X-MEN: THE LAST STAND [a.k.a.
Region 2 (UK) Edition
Berry, Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Famke Janssen
Two factions of the mutants battle when
mankind discovers a cure for their condition.
Fans of the X-Men movie franchise where
aghast when X-Men and X2 director Bryan Singer announced
that he was jumping ship, to work on Superman Returns. Singer had
managed to make two remarkably good movies based on the comic book series,
delivering films with more depth and maturity than anyone might have
reasonably expected, given their pulpy origin.
When it was announced that his replacement
was to be Rush Hour director Brett Ratner, fans began to fear the
worst. Ratner had not proved himself with a film of the complexity or
scale of an X-Men movie, and he didn't have a track record in the genre
(the nearest was his 2002 remake of
Manhunter, Red Dragon).
They need not have been concerned. Ratner
doesn't have Singer's flair for the dramatic, or his obvious affinity for
the themes of the subject matter, but X-Men: The Last Stand is a
fine effort, by any standard.
The film has a lot of ground to cover. It
has a simple plot (the humans have created a cure for the mutant gene,
causing civil war among the mutant population), but woven through it is a
story arc for one of the key characters, Jean Grey, which is distilled
from a landmark X-Men comic book saga. Ratner was also obviously
under instructions to eliminate some regular characters, as a way of
paring down costs for the next film in the series. He takes all this in
his stride, introducing new mutant characters to the story, and creating
several set pieces equally as good as anything Singer was able to conjure.
It's true that not all these changes have met with the approval of the
fans, but for every small liberty taken with one of the supporting
characters, there's compensation in the form of a fleeting cameo, or
reference to X-Men lore.
It almost goes without saying that
X-Men: The Last Stand leaves the door open for further instalments
(not only a hint that one of the villains survives with his powers intact
- a frame-by-frame analysis of that shot should remove any ambiguity,
incidentally - but also with a post-credits shot that will make little
sense to anyone who's not thoroughly steeped in X-Men mythology), but it's
a very satisfying conclusion to an exciting film trilogy.
Fox's UK division has, once again,
delivered a two-disc set that trounces the initial single-disc Region 1
edition. There's a chance that, eventually, a Region 1 version will come
along and go one-better than the current UK edition, but be content that
UK customers are getting the best deal.
The first disc contains the film itself,
two commentary tracks and the deleted scenes. It kicks off with a bunch of
junk adverts and trailers, which can be skipped using the chapter forward
button on your remote. In case anyone's interested, these are: Prison
Break (DVD advert), Mars advert, My Super Ex-Girlfriend
(trailer), X-Men III computer game (advert), 24 Season 5
(DVD advert), The Omen 666 (trailer) and Night at the Museum
("January 2007" trailer). The disc also features an Inside Look
(trailer) for The Simpsons Movie, which shows a work-in-progress
version of a scene with Homer driving a dogsled.
film is presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 format, with a choice of 5.1 Dolby
Digital EX or 6.1 DTS ES soundtracks (at 448kbps and 768kbps,
respectively). Also offered is a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio descriptive
version (at 384kbps). There are English HoH subtitles for the film and the
commentaries. The average bit-rate is a healthy 7.56Mb/sec.
The film has a virtually-flawless transfer,
marred only by a slightly gritty look to some shots, and a touch of
over-sharpening and edge-enhancement.
The film features a couple of "Ten years
ago"-type captions (see example, above). These are presented burnt into
the picture, and thankfully not player-generated.
The soundtrack is boisterous, and features
many sequences that will give your home cinema system a good workout. The
DTS version offers wide dynamic range, and excellent fidelity,
particularly with John Powell's rousing score. You can toggle the
soundtracks on the fly, if, for example, you wished to compare the Dolby
Digital and DTS versions. Both tracks are excellent, and guaranteed to
Once past the trailers and adverts, the
first thing that you see is a menu screen that offers you the choice:
"Join The Brotherhood" or "Take a Stand" (i.e. the join-The-X-Men option).
