamorphic 1.78:1 format, some are 1.33:1 (full-frame)
format. There seems to be method to this, but since there's never a
mixture of the two, it doesn't pose a problem, other to those people who
need to switch their displays manually between 4:3 and 16:9 modes.
OF THE X-MEN
is divided into two sections:
Secret Origin of X-Men [sic]
potted history of the comic book and its transition from the printed page,
via the TV series, to the movies. It includes contributions from X-Men creator
Stan Lee, comic book writer / editor Chris Claremont and Bryan Singer. Despite its 2003 copyright date, this seems to have been
made to promote the first X-Men movie.
interview with writer / artist Chuck Austen, focusing on the special X-Men
2 comic book that relates the events leading up to Nightcrawler's
appearance in the film.
is divided into three sections:
Attack Multi-Angle Study
2'22" section that enables the viewer to toggle between four different angles
of the scene where Nightcrawler attacks the President of the United States
unfinished effects, animatic / final film comp and unfinished effects /
final film comp). The comparisons are interesting. The animatics are
relatively crude, and the pacing of the finished scene is barely hinted
at, but they do show a couple of ideas that were dropped from the
completed sequence. The unfinished effects angle is the most interesting,
because there are a number of shots showing how Nightcrawler's spectacular
acrobatics were achieved. The unfinished effects / final film comp angle
shows how the scene was tweaked during editing, but this sometimes makes
to compare the two versions, because they drift in and out of sync. A fifth
angle, showing the unfinished version correctly synced up to the finished version,
would have been more instructive. This segment has some nasty
interpolation artefacts (which were probably introduced in the NTSC to PAL
transfer process). These will be apparent to anyone wanting to go
through the sequence frame-by-frame.
In The Details - Designing: X2
title is Evolution In The Details - The Design of X2. This is an
interview with British Production Designer Guy Dyas about the look
of the film, which encompasses the sets and the props. It offers a tour of some
of the sets and locations, including a good look at the museum's
mutant exhibition, which is barely glimpsed in the film (it would have
featured in one of the Deleted Scenes). This featurette also
includes a section looking at the film's recreation of the Oval Office of
the White House. (18m)
Colors of X [sic]
with Costume Designer Louise Mincebach, who has worked on all of Bryan
Singer's films, including X-Men. This section includes a teasing
few seconds of costume test footage for some of the actors, including
Halle Berry. (9m)
is divided into six sections:
/ Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal
two-minute montage of the stunt performers rehearsing, cut to the
soundtrack from the film, without dialogue or narration.
Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men: Making of X2
the core bonus feature: an hour-long documentary featuring interviews with
all the key contributors, and plenty of behind-the-scenes footage. After
discussing some of the new additions to the cast the documentary shifts to
concentrating on a few action set-pieces: Rogue being sucked out of the
X-Jet, Pyro attacking the police outside the Drake residence, and the
Wolverine / Deathstrike fight, before finally teasing us with the prospect
of a third X-Men movie. You'll find a nice outtake at the end of
this segment, which is referred to in both commentary tracks. The
interviews in this segment have an odd quality to them, as if they've been
shot on video, but electronically processed to look like film. It may be
like this on the original masters, or it may be the result of the NTSC to
PAL standards conversion process, in which case it's an error. It's not
terribly detrimental, it's just odd, because we're invariably used to
seeing these things on video.
the Incredible Nightcrawler!
the development of the Nightcrawler character, with contributions from
Alan Cumming and Movement Coach Terry Notary. This section includes
footage of Cumming rehearsing in full make-up and costume, a peek at some
early make-up designs (which aren't
in the Galleries) and a close-up look at Cumming having his make-up
applied; a tedious process which took up to nine hours, poor chap. (10m)
to the Nightcrawler Attack Multi-Angle Study, in that it's a
mixture of animatics and live action for the White House attack, set to the soundtrack of the
finished film scene. This version is inter-cut with more footage of
the stunt performers. (3m)
four-minute time-lapse film showing Alan Cumming being made-up, in
- Visual Effects
twenty-five minute segment linked by interviews with Visual Effects Supervisor Michael
Fink, who says that there were about 750 effects shots in X2, compared
to 520 in X-Men. Sections in this featurette
show the wide range of special effects techniques employed in the film, and focuses on The
X-Jet Dogfight Sequence (about the creation of the tornadoes), The Bamf Effect (developing
teleportation effect), Escape From The Plastic Prison (enhancing a
scene with CGI ), Cerebro (creating a CGI environment), and The Dam Breaks (looking
For Mutants: The Score of X2
featurette about John Ottman's orchestral score, and the phliosophy of
film composing. Ottman, who acknowledges John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith
and James Horner as his influences, shows how the score can be broken down
into the various themes representing each character. Anything that brings
attention to the art of film scoring is to be commended, but this is no
substitute for having an isolated score, dammit! (12m)
Global Webcast Highlights
promotional web-chat sound-bites with Bryan Singer, actors Hugh Jackman,
James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos ("It's
crazy-making!"), Alan Cumming, Famke Janssen, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron
Stanford and Kelly Hu, and Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph
are eleven deleted scenes, totaling about eleven minutes. Several of them
are only short extensions to existing scenes. The scenes are in anamorphic
widescreen format, but aren't as sharp or clear as the main feature
(they've probably not been through the final colour timing and grading
process). The clips are in 2.0 stereo. Unusually, no attempt has been made
to put these into context (although most are obvious), or to explain why
they were dropped. The best guide to how these scenes were meant to fit
into the film is to be found in the two commentary tracks, especially the
writers and producers track. Another annoyance is that there's no
"Play All" option.
