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20th Century Fox presents
X-Men (2000)

Wolverine: There's someone here.
Cyclops: Where?
Wolverine: I don't know. Keep your eye open.

- Hugh Jackman and James Mardsen

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: November 11, 2000

Stars: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman
Other Stars: Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Mardsen, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Ray Park, Anna Paquin
Director: Bryan Singer

Manufacturer: DVCC
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence
Run Time: 01h:43m:32s
Release Date: November 21, 2000
UPC: 024543006404
Genre: sci-fi


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ B+AA B-

DVD Review

Summer 2000 was not a fun time for movie fans. As the summer wore on, high expectations were eroded by mediocre film after mediocre film. By September, I had seen only four movies that I planned to buy on DVD—good for my wallet, bad for my collection. Fortunately, one of those few that did NOT disappoint was Bryan Singer's X-Men, the $160 million hit that everyone had expected to suck.

Of course, these fears were perfectly understandable. Normally, whenever studios make an attempt to translate something from one visual medium (TV, video games, comics) into film, the results are less than stellar. Look no further than the oft-maligned video-game genre. Such classics these games have wrought—Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Super Mario Brothers, and Double Dragon (not to mention the classic video game offshoot The Wizard). Comic books haven't fared much better, with the only success coming from Superman, the Burton Batman films, and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie (it may not be great, but it is the perfect translation of the comic, plus I was nine when it came out and it sorta defined my youth). Fortunately, X-Men not only is included in the "good" group, it is the best of the "good" group.

In the not-too-distant future, humanity has begun to change. Here and there, normal parents give birth to mutants, children with special powers and abilities. Of course, humanity decides to set a shining example for all to follow when it decides to hate and fear these people (Hey, they're different! Kill them!). Within the mutant community, there are those that want to live in peace with the humans, then there are those that would rather conquer humanity. Charles Xaviar (Patrick Stewart) leads the group of peaceful mutants, instructing them in ways to control and master their powers at his School for the Gifted. His students include Cyclops (James Mardsen), Jean Grey (Famke Janssen), Storm (Halle Berry), and newcomers Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Rogue (Anna Paquin). Magneto (Ian McKellen) leads The Brotherhood, a group determined to ensure safety for all mutants, even at the expense of human lives. On his side are Sabertooth (Tyler Mane), Toad (Ray Park), and the oh-so-sexy Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos).

Much can be said about Bryan Singer's contribution to the film. He captured the comic book world perfectly (or at least as well as was possible with a small budget and the short amount of time that Fox gave him). For the most part, the film stays true to the comic book, but the two are different mediums, and Singer had to make some tough choices (choices that would likely piss off many hardcore fans) for the sake of the film. Take the costumes—Singer decided to go with modern black leather costumes rather than the colorful ensembles worn in the books. Why? Because adults tend to look stupid in skin-tight spandex! I don't care how good you look naked, with spandex on you are going to look bad. It doesn't accentuate muscles so much as it highlights fat. Sexy? You decide. So while Cyclops isn't wearing his trademark blue and yellow tights, it is probably better that way. The special effects blend perfectly with the hyper-real comic book style, and the mood, lighting, set design, and props all seem to have jumped right off the page. My favorite parts are the small touches—Magneto using his powers to create a desk ornament, for example.

Considering that a committee wrote the script, it turned out very well. The plot is coherent enough (Magneto's plan to unite the human race by any means necessary), and the dialogue and one-liners come off very well. Buffy the Vampire Slayer writer/creator Joss Whedon took a pass at it, and some of the self-referential dialogue and humor (Logan making fun of all the "code names," for example) seems to have been his. I am willing to bet he wrote the much lauded "You're a d***" line - I wish they had gone with his entire script. Still, overall the story works well, and the metaphors behind it (race relations, prejudice, accepting the self) add some much-needed depth to the genre.

Hugh Jackman is excellent as Wolverine. He took over the part mid-production, and really captured the hard-edged fury of his character. Of course, Stewart and McKellen are magnificent as always, and their roles as mentors to the other mutants really serve the film well, similar to what Alec Guiness did as Obi-Wan in that other sci-fi series. Famke Janssen and James Mardsen do well with what they are given, and Ray Park and Rebecca Romijn make great baddies. Anna Paquin is good as Rogue, but her Louisiana accent is a bit spotty. And speaking of spotty accents, Halle Berry does a good job with the underwritten role of Storm, but her accent came and went as well. I must be kind, however, since she was saddled with the worst line of dialogue ever written (you'll know it when you hear it—something about toads).