From there on, you see one of two sets of menu screens (which are very
similar to those on
the X2 disc).
You are also offered a unique set of bonus
features, depending on the choice you make. Choose the Take A Stand
option, and you get the Director and Writer Commentary by Ratner
and writers Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn. Choose the Join The Brotherhood
option and you're offered the Producer Commentary by Avi Arad,
Lauren Shuller Donner and Ralph Winter. Both are worth listening to,
although the one with Ratner and the writers is a bit frustrating, because
very little is taken seriously, and there's almost as much disinformation
imparted as information.
Once you've selected a side, there's no
obvious option to go back - it seems at casual glance as if you have to
re-start the disc. In fact each menu set features screens with the icon for the other faction,
allowing you to toggle between the two. No doubt, though, there will be
people who, having chosen one side or the other, and having watched the
film, will forget that they're in one of two menu sets. They may not even
realise that there are two sets of bonus features, and might easily miss
out on half of the bonus features because of this. Fox is to be praised
for creating some wonderful menu screens for their top titles, but
sometimes you have to remember to cater for the lowest common denominator.
There are two sets of deleted scenes,
depending on which of the two menu options you've selected.
Take A Stand Deleted Scenes
Xavier Voice-Over For Main Titles
Continuing the tradition of the first two
films, a chunk of exposition. Dropped because it was deemed superfluous.
Alternate Version: Beast Meets Logan
A slightly more antagonistic first
encounter between Wolverine and Beast.
Extended Fight Sequence at Jean Grey's
A much more brutal version of the scene
where Wolverine and Storm try to get into Jean's house. This includes more
Wolverine and Juggernaut mano e mano, and a nice bit of business
where Logan becomes a conduit to channel Storm's electrical energy into
Juggernaut. Cut because it was "too long".
Alternate Version: Bobby and Kitty Skate
A "controversial" version of the skating
scene, only this time they kiss, adding more of an incentive for Rogue's
actions later in the film.
Plastic Weapons Manufacturing
Did you wonder where all those groovy
plastic guns came from? Wonder no more!
Hank Warns Trask of Magneto's Plan
As the military prepare to enter Magneto's
forest hideout, Hank calls to warn them that Magneto may be preparing an
Original Version: X-Men Board The Jet
A different version of the rallying scene
between Wolverine and Iceman, shifting the emphasis to Iceman. Some of
this version appeared in one of the trailers.
Jean Senses a Scared Little Girl
...an extension to the scene where a
family, trapped in their car on the bridge, encounter Magneto. It also
helped take the scene from daylight to dusk - it was cinematographer Dante
Spinotti's favourite scene of the film.
Storm Creates a Wave
An addition to the attack on Alcatraz -
Storm creates a deluge, to fend off a wave of attacking Brotherhood
Beast Breaks a Neck
Cut to ensure a PG-13 rating.
Bobby Freezes Phat
Remember the fat mutant at the church
meeting, who shrank down in size so he could sit down? Well, here he
returns, during the Alcatraz attack, where he is brought down by Iceman
and Colossus. This scene was cut because it wasn't well-executed.
Alternate Ending: New School Year Begins
Shows Hank returning to teach at Xavier's
school, instead of taking on the Ambassador's job.
Alternate Ending: Logan Returns to
An apparently-disillusioned Wolverines
return to the inn seen in the original X-Men.
Join The Brotherhood Deleted Scenes
Jimmy in Laboratory
Shots of Leech being scanned, and various
scientific bits of equipment being used to create the cure.
Pyro Tells Magneto About The Cure
Announcement - Clean Shaven Version
Short "They just announced it!" scene
between Pyro and Magneto.
Pyro Tells Magneto About The Cure
Announcement - Bearded Version
A different version of the same scene, only
with a bearded Gandalf - err - Magneto.
Alternate Version: Guard Yells at
A more expressive version of the scene
where the imprisoned Mystique impersonates the President: "Mr President,
shut the fuck up!"
"Psychic Battle" Voices
A version of the scene where Jean attacks
the Professor, with just their various overdubbed lines of dialogue,
(which are otherwise almost lost in the mix - "I am Phoenix!")
