X2: X-Men United appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I figured X2 would look great, and the DVD didn’t disappoint me.
Sharpness appeared crisp and well defined. At no time did I discern any examples of soft or hazy images; the movie always seemed very accurate and clear. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no noticeable concerns, but I noticed some light edge enhancement at times. I saw no signs of print defects; the film appeared free of grain, scratches, speckles, grit, hair or other flaws.
Colors appeared nicely clean and bright throughout the movie. They presented solid depth and were appropriately bold and rich. The flick didn’t present a tremendously broad palette, but the hues were consistently accurate and dynamic nonetheless. Since much of X2 took place at night or in low-light situations, elements related to black levels became exceedingly important, and the DVD transmitted them in a deep and dark manner. Contrast appeared strong, and shadow detail was quite clear and appropriately opaque without any excessive heaviness. Overall, X2 provided a very distinctive picture that was always a pleasure to watch.
Even better were the film’s soundtracks. The DVD included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 mixes. While both worked well, the DTS track seemed stronger. I’ll cover my feelings about it first and then relate why I felt it outdid the Dolby edition.
The soundfield appeared very broad and engaging throughout the movie. All five speakers got a strong workout as they displayed a lot of discrete audio. This made for a convincing environment as we heard plenty of atmosphere and objects swirl actively and appropriately about us. This started with the excellent “bamf” effects of the opening sequence and continued through the spooky Cerebro bits and the flick’s many action sequences. Of particular note were the segments related to the destruction of the dam; from Cyclop’s blasts around to the structure’s final collapse, those parts really filled the room well. All these elements created great feelings of place and brought the material to life well.
Sound quality also appeared very good. Dialogue was crisp and distinct. Speech showed no signs of edginess or any problems related to intelligibility. Effects were always clear and dynamic, plus they displayed virtually no signs of distortion even when the volume level jumped fairly high; throughout explosions, crashes, and various elements, the track stayed clean. Music sounded appropriately bright and accurate and portrayed the score appropriately. The mixes featured some pretty solid bass at times as the entire affair seemed nicely deep.
So how did the DTS mix outdo the Dolby one? It seemed like a more involving effort. While the Dolby track was consistently smooth and engaging, the DTS version took those factors to a higher level to make the material better connected and integrated. As often occurs with DTS tracks, bass response also seemed a little tighter and more forceful. The Dolby mix remained quite good and earned a solid “A-“, but the DTS track ratcheted things up a notch for its straight “A”; if you have the capability to play it, the DTS version is definitely the way to go.
This two-disc release of X2 packs a very solid roster of supplements. On DVD One, we find two separate audio commentaries. The first pairs director Bryan Singer and director of photography Newton Thomas Sigel. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. Though it starts a little slowly and presents the occasional gap, overall the commentary seems quite positive.
Singer dominates the piece and offers a great deal of useful information. He gets into expected topics like locations, effects, and various challenges, but he also delves into areas like staying true to the comics, story and character developments, and bits of trivia about the production. Sigel mostly acts as Singer’s foil, and he also tosses out some notes about visual elements at times. In general, this seems like a lively and educational examination of the film.
The second commentary includes remarks from producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter and screenwriters Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter. Donner, Dougherty and Harris sat together for their running, screen-specific discussion, whereas the other two were recorded separately and their remarks were edited into the piece. Though not as strong as the prior track, this one includes a decent look at the movie. The participants cover topics such as locations and sets, various production challenges, the script and changes made along the way, and anecdotes from the film’s creation. The writers prove to be the most entertaining, especially when they tell stories of mild excess on the set. We also get some funny remarks about some of Singer’s actions during the shoot, such as when a statement from his mother almost provoked him to make a big change. A few too many empty spaces appear, and we inevitably find some material repeated from the prior track. Nonetheless, this one adds a reasonable amount of useful information and works nicely due to the light and lively tone.
