X2 - X-Men United DVD: Review By carl

  • OVERALL
    5.0
    SUPERB
  • Feature
  • Extras
  • Replay Value
THE FEATURE
When the first X-Men film was released in cinemas I loved it, and yet by the same token I was disappointed. I was one of those people you hear about that used to read the X-Men comics, and while i was not as avid a reader as some of the bigger geeks I know, I still knew more than enough to know that the film was a radical shift from the tone of the comics. Made on a relatively small budget, small in comparison to other comic book movies, it was a film that slowed the pace down and limited the amount of extraordinary powers the small selection of characters could use. However as a movie fan I still loved the film for what it did achieve, namely by proving that a film can be intelligently made from a comic that wasn't called Batman. The dark visuals enhanced the atmosphere, and the character interaction was largely successful. When X2 was finally put into production I waited with baited breath, because if anything has been proved by history, it's that franchises with a slow introductory first film, inevitably have an amazing second film full of wander and excitement.

X2: X-Men United provides it's audience with just that. It starts out exactly where we were left off at the end of X-Men, with Wolverine on a journey of discovery, Magneto locked up in a plastic prison with just the occasional visit from Professor X, and Mystique imitating Senator Kelly. Though any thoughts that the film will keep the slower pace of the original X-Men are quickly pushed aside in an opening sequence that has to rank as one of the years most exhilarating action sequences. In it one of the lesser known X-Men, to none fans, Nightcrawler, attacks the white house using his teleportation ability for getting around security, but when his assassination attempt fails the president is visited by a man named William Stryker, who has no difficulties convincing the president to declare war on mutants everywhere. This war is an event that marks the film as darker than the original, as well as faster and more intense then any other comic book movie to date.

As with the first film, the main point of conflict was Wolverine, but in this film you will get to see all of his inner rage being released. Get to see why Wolverine is famous for being the coldest, baddest X Man on the team, and also gain a better understanding of his inner struggle. Like the comics Wolverine is a good guy, loves Jean and has a near fatherly relationship with Rogue (it was Jubilee in the comic), yet he hides it behind a rough and ready exterior, insulting members and making all around him wary. In one particular scene, Wolverine is called upon to defend the mansion and it's students from invading soldiers, and yet unlike the other X Men, he displays a willingness to use lethal force when necessary. As he runs around the house slicing up the soldiers Brian Singer cuts at just the right moments to avoid a perverse bloodshed, and yet still holds the camera long enough to give these scenes the shocking brutality that defines the character of Wolverine. Hugh Jackman (Swordfish) returns as Wolverine, again delivering a masterful performance and embodying the fan favorite character in a way that completely pleased those fans, such a rare occurrence in these type of films.

However X2 is about more than just Wolverine. Like the comics, the X-Men are required to work as a team in order to overcome the various trials, even teaming up with their arch nemesis Magneto. For every character in the squad there is an interesting story to tell, and while they couldn't explain everything about every character they have done enough to give X-Men fans something to grasp. Unfortunately this has the effect that any unfamiliar with the X-Men universe may find the film to be a little more impersonal than the original, that by no longer focusing on a select few characters, they have destroyed any real personality to these characters. As a fan of the comics I am unable to really say how badly a non fan would find this because I was able to fully appreciate so many different plot points. Nightcrawler bond with Mystique, his feelings of shame about his appearance and Rogues feelings of isolation based on her being unable to touch another person being just a few.

Yet by far the most interesting was in regard to the character Pyro, who I remember as a villain in a few of the comics. I'm not sure what his origin was in the comics, as when I started reading it he was already bad, but in this film you get to see Pyro as a student at Xavier's school, and his subtle fall from grace. Like Wolverine he's a character with a real sense of inner turmoil, wanting to fit in but already showing Signs that he considers his powers as making him better than normal humans. When the X-Men team up with Magneto, Pyro develops a bond and slowly starts to solidify these feelings of almost godhood. Singer tells this fall from grace story in an emotional way, and with the kind of subtlety that George Lucas could only dream of. Aaron Stanford (25th Hour) gets the mixed feelings of arrogance and confusion nailed, giving a subtle performance that makes the fall from grace believable.

Though being a true X-Men film, all of this character based talk is the strong point that supports an action based narrative. X2 is notable for the fact that, as I've already mentioned, it's characters each get to show off their own unique abilities in a number of spectacular action scenes. I've already mentioned 2 of the best, Wolverines berserker barrage and Nightcrawler attack on the White house, so I will leave the rest to surprise you, but needless to say the effects are amazing and each set piece is well staged as characters such as Storm, Pyro, Mystique, Kitty and even Colossus, to name just a few, get to use their superpowers. Even Jean is showing symptoms of a certain fiery bird that has popped up in both the comics and cartoon incarnations, and leaves very high hopes for the third film.

