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Release Date: April 21st, 2009
Movie Release Year: 2003
Release Country: United States
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X2: X-Men United

Review Date April 20th, 2009 by
Overview - Following a shocking attack on the President, the X-Men must stand united with their deadliest enemies to combat a menace that threatens every mutant on the planet - and possibly all of mankind. Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry lead an all-star cast in this dazzling, action-packed spectacle that is "arguably the greatest superhero movie ever!" (Entertainment Weekly)
OVERALL
Highly Recommended
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs: Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec: 1080p/AVC MPEG-4,480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
    Length:134
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):2.35:1
    English Descriptive Audio: English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit)
    Subtitles/Captions: English SDH,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,Korean Subtitles,Portuguese Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles
    Special Features: Audio Commentaries
    Documentaries
    Featurettes
    Deleted Scenes
    Still Galleries
    Theatrical Trailers
    Digital Copy
    Movie Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
    Release Date: April 21st, 2009

Story Review Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take

4 Stars out of 5

'X2: X-Men United' is the 'Empire Strikes Back' of the 'X-Men' trilogy. It's the one where they got it right -- the story, the characters, the look, the feel, the tone and the texture. The right balance of light and dark is in place, there is a wide (but not overstuffed) spectrum of classic X-Men heroes and villains on display, and the emotional notes the narrative hits are the right mix of the interpersonal and the political. 'X2' functions simultaneously as fine comic book melodrama, cultural allegory, and great pop entertainment.

The plot of 'X2' is complex, but not convoluted. Since the events of the first 'X-Men,' Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) has opened his secret school for gifted mutants, which attracts X-friends both old and new. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) and Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) still have the hots for each other, Storm (Halle Berry) is boogying down with the mysterious new mutant Nightcrawler (Alan Cummings) and Cyclops (James Marsden) still stands around looking pretty. Meanwhile, some evil guy named Stryker (Brian Cox) tries to blow everyone up, his assassin Lady Deathstrike (Kelly Hu) boasts one very fierce manicure, and a major X-Person eventually bites the dust. What will those crazy mutants think of next?

I found the first 'X-Men' to be a better-than-average comic book adaptation, but still somehow restrained... meek even. It never hit any real lows, but failed to reach any highs, either. With 'X2,' it seemed as if returning director Bryan Singer was finally unleashed from any tentativeness he may have felt tackling such a beloved comic book property the first time around. Assembling all of the same major cast, and working with many of the same production crew, his team was firing on all cylinders. 'X2' moves quickly but doesn't rush -- it's 134-minute runtime allows for visual scope and plenty of action, but also depth of character and an ambitious, multi-layered story. This is a fully-formed universe, brimming with creativity and emboldened by a singular, confident vision.

If some of the X-Men are still underused (Storm comes to mind), 'X2' still feels satisfying because it balances its mutants with a cohesive, inclusive narrative. Each of the characters has a defined arc that is completed by the end of the film, but their stories also interlock snuggly, so it doesn't feel as if we're watching one of those old TV disaster movies, only with mutants. The script, by Mike Dougherty and Dan Harris, is adept in the way it uses the individual struggles of the X-Men to make broader, universal truths about human nature. Much has been made, for example, about the mutant "coming out" scene in the picture. It's an obvious parallel for the current state of gay rights in our world, but regardless where one falls on such an issue, it's exciting to see a pop entertainment tackle challenging political themes. 'X2' interweaves such lofty thematics throughout -- from human rights to gender politics to genocide, and even an eerily prescient subplot, pre-Bush's war on terror, questioning what role our military should even play in such matters.

Take away any deeper leanings, however, and 'X2' still holds up as great popcorn cinema. It looks terrific, is paced perfectly, and has tons of cool mutant action. The diversity of each 'X'-person's power means we never tire of watching them do battle, and the intricate plot gives real weight to the outcome -- we care what happens, and to whom. If the 'X'-trilogy ended with a whimper, not a bang (thanks to the disappointing, Singer-less 'X-Men: The Last Stand'), we will always have 'X2' to remind us how good a mutant movie can be. If fans continue to (rightly) praise 'The Dark Knight' as the greatest comic book movie ever, it's good to revisit 'X2' and remember this one ain't no slouch, either.