Original Version: Jean Displays Her
Power at the Encampment
An longer version to the scene where
Magneto emerges from his hideout, and tempts Jean into exercising her
power on the cure gun. In this version Jean's powers flow freely,
endangering the gathered mutants. It also reveals a continuity problem,
discussed on the commentary track, where Magneto isn't carrying the gun
when he emerges from his hideout - he has a metal cup, instead.
Plastic Weapons Manufacturing
The same as the version on the X-Men
Deleted Scenes package, I think.
Magneto Asks Jean To Help In The Battle
A nice addition to the Alcatraz attack:
Magneto sees that some of his pawns are being cut down by cure weapons,
and demands that Jean step in to help. "You sound like him again", she
Alternate Version: Here's Juggy
A version of the scene where Juggernaut
enters Leech's cell, with dialogue paying tribute to The Shining.
Magneto Tortures Logan
Slightly extended version of the "You never
learn" torture scene.
Extended Dark Phoenix Destruction
A apocalyptic version of Jean attacking the
Alternate Ending: Rogue Returns
A gloved version of the scene where Bobby
greets Rogue on her return to the school...
All the Deleted Scenes have optional
commentary by Ratner, Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, and, thankfully, this
time there is a Play All option.
There are at least two Easter Eggs on disc
The last page of both versions of the
Deleted Scenes listings offers a link to an Easter Egg (look for the
Brotherhood or X-Men logo): a visual effects clips created to promote the
film, in mid-2005, when the final act was to have taken place in
Washington: X-Jet Lands in DC (1m)
Another Easter Egg can be found in the
either version of the Scenes 10-12 menu screen, where an X-Men or
Brotherhood logo links to a deleted scene called Beast Recites
Shakespeare... "We few, we happy few... we band of brothers..." (1m).
It's straight to business with the second
disc, which offers the following options: Documentaries,
Featurettes, Previz Animatics, Vignettes, Blogs,
Galleries and Trailers.
Documentaries is split into:
Brett Ratner's Production Diary; X-Men: Evolution of a Trilogy;
and X3: The Excitement Continues
Brett Ratner's Production Diary
Titled Brett Ratner's X-Diaries
on-screen, this is a bit of a mess, and it doesn't help that it begins
with a fast-moving sequence that suffers from interpolation and encoding
errors, and then goes into a sequence which has very distorted (badly
recorded) sound. It soon
settles down, but it's hard to escape the impression that it's just
shoddily-assembled scraps of video cut together. Some of the captions will
be partly off-screen if your display has a moderate amount of overscan.
There are some nice moments here, however, including Ratner joking around
with his cast, including one scene where Ratner dons Wolverine costume and
make-up to stand in for Jackman (see below). The last five minutes or so of the
Diary follows the cast to the Cannes premiere of the film.
X-Men: Evolution of a Trilogy
A primer on the three films, divided
roughly into thirds. The sections on the first two movies might not be
new. This is a handy overview of the trilogy, and shows how the filmmakers
wanted to take the films forward each time.
X3: The Excitement Continues
A pretty solid promotional piece examining
the new film, and introducing some of the new characters.
Two Featurettes are offered:
X-Men Up Close and Anatomy of a Scene: Golden Gate Bridge.
X-Men Up Close
A short video montage ends with a menu
screen with images of various X-Men characters. Clicking on any of them
leads to a sub-menu, offering written profiles, galleries and short
sound-bite sized video clips. Fifteen characters are profiled in this
Anatomy of a Scene: Golden Gate Bridge
A detailed look at the creation of the
Golden Gate Bridge scenes, focussing on the construction of a
There are Previz Animatic sequences for the
following scenes: Young Jean Grey, The Danger Room,
Mystique's Interrogation, Jean Rises From The Lake, Logan
and Storm Look For Scott, Jimmy Meets Mutant Playmate, Angel
Escapes, Mystique's Prison Break, Jean Kills [SPOILER!],
Angel Lands at School, Magneto Talks To Jean In The Woods,
Logan Fights With Spike, Multiple Man Decoy, Magneto Moves
Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Joins The Battle, Angel Saves His
Dad, Ash Burns Soldiers, Omega Muties Break Into Lab,
Juggernaut Chases Kitty and Dark Phoenix Finale.
