X-Men Trilogy
Review by Bird Boy

Click Here!One of the most successful superhero franchises of all time and the launching pad for the career of Hugh Jackman, X-Men wowed audiences in 1999 with its simplicity and genuinely well-acted and well-directed story. The series continued on for two more films before taking a hiatus…which would only prove to last for three years before X-Men Origins: Wolverine would debut in theaters. Although still money-making machines, the last two X-Men films have proven to be less than favorable with audiences. But none of that matters now with this Trilogy set on Blu-ray—bringing the first two Bryan Singer directed films to the format for the first time and re-releasing X3 with a more rounded out release.

Directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects, Valkyrie) and Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon), the X-Men saga – X-Men, X2: X-Men United and X3: The Last Stand – chronicles the ongoing battle between humans and mutants and their attempt to coexist, from their humble beginnings at Xavier’s School For The Gifted to the ultimate showdown against those that wish to “cure” them. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart; “American Dad,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation”) must lead the well-known mutant heroes Wolverine (Hugh Jackman; Australia), Storm (Halle Berry; Monster’s Ball) Cyclops (James Marsden; 27 Dresses) and Rogue (Anna Paquin; The Piano) to fight against evil villains and use their powers for the good of mankind.

While the first X-Men film wasn’t groundbreaking in terms of visuals or storytelling, it was groundbreaking in that it was the first superhero film in years that didn’t feel like a complete joke. In fact, it may be the film responsible for jump-starting the lifeless franchise after so many other 90s films beat it to death with mediocrity. True, X-Men didn’t do much other than take itself seriously, but it was a fun and exciting summer flick that packed in emotion alongside plenty of action. Plus, those who wanted to see the fabled superheroes take to the big screen were more than enchanted by the visuals and live-action portrayals of some of Marvel’s most popular characters. Granted, the black leather suits didn’t go over well at first, but fans eventually adapted to it and accepted it as a solid way to bring the costumed heroes to the big screen (I mean really—just picture Jackman in yellow spandex, it is a bit strange).

Not all of the costumes were changed, however. Sabertooth, Magneto, and Professor X all were reminiscent of their comic book counterparts, while Mystique actually shed clothes for her big screen portrayal. There was plenty of eye candy to be had in the first film and while it could become dull and frustratingly slow at times, the film was a necessary setup for the franchise that would later prove that sequels could not only be better than the first film, but also improve upon it in almost every way imaginable.

Click Here!It took three years before Bryan Singer returned to theaters with X2: X-Men United, but man…was it ever worth the wait. To this day it remains one of my favorite superhero films and was the first in a long line of superhero films that boasted better sequels than the original (Spider-Man would follow, as would the Nolan Batman series). The characters, fully fleshed in the first film, were free to move about without any hindrances and as the mutant hunt was on, they bonded with one another in ways that we weren’t able to glean from the first film.

And, of course, Wolverine continued to take center stage and be a total bad ass (that mansion raid remains some of the best Wolverine action to date), but more than that each of the characters got to shine. We got some genuine drama in the form of Jean Grey dying and the introduction of new mutants like Ice Man, Deathstrike and, of course, Nightcrawler, breathed new characters into the series to keep it feeling fresh. There’s simply a ton to enjoy about the film and never once does it feel slightly old hat. The interactions between Pyro and Ice Man at Ice Man’s house create for some great tension and really…just the whole film is a treat to watch.

So after all of this, a third film is really just required, right? Well…yeah. Unfortunately while Singer went to make Superman Returns, Brett Ratner came on board to do the third film and as much as I enjoyed his Rush Hour films, he took what was once a series that was building itself to be genuine drama and turned it into a pile of camp. Sure, there was some “dramatic” moments left with the resurrection of Jean Grey as Phoenix, but not enough of it to offset the idiocy that the film corralled viewers into. Rather than take things slowly, the film reduced its run time to that of the first X-Men and crammed a story larger than the longer X2 into the same time space. New mutants poured out of the woodwork in this film and there simply wasn’t enough time and room to accommodate them all. They choked the screen with their presence and not even the fantastic likes of Kelsey Grammar, Ben Foster, and Ellen Page could elevate this film.

The sad thing is that this film simply didn’t aspire to be anything more than mindless entertainment. Fine if this wasn’t a series didn’t set itself up to be something more, but it just felt like a squandered mess in the end, which disappointed me more than anything. On top of that what Singer left to do for this film wasn’t even good, so we ended up with two mediocre films rather than two good ones. Through all of the trailers and hype for X3, however, I realized what this film would end up being and despite having gone to see the first two films during their first week out, I never set foot in theaters for X3 and didn’t see the film for almost a year after it hit DVD. And even after knowing how disappointed I’d be with it, I was still aggravated by what this film became.