Wolverine / Deathstrike Fight
marginally more visceral version of the fight at Stryker's base. Singer
notes in his commentary track that they had to tone down the fight to
appease the MPAA, particularly the sound effects.
Kills The Intruder
extended version of Wolverine, in primal rage mode, killing a member of
Stryker's SWAT team.
in Stryker's Files
extension to the scene showing Mystique accessing Stryker's computer. In
this version there are more files displayed on-screen, including some
Bamfs to Save The Students
very short scene showing Nightcrawler teleporting into the holding cell at
and Storm in the X-Jet
flexes her telekinetic abilities by auto-piloting the X-Jet. There's also
a nice character moment between the two women, as Jean hears something
that Storm mutters under her breath. Note that the view outside the
windows hasn't been added, and the uncharacteristically clunky-looking
control stick close-ups.
at the Museum
of the school pupils, Jubilee, wanders off into a part of the museum
devoted to mutants, and, as her anger rises, electricity sparks from her
Starts The Campfire
goads Pyro into helping start the campfire. This is a nice character
moment, showing that, even among his fellow X-Men, Pyro is still something
of an outsider.
of the Children is Sick After Bamfing
completely superfluous twelve-second extension to the scene where
Nightcrawler rescues the students
Helps The Children Escape
how the film would have ground to a halt during the attack on the school
as Rogue gives two fleeing students directions and advice.
X and Cyclops Escape
gruesome moment where Jason rises from his wheelchair to remove the
Professor's headset, freeing him and enabling the Professor to rescue
Cyclops. It's not clear from seeing this scene out of context, but this
scene and the next were actually an illusion created by Jason - the
Professor is actually still under Jason's control.
to an Empty School
transitional scene showing the Professor and Cyclops arrive back at the
school to discover the place has been abandoned.
are six galleries: Characters, Locations, Mutant X-Rays,
Nightcrawler Circus Posters, On-Camera Graphics and The
Unseen X2. Some of these galleries are broken down into sub-sections
(for the different locations, for example).
Characters gallery is a little light (perhaps because the brief for
the sequel was "the same but different"). Some of the others
have much to offer: the Nightcrawler Circus Posters are terrific,
and some of the On-Camera Graphics are very interesting (and, in
one or two cases, quite amusing). Hardcore X-Men fans will get a
real kick from The Unseen X-Men, which contains designs for Angel
(Archangel), the Danger Room training arena (and storyboards for the
sequence, which are very poorly presented) and a couple of design drawings
of the very cool-looking Sentinel robot (left).
are hundreds of images here, but you don't get the impression that you've
seen everything. There are some disappointing omissions, some of which are
seen in some of the other featurettes (beautiful make-up designs for
Nightcrawler, and some more circus posters, for example). It would also
have been nice to see a gallery of promotional posters.
are three theatrical trailers (one teaser and two full trailers), all in
non-anamorphic widescreen mode, with stereo audio. It's a shame that 5.1
versions couldn't have been used.
has put together a very satisfying collection of bonus materials to
complement the film. Almost every aspect of the film's production is
featured. They don't gel together like the best DVD bonus materials
sometimes do, but viewers will find the answers to most of their questions
UK disc is missing a Public Service Announcement about drugs, which
doesn't seem to be directly related to the film, and a DVD-Rom link
which isn't applicable to UK customers. There seems to be nothing to
differentiate the UK disc from the US version. Unless you're particularly
sensitive to PAL speedup, the UK Region version would appear to be the