These total about twenty-five minutes, and
there is a Play All option. The X-Men films pioneered the use of
Previz (see the featurette on the X2 disc), and it's interesting
to see how they've evolved in the three years or so since that film was
made. The evidence here shows that they're significantly more
sophisticated - one or two shots might even pass for the finished movie!
Some shots are offered with storyboards. Many have interesting data in the
margins. A couple of these scenes didn't make the final cut. Since they
weren't in the deleted scenes, either, they probably weren't filmed. Most
notable are the shots of Angel landing at the school; the Jimmy Meets
Mutant Playmate sequence (which has similarities with the scene where
Beast visits Jimmy); and the rather silly Angel Joins The Battle
sequence. Also, note the early interpretation of Juggernaut, who looks
more like he did in the comic strip.
There are seven vignettes, totalling about
twenty-five minutes, with a Play All option. They are:
Prophecies, X-Men Politics, Clothing Vs Costume,
Make-Up Chair Confessions, Weapons of Choice, On Set Effects
and Learning to Fly.
A look at the hints of things to come in
X-Men and X2.
An examination of how the films have
tackled prejudice and minority persecution.
Clothing Vs Costume
How the characters' looks have evolved over
the course of the trilogy.
Make-Up Chair Confessions
Comments about the make-up process from
Kelsey Grammer and Vinnie Jones.
Weapons of Choice
An interview with Jimmy Chow, prop master.
On Set Effects
A cursory look at some of the film's
Learning to Fly
Featurette on the film's wire work, notably
the Storm flying sequences in the Danger Room, and Wolverine's fight at
the forest hide-out.
The fifteen-minute Blogs section offers
four sections: Production Teaser, Live From The Danger Room,
Marvelous Cameos and Editing Magic. These were used to promote
the film on the
A montage of behind-the-scenes clips, set
Live From The Danger Room
More fly-on-the-wall behind-the-scenes
An on-set report from the day when X-Men
creator Stan Lee and Dark Phoenix author Chris Claremont shot their
A look at the altered "tin cup" sequence,
with editor Mark Helfrich, and a look at how the scene of Wolverine
attacking Magneto's camp evolved, with fellow editors Mark Goldblatt and
Broken down into Character Stills
and Concept Art, Storyboards and Models, and these are then broken
down further into sub-categories. The galleries represent only a tiny
fraction of the number of stills that would have been shot for a film of
this magnitude. You could argue that this sort of thing is better
presented in book form. Here it's a bit of a half-assed effort, although
root around, and you will find some very nice art (in the Concept Art
section devoted to the Phoenix Vs Wolverine section, for example).
Three trailers: Trailer A (1'30"),
Trailer B (2'20") and the action-packed Extended Trailer
For all the bonus material on the second
disc, there's very little of any real substance. There's plenty of
behind-the-scenes footage, but very little effort has been made to explain
to the viewer how particular sequences were created. We see lots of wire
work, and some green screen, but don't see how these elements are put
together to create the finished image. A more detailed look at the design,
costuming and make-up for some of the new mutant characters (Callisto, Kid
Omega, etc) would have been very welcome. (There's virtually nothing on
the disc about how they created Angel's wings, for example). There are
some good segments though - the one about the Golden Gate Bridge, and the
Editing Magic blog spring to mind - and even those that aren't
particularly focussed give you the feeling that you've been given a
whirlwind tour of the set.
Once again Fox's UK division has created a
packed two-disc edition of a blockbuster that leaves the Region 1 edition
looking positively anaemic. The transfer is fine, and the soundtrack will
have nick-nacks falling off the mantelpiece. The bonus features are
plentiful, but rather superficial. There are plenty of golden moments,
though, and the experience of watching them is generally rewarding.