When we shift to DVD Two, we find a surfeit on features split into various domains. We start with the materials in History of the X-Men. This area opens with The Secret Origin of X-Men, a 15-minute and 25-second featurette. It shows images from original X-Men comics along with remarks from creator Stan Lee, comics writer/editor Chris Claremont, executive producer Ari Arad, producer Lauren Shuler Donner, story/executive producer Tom DeSanto, and director Bryan Singer. They go through the start of the comic, its evolution, and the development of an X-Men movie. Obviously, it moves through the history of X-Men very quickly so it doesn’t offer a lot of depth, but it presents a tight little examination of the backstory behind the comics and the film.
The other component of the “History” domain comes from Nightcrawler Reborn, another featurette. It runs seven minutes and 35 seconds as it looks at X2’s main new hero. We see comic bits and pieces and hear from writer/artist Chuck Austen. He discusses his entrance into comics and his take on the character as well as some of Nightcrawler’s history.
In the next area, we go through Pre-Production. This section begins with Nightcrawler Attack: Multi-Angle Study. Via the “Angle” button on your remote, you can examine the scene in question through these stages: animatics, unfinished effects, animatic/final film comparison, and unfinished effects/final film comparison. The various options allow us a nice look at the creation of the movie’s opening.
Up next we find a featurette called Evolution In the Details – Designing X2 that lasts 17 minutes and 58 seconds. Production designer Guy Dyas leads us through some sets and we also check out images from the shoot and some film clips. We learn details about the sets and what Dyas wanted to achieve with his designs. White House technical advisor Bob Snow also gives us some information about the film’s replication of that building. At times, the program becomes a little dry, but it generally gives us a solid examination of the movie’s physical design.
For the final component of “Pre-Production”, we discover another featurette entitled United Colors of X. In this eight-minute and 55-second piece, costume designer Louise Mingebach takes us on a tour of the film’s wardrobe. She shows us many of the costumes and discusses how she came up with them. It’s a reasonably informative and engaging look at this side of the production.
After this we move through the film’s Production. The most extensive domain, it begins with Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal. This shows stunt performers as they work through a videotaped demo of the sequence. It’s cool to examine this rough draft.
From here we move to an extensive documentary called The Second Uncanny Issue of X-Men. This 59-minute and 15-second show presents the usual mix of movie shots, images from the set, and interviews. We get notes from Bryan Singer, screenwriters David Hayter, Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty, producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, executive producer Tom DeSanto, special makeup designer Gordon Smith, stunt coordinator Gary Jensen, and actors Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Brian Cox, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, Kelly Hu and Alan Cumming.
”Uncanny” presents a fairly general overview of the production. We get some notes on expanding the original film’s parameters and stretching the characters as well as what it’s like for the actors to return to the scene. We find out about different issues that affected them and also get information about the development of some new characters. We hear additional elements related to stunts and effects, virtually all of which come from the point of view of the actors.
That factor is the main emphasis of “Uncanny”. Whereas the DVD’s slew of featurettes get into more technical issues, this one’s dedicated to the performers. That becomes a strength and a weakness. It’s an interesting perspective, and we get some nice notes from the set and in regard to their work. However, actors often tend toward bland and general statements; that’s one reason most audio commentaries that only feature actors come across as dull. To be sure, “Uncanny” never turns boring, and it offers a generally interesting and informative examination of the movie. However, it also never becomes anything terribly fascinating, though we do get a fair amount of cool footage from the set. By the way, stick around to the end of the program to see a funny outtake.
Another featurette comes next via Introducing the Incredible Nightcrawler! that goes for nine minutes and 50 seconds. This uses the standard format and we hear from Alan Cumming, movement coach Terry Notary, and makeup supervisor Gordon Smith. We learn how Cumming got the role and then find out about the development of the character’s movements as well as the intricacies of the makeup. All of these areas seem very interesting, though the makeup is the most compelling. We see makeup tests shown to Singer and watch Cumming’s displeasure with the process. It’s a good little featurette.