  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG-4,480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
    Length:134
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,Korean Subtitles,Portuguese Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries
    Documentaries
    Featurettes
    Deleted Scenes
    Still Galleries
    Theatrical Trailers
    Digital Copy
    Movie Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
    Release Date: April 21st, 2009

Video Review

4.5 Stars out of 5

'X2: X-Men United' gets a 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) and it looks pretty spiffy. This is the best of 'X-Men' Blu-ray releases, boasting a bold, bright, clean and detailed transfer that can be quite grand.

Overcoming the dour blandness of the first 'X-Men' and the Brett Ratner visual-isms of the dreaded 'X-Men: The Last Stand,' 'X2' is polished, slick and classy. I love the steely color palette, which looks shiny but not washed out or overly-contrasted. Hues are rich and striking. Detail is excellent, with only slightly crushed shadow delineation to rub out some of the finest textures in the shadows. The image is always sharp, and depth is among the best I've seen on any recent Blu-ray catalog release. There are no encode issues, either, with excellent reproduction of fine color gradations and no posterization or motion artifacts. There is a bit of fine noise visible, usually on large patches of solid color, and slight grain to the print, but this is indicative of the source. 'X2' is sure to please.

Audio Review

5 Stars out of 5

Fox also rocks 'X2: X-Men United' with a DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround track (48kHz/24-bit). All of the 'X-Men' movies sound good on Blu-ray, and this is easily on par with the other installments.

'X2' blasts off from the beginning, with wonderfully-engaged surrounds. Particularly impressive are scenes with Nightcrawler, with great uses of discrete effects as he materializes in and out. Transparency is first-rate, and the full "wall of sound" feel is frequently in effect. Dynamics are likewise reference quality, with the highest peaks and lowest valleys always tightly rendered. The subwoofer never fails to deliver, and dialogue is balanced just fine. No complaints here -- 'X2' is a five-star audio winner.

Special Features

4 Stars out of 5

'X2: X-Men United' gets the full two-disc special edition treatment on Blu-ray (with a third Digital Copy disc thrown in for good measure, see next section below). I still like it when older bonus features are at least upconverted to 1080, but in terms of sheer content, there's nothing not to like here.

Disc One

  • Audio Commentaries - The fun begins with two tracks, the first with Bryan Singer and director of photography Tom Sigel, the second with producers Lauren Schuller-Donner and Ralph Winte and the writing team of Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris (plus a few spare comments from early draft writer David Hayter spliced in). Both are very good tracks, but I enjoyed the writer and producer commentary more. Singer and Sigel get technical, and rather dry, focusing almost exclusively on specific sequences and production challenges. More interesting were the script challenges, and following up a hit movie filled with so many characters and subplots that required cohesive narrative. Sure, there there is some pretention in discussing the depth of the story (this is still a comic book movie, isn't it?), but it's offset by many amusing production antecdents and a few jabs at Singer's now-famous high-strung directing style. Casual fans may want to just skip these and go for all the documentaries and featurettes, but hardcore X-fans should at least give the writer and producer track a listen.
  • Theatrical Trailers (HD) - We get three spots -- two teasers, and one full trailer. All are in 1080 video.