Click Here!I can’t and will not praise this series blindly, however. While I have no problems with the castings for this series (Stewart as Xavier? Simply brilliant.), I really can’t write a review about these films without mentioning the dragnet that is Halle Berry. She had the absolute worst line in the first film with the whole toad and lightning thing (seriously, who let that in? The entire film’s camp level was at a modest level until that thing crept in, then it shot up) and although she was subdued enough in the second film that I didn’t ever feel annoyed by her, in X3 I felt like it had become the Storm and Wolverine show. Wolverine’s presence I get: he’s awesome, he’s muscular, he’s bad ass and everyone likes him. Storm? No idea. Her powers are fine and all, but Berry’s ego seemed to encroach into the series far too much for my liking. I could even let that Toad line from the first film slip…but after X3…nope, I have to rain on her parade. And the new film? Well I’ll save that for the review when the time comes, but let’s just say that when I thought they couldn’t do worse than X3…I was proven wrong. But at least Berry wasn’t in it…

So while I doubt I’ll watch X3 outside of trilogy marathons, this whole series still comes Recommended. The first two films in the series simply cannot be beat and when it comes to trilogy’s ending on low notes, you need look no further than The Godfather to prove that even the best can suffer. As far as comic book movies go, however, these are some of the best out there to date and as the trend seems to flip-flop between camp and gritty realism, time will only tell where the next X-Men film will take us.

The Blu-ray
Don’t get too excited—yes, this is a nine disc set, but it may as well just be a six disc set as three of them are digital copies. So while the set weighs a great deal, some of that weight can be attributed to the superfluous content inside of it. Still, it’s a fantastic looking package; housed in a glossy cardboard slipcase (featuring the same art on the both sides of the package, after you remove the “snot glue” attached back cover) a second, matte finished slipcase falls out with new art (a shot of mutants from X3 on one side and Wolverine running at you on the other...also from X3). Inside that slipcase are the three individual Elite Blu-ray cases, each housing the three discs and inserts for digital copy redemption. The art for each film focuses on Jackman and Berry for the most part, although some of the films do sport some other talent as well (with X3 being the busiest). Menus for the discs are fantastic and very well done, as well as being easy to navigate.

Video for all three films arrives in an AVC encoded transfer, with X-Men sporting a 2.35:1 ratio while the other two come in with a 2.40:1 size. All three films look fantastic, but as with most things, the newer they are, the better it looks. Not to say that X-Men looks horrible by any means; after watching it so many times on DVD, seeing it on Blu-ray for the first time is a real eye-opener to all the hidden details (the scales on Mystique alone are impressive). X3 does look the best and that is quite honestly it’s best feature as the various mutants pop off the screen in their variety of colors and shapes.

Click Here!On the audio side of things, every film boasts a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix which, as expected, is a powerhouse across the trilogy. Deep bass, fantastic use of surrounds (especially when some funky Xavier mind tricks are being played in the first film) and just an overall brilliant way to show off the home theater. Again, X3 has the greatest level of surround work being done, so if any of these were to be used to demo the home theater setup, it’d be this film. In that case I recommend the Sentinel battle in X3, which is absolutely brilliant…although the Nightcrawler transportation sounds from X2 sound fantastic as well.

All of the extras from the previous releases of the film are included. Starting off with X-Men, we get:

Disc 1
• Commentary by Bryan Singer and Brian Peck
• Behind-the-Scenes Footage
• Easter Egg: Blooper
• Fox Special: “The Mutant Watch”
• Bryan Singer Interview
• Animatics
• Art Gallery
• Three TV Spots
• Music Promo
• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Code Systems
• BD-Live: Wolverine Exclusive
• HD Marvel Universe Trailers

Disc 2
• Disc Intro by Bryan Singer
• The Uncanny Suspects
• X-Factor: The Look of the X-Men
• Image Gallery
• Production Documentary Scrapbook
• The Special Effects of the X-Men
• Reflection of the X-Men
• Marketing the X-Men
• TV Spots

There’s a wealth of information on the set that has been ported over from the original release as well as X-Men 1.5 and there is hours upon hours of goodies to check out here. Moving onto X2 we get more of the same:

Disc 1
• Commentary by Bryan Singer and Tom Sigel
• Commentary by Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter
• Generation X: Comic Book History
• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Code Systems
• BD-Live: Wolverine Exclusive
• HD Marvel Universe Trailers

Disc 2
• History of the X-Men
• Pre-Production
• Production
• Post-Production
• Deleted Scenes
• Galleries
• Locations and Sets
• On-Camera Graphics
• The Unseen X2
• Three HD Trailers

Click Here!For X3 we get an equally large dose of extras as well, although this time some of them are presented in HD (all of X-Men and X2 are in standard definition, barring the theatrical trailers).

Disc 1
• Director and Writer Commentary by Brett Ratner, Zack Penn and Simon Kinberg
• Producer Commentary by Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter
• HD Deleted Scenes (Optional Director and Writer Commentary by Brett Ratner, Zack Penn and Simon Kinberg)
• Enhanced for D-Box Motion Code Systems
• HD Easter Eggs
• BD-Live: Wolverine Exclusive
• HD Marvel Universe Trailers

Disc 2
• Brett Ratner’s Production Diary
• X-Men: Evolution of a Trilogy
• X-Men Up Close – Interactive gallery with stills and video
• Generation X: Comic Book History
• Fox Movie Channel Presents: Life After Film School
• Fox Movie Channel Presents: Casting Session
• X3: The Excitement Continues in HD
• Anatomy of a Scene: Golden Gate Bridge in HD
• HD Vignettes
• HD Blogs
• Previz Animatics
• Galleries
• Easter Egg
• Three HD Trailers

There’s a healthy dosage of goodies to check out here across all three films and while it’s obvious by now that I really only like the first two films, as a set these films are still really entertaining. Because of that and how wonderful these films look and sound on Blu-ray, this set comes Highly Recommeded.

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