Unfortunately, as much as I love this film there are a few slight problems. Not major problems, but small ones that are worth noting, and most to do with smaller characters. It's just that, Cyclops and Storm are supposed to be the leaders of the X-Men, Storm was even considered a goddess in her origin, and yet in the films they have been portrayed as the same leaders, but played by actors who think they're teenagers. Neither James Marsden or Halle Berry have the slightest hint of an authoritative presence, and speak with dialogue that would be fitting in an average episode of Beverly Hills 90210. I must be one of the only men alive who doesn't find Halle Berry to be the most attractive female in existence, though at least I'm not the only one to realize she can't act in these summer blockbusters she keeps ruining. The only other problem I have is the title, X-Men United, it sounds like the latest novelty football game for PS2!
THE EXTRAS
Disk One

2 commentaries on the first disk, the first with Bryan Singer and the second with Lauren Shuler Donner.

Disk Two

The Disk opens with 7 options.

History Of The X-Men

Pre-Production

Production

Post Production

Deleted Scenes

Galleries

Trailers

History Of The X-Men

The Secret Origin Of The X-Men

Taking a similar approach to some of the other recent comic book movies, this first extra is a look into the entire history of The X-Men. It's an interesting, enjoyable watch as Stan Lee, Bryan Singer and a few other people are interviewed on the X-Men phenomenon. From Stan Lee's trials trying to get the comic produced, to how he felt he wanted to develop the character of Wolverine, and the different trials involved in making a movie version. Like I said, it is an enjoyable watch, and does raise some interesting points, but at 15 minutes it doesn't delve too deeply into the X-Men History.

Nightcrawler Reborn

This one is an interview with the writer on the Nightcrawler comic that was recently released as a prequel to this film. He discusses everything about how he first got into writing, to what he wanted to bring to the character of Nightcrawler, and even his thoughts on the artwork. It was a very informative feature that has me wanting to search out this story, as well as the other prequel comics available.

Pre-Production

Nightcrawler Attack: Multi-Angle Study

This is an examination of that opening scene, from different points in the film making process. The first angle shows the scene as it was originally conceived on a computer simulation, the second angle is the scene without most of it;s CGI, the third angle shows angle 1 side by side with the finished scene and the fourth angle shows the second angle side by side with the finished product. I'm not a big fan of these kind of things, the scenes are no fun without the effects and they don't really offer any insight into how the scene was shot.

Evolution In The Details*Designing: X2

This feature is much better. It offers a step by step guide to the different sets used in the film, from the mansion to the damn in the films finale. It shows how they first had to find the sets, then rebuild portions of them for the sake of destruction, escape passages and such stuff. Then tells you the different techniques used to recreate each location without going way over budget. Very informative, very enjoyable and an all round good extra.

United Colors Of X

This extra feature looks into the costume design used on the film, and highlights the little things that I missed first time around, such as all of the Phoenix jewelry that Jean is wearing. It's a good extra for people who are interested in this, but if you don't care about the costume design then to be honest it will likely bore you.

Production

Wolverine/ Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal

This is a brief video that highlights the amazing choreography used on the Wolverine Vs Deathstrike fight. For a production video it's been edited together, and shot surprisingly well. Using the same camera angles and cutting as the scene in the film itself, giving the whole fight a fun feel. Though it's not nearly as brutal without the effects work.

The Second Uncanny Of X-Men: Making Of X2

This is one of those typical, making of features that you would expect to find in between films on Sky. It looks at the making of the film, interviewing the cast and crew on how they feel the characters have grown, and how they feel it's boosted their careers. If you enjoy these things then you'll enjoy this one, and if you don't then you wont.

Nightcrawler Stunt Reversal

This is another vide sequence, similar to the Wolverine Deathstrike one, but this time using the angles from a previous extra. It's really nothing more than filler, and adds nothing that you haven't seen in the other extras, except this time it uses the computer test footage, and when they do use the stunt footage, the performers don't try nearly as hard to get the facial expressions and everything intense, so it's a lot less fun.

Nightcrawler Time-Lapse

In this feature you get to watch the arduous routine of them applying Alan C*mming's makeup. Thankfully they only show him getting his face done up, because even fast forwarded, the whole job would take hours and watching it is no fun.

FX2-Visual Effects

This is an extremely in depth look into the various effects shots used in the film, how they were achieved and what difficulties they encountered. As you will be aware there's a lot of effects shots in this particular film, so that makes for a lot of information.