The only complaint I have about the film is that it is too short. It feels rushed, and more than anything a set-up for the sequel. Still, too short is a good complaint to have, and I welcome that inevitable sequel.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: I just wrote up the Titan A.E. review the other day, and there I commented on the absolutely perfect transfer that film received. Well, X-men isn't quite that good, but it comes close. The film was shot in very cool, blue tones, and it translates very well to DVD. Black-level is perfect, with no muddy looking scenes at all. I noticed no edge-enhancement or shimmer and just a bit of aliasing (which I suspect would disappear on a HD set). Fox is quickly becoming the studio to beat when it comes to transfers.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This is a very aggressive audio track! I didn't notice it in the theater, but at home, this really kicks. Surrounds are used almost constantly, whether to orient dialogue around you, present ambient sound effects, or to fill out the score. In the scenes where Xaviar speaks telepathically, the speech comes from all around. Dialogue is always clear and there is no audible hiss. Not too shabby!

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 28 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish, French with remote access
2 Original Trailer(s)
3 TV Spots/Teasers
6 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
Packaging: other
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual
Layers Switch: 00h:32m:32s

Extra Extras:
  1. Stills gallery with production art
  2. Interviews with Bryan Singer on the Charlie Rose show
  3. Hugh Jackman's screen tests
  4. 2 CGI animatic clips
Extras Review: A lot has been said about the extras on the X-Men disc. When the movie came out, Bryan Singer hinted at a two-disc set with a seamless branching cut and mounds of extras. Rumors persisted about 45-minutes of deleted footage (the actual total was closer to 20 minutes). While I'm sure that material exists, the people at Fox made the decision to get the disc out by Christmas. As a result, the extras are a bit lighter than most would've hoped. While no one would like more extras here than I, I am glad to have the film this soon after theatrical release (less than four months!), and the extras provided are nice enough.

First of all, the disc features fully animated 3-D menus like those on The Abyss, and they are very classy and well-designed (except for the extras menu - it features the sound of the motorcycle from the film behind it and is very, very annoying). I know some would prefer simple still menus, but I never get tired of cool animated stuff.

Most people probably are interested in the deleted scenes the most. There are two ways to view them: one by one and in a "seamless branching" version. First off, the seamless branching version is worthless. Similar to the "white rabbit" feature on The Matrix, when you reach a point in the film where a deleted scene would occur, a small X appears in the corner of the screen and you are taken to the scene. The transition is choppy to say the least, and it really interrupts the flow of the film. Viewing them one at a time is preferable. The six scenes presented are not exactly interesting, and they don't add much to the plot or characters. I have a feeling that this stuff was truly cut from the film, and isn't part of the fabled 20 minutes that was cut a week before the theatrical release. Still, it is nice to see, and it just makes me hope we see a full cut someday.

The other substantial extras include the Fox: Mutant Watch documentary and interviews with Bryan Singer on the Charlie Rose show. The documentary is basically a promo piece, but it is done in a sort of "mockumentary" style, spoofing the senate scenes in the film. Film clips and interviews with the actors are provided, but there is very little behind-the-scenes information. The interviews with Singer on Charlie Rose are a bit more relevant, but they are presented in five different sections, broken up. Since Fox actually worked out the rights to the whole thing, I don't know why they didn't just include it all (like Criterion did on the Rushmore disc).

Hugh Jackman's screen test is included in pretty poor quality, but it is interesting to see him capture the character of Wolverine even without make-up or props. The animatics are computer-generated models that help the director plan out the action scenes. The two here are for the Statue of Liberty and the battle at the train station. I have heard that basically the whole movie was done this way, I would've liked to see more, but these are cool enough. It makes me want to see an X-Men "Street Fighter" type game.

Finally, the disc includes two theatrical trailers (but not the teaser that premiered on the web - boo!), three TV spots, and a still gallery of production artwork. Two Easter eggs are present, but I won't ruin the fun by pointing them out. They are pretty easy to find anyway. Overall, the extras are interesting, but very superficial. Singer makes a statement in this NY Post article that a 2-disc, seamless branching disc with extra "to be filmed" footage has been committed to by Fox. While we wait for this film to be revisited, what is here is definitely worth a purchase.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Comic book movies are next to impossible to do well. I mean, look at the track record-Batman & Robin, Superman III and IV, Spawn, and the so-so Blade. With this kind of precedent, no one was expecting too much from X-Men. Fortunately, those fears turned out to be unfounded. In my opinion, X-Men is the best comic book to screen translation ever, edging out Batman Returns. Fox has provided a disc with excellent picture and sound and some decent extras. Well worth the price, if you ask me!

 


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