For more of the character, we check out Nightcrawler Stunt Rehearsal. This works the same as the Wolverine/Deathstrike sequence seen earlier, though it also incorporates some of the animatics we saw in the multi-angle piece elsewhere on the DVD. The reliance on lots of animatics makes it less interesting that its predecessor, but it’s still fun to get a look at this conceptual material.
We continue with our favorite blue-skinned mutant in Nightcrawler Timelapse. This takes us through the makeup process from start to finish. We watch as Alan Cumming gets done up into character, and it’s quite an impressive sight.
Lastly, we watch a featurette called FX2 – Visual Effects. It runs 24 minutes and 55 seconds as it mixes movie shots, effects images, and interviews with visual effects supervisor Michael Fink, Singer, actors James Marsden, Alan Cumming, visual effects supervisor Richard Hollander, tornado effects lead Doug Bloom, digital supervisor Serge Stretschinsky, computer graphics supervisor Greg Anderson, visual effects supervisor Stephen Rosenbaum, and Cerebro effects supervisor David Satchwell. They discuss some general issues and provide specifics about the film’s tornadoes, the “bamf” effect, the escape from the plastic prison, Cerebro, and the dam breaking, As one might expect, this discussion becomes a little dry at times, but it educates us cleanly and efficiently about how they created these elements.
With that we go to Post-Production and all its materials. Requiem for the Mutants: The Score of X2 covers the film’s music. The 11-minute and 35-second show features information from editor/composer John Ottman. He discusses what he wanted to do with the score, how he works, and different elements of his X2 music. It’s a nice glimpse of Ottman’s work and his motivations.
In X2 Global Webcast Highlights, Michael Broidy of Fox Publicity sits with Bryan Singer, producers Ralph Winter and Lauren Shuler Donner, and actors Hugh Jackman, James Marsden, Anna Paquin, Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, Alan Cumming, Famke Janssen, Shawn Ashmore, Aaron Stanford, and Kelly Hu for an Internet-based chat. Each participant appears solo in this set of excerpts. They take queries from various international chatrooms and discuss a number of topics in this reasonably informative and interesting discussion. Overall, the compilation fills 17 minutes.
The next domain contains 11 Deleted Scenes. Each of these lasts between 13 seconds and two minutes, 52 seconds for a total of 11 minutes, 52 seconds of footage. Presented anamorphic 2.40:1 with Dolby Surround 2.0 audio, don’t expect any hidden gold here. Most of them provide short additions to already existing scenes. For example, “Mystique in Stryker’s Files” only adds a few seconds to the sequence from the finished movie. Some others contribute a little more violence. Even though none of the bits seems consequential, I’m still glad to get them; uneventful deleted scenes are better than none at all.
In the Galleries area we split into six different subtopics: “Characters” (42 stills), “Locations and Sets” (312 shots spread through 12 sections), “Mutant X-Rays” (47), “Nightcrawler Circus Posters” (8), “On-Camera Graphics” (190 across six sections), and “The Unseen X2” (56 across five sections). These mix production photos, planning materials, obscure items and more. It’s a good collection, especially via the stuff that either didn’t make the movie or was hard to see.
Finally, Trailers presents a few ads. In addition to the three theatrical promos for X2, we find a public service announcement against marijuana smoking that has nothing to do with the movie. “3 Free Comics” requires a DVD-ROM drive. If you access this, you can get a short sample subscription to any of three different series for $3 shipping. DVD-ROM users can also find a few links, but no other DVD-ROM features appear.
A consistently solid comic book flick, X2: X-Men United mostly improves on its predecessor. The movie packs lively action with an intriguing story to create a vivid and involving experience. The DVD offers excellent picture and sound plus a seriously terrific roster of extras. Definitely one of the year’s top DVDs, I strongly recommend X2 as a “must have” release.