Post-Production

Requiem For Mutants: The Score Of X2

I never mentioned the films score in my main review, but it is very good. It's the kind of grand, orchestral score that John Williams likes to use, with a different tune used to represent the various characters. In this interview composer John Ottman discusses why he decided to do the score in this way, and what he hoped to achieve from it. It's another informative and enjoyable extra feature.

X2 Global Web cast Highlights

Clips taken from a series of on-line interviews that were done the day before X2 was completed. It's fun, some of the cast raise some valid points, others ramble on trying to act like they understand what they have been told to say, but I liked it. Rebecca Romijn-Stamos who plays Mystique talks about how glad she was that her "costume" wasn't restrictive, and Jackman tells about a practical joke played on him during his nude scene. Like I said, it's fun, and occasionally Informative.

Deleted Scenes

Extended Wolverine Vs Deathstrike Fight is an extension on the classic fight, but the fact that they haven't bothered removing the strings in the cut moments prevents it from being as intense.

Wolverine Kills The Intruder is the first scene in the mansion attack, but I, erm, don't know quite how to put this, so I'll say it out right. The scene was in the movie already, in the theatrical release, and the same length!!! Oh wait, but you see Iceman twice so it's soooo different.

Mystique In Stryker's Files is an extension of the scene in the film, but with a few shots cut for the sake of pacing. Nothing really worth seeing.

Nightcrawler Bamfs To Save Students has a title that makes me laugh every time. Bamf is representing the sound he makes when he teleports, and it's an extension of that scene.

Jean And Storm On The X Jet is the first true deleted scene, and it was deleted for a reason. It's slow, nothing happens and it's boring.

Jubilee At The Museum, now this is a good scene. Finally Jubilee get's more than a flash of screen time, and it get's cut. It comes up after Lizard tongue does his thing, and Jubilee wanders off and finds a plaque reading, "Are we de-evolving. She get's so angry that her hands start emitting a little electricity and she has to cover them. I demand this scene be re-inserted immediately!!!

Pyro Starts The Campfire sees Rogue struggling to start a fire, she asks for his help and guess what happens. Another one that was cut for pacing reasons.

One Of Children Is Sick After Bamfing, Lizard tongue teleports with Nightcrawler and vomits. Not really an essential scene, but it's one that could have been left in to show how the Kids feel about being teleported.

Rogue Helps The Children Escape is part of the mansion sequence. In it Rogue gets a few of the children to an escape hatch and gives them instructions. Another scene that was cut for pacing, but one that I wouldn't be bothered about either way.

Professor X And Cyclops Escape is a slow but interesting scene in which Jason, Stryker's son, takes control of Professor X and uses his mind powers to get the guard to free Professor X and Cyclops. It's interesting when viewed in conjunction with the next scene.

Driving To An Empty School follows the last scene, but as they helicopter in they find the school abandons. Professor X then decides to use Cerebro to find them, but Scott disappears behind him, proving that it's all an elaborate hoax.

Galleries

I don't believe it, a selection of pictures I actually enjoyed looking at. The standard photos are as dull as ever, but the Kurt Wagner (Nightcrawler) circus posters were interesting. Then the unseen X2 had me crying tears of joy. It shows the concept art, and production design for some of the things they couldn't use. Archangel looked like he would have been very impressive, the Sentinels, who should be appearing in X3, will be even better and the Danger Room looked like The Danger Room. They even showed the actual Danger Room set, and a story board for the scene. Though the actual starboards were too small to read the text and so making out what was happening was impossible.

Trailers

Trailer A is the first teaser that was released. You know, the kind, a little voice-over followed by the logo. It ups excitement for a film that going to be released, but is useless to someone who's actually seen the film, like, I don't know, on a DVD.

Trailer B is the films first real trailer, and it's an amazing trailer. It's atmospheric and exciting, showing a little from every scene in the film without spoiling any of them. Plus Magneto's line at the end upped my anticipation for the film immeasurably.

Trailer C is the final trailer and is more action then atmosphere. It shows much more of the films plot, giving away multiple big spoilers and has a similar editing to the trailer for the original X-Men, with characters names appearing on screen next to a brief clip of them at work. It's fun to see now that I've seen the film, but still lacks the atmosphere of Trailer B.
THE VIDEO
The film has been given the fairly low rate of compression, an average bitrate of just 6.34MB/sec, in order to situate 2 commentaries. Though they hide it well, the picture is very clean and doesn't have so much as a hint of grain. It just could use being a lot sharper
THE AUDIO
The sound is great, very crisp, very clear and making nice use of the 5.1. It comes in English, both Dolby 5.1 and DTS, and has English subtitles.

THE FINAL WORD
X2 is an excellent film, the best comic conversion ever made with strong characters and a relevant story. It's also been treated to a very nice disk, with some good doc*mentaries, good trailers and an excellent deleted scene with Jubilee.

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