Disc Two

  • Featurette: "History of the X-Men" (SD, 25 minutes) - This is a two-parter, with "The Origin of the X-Men" (16 minutes) and "Nightcrawler Reborn" (8 minutes). The former is a quick history of the X-Men concept, its appeal and how it was brought to the big screen. I suppose it could have been a bit longer -- the overview of previous attempts at adaptations feels undernourished -- but at last we get some much-needed background on why we should care about the X-Men in the first place. The latter is what its title says, a look at the conception and introduction of the character, who is the standout new mutant in 'X2.' Essentially one long chat with Marvel artist Chuck Austen , it may be a bit dry for casual fans but you Nightcrawler nuts shouldn't miss it (and you'll also find out a very intriguing secret about Mr. Blue's anatomy).
  • Production Featurettes (SD, 34 minutes) - This section is made up of smaller vignettes. "Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal" is a whip-fast 4-minute montage of the stunt doubles in action. Next is "Introducing the Incredible Nightcrawler!", is a very amusing 8-minutes with Alan Cumming, who had to endure a lengthy daily process of being turned into a mutant smurf. Blue paint, contact lenses, toad feet and a CGI-tail. "Nightcrawler Fight Rehearsal is another 4-minute stunt montage. "Nightcrawler Time-Lapse" is another cool 4-minute vignette that proves it ain't easy bein' blue. Finally, VFX supevisor Michael Fink and his team guide us through the 12-minute "FX2: Visual Effects," which answers the question... how do you act to blue screen and paper cut-outs on sticks?
  • Featurette: "Evolution in the Details: Designing X2" (SD, 17 minutes) - A video tour with production designer Guy Dyas. The film's visual stylist guides us through the challenges involved in respecting what has come before while still trying to top the original film, recreating a science museum and replicating The Oval Office in Vancouver.
  • Featurette: "United Colors of X2" (SD, 8 minutes) - This vignette introduces us to costume designer Louise Mingebach. Although visually static, we do get a character-by-character breakdown of each mutant, and a big part of the fun of any X-Men movie is seeing all the latest and greatest in X-fashion.
  • Featurette: "Requiem for Mutants: The Score of X2" (SD, 6 minutes) - A pleasant sit-down with composer John Ottman, who stepped in for X1's Michael Kamen. I will openly admit to preferring Ottman's work by leaps and bounds. He's refreshing and unpretentious, and gives us a little bit on his approach to scoring the sequel, coming up with new motifs and themes for the film's expanded canvas, and a peek at some scoring sessions.
  • Featurette: "X2 Webcast Highlights" (SD, 17 minutes) - "Greatest hits" excerpts from the film's massive global theatrical launch, which is so far the biggest simultaneous release in history. For some reason, this seemed kinda funny to me - lots of dopey questions and a cast and crew that looks thoroughly jet-lagged.
  • Multi-Angle Study (SD, 3 minutes) - Via multi-angle, this offers four views or the "Nightcrawler Attack" scene: animatic, unfinished effects versus animatic, final comp versus unfinished effects, and final comp.
  • Deleted Scenes (SD) - While 11 scenes may seem like a lot, most are very short scene extensions and few if any shed any real new insight into the characters. Also a disappointment is that no optional commentary is provided to give us an idea of why these were cut. The scenes are: "Extended Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight," "Wolverine Kills the Intruder," "Mystique in Stryker's Files," "Nightcrawler Bamfs to Save the Students," "Jean and Storm in the X-Jet," "Jubilee at the Museum," "Pyro Starts the Campfire," "One of the Children is Sick After Bamfing," "Rogue Helps the Children Escape," "Professor X and Cyclops Escape" and "Arriving to an Empty School."
  • Still Galleries (SD) - Wrapping up this great set are five galleries: "Characters," "Locations and Sets," "Mutant X-Rays," "Nightcrawler Circus Posters," "On-Camera Graphics" and "The Unseen X2." Some seem a bit superfluous, but certainly not "The Unseen X2," which includes a rare look at a dropped character, Archangel. Also cool is a closer look at the kind of stuff fans seem to love, like the on-screen graphics and minute details that make any movie really come alive (such as the "Nightcrawler Circus" posters).

Final Thoughts

For my money, 'X2: X-Men United' is the best of the 'X-Men' bunch. The series was really firing on all cylinders here, with an engaging storyline, just the right balance of characters and villains, and terrific production values and pacing. It's great pop entertainment. This Blu-ray is likewise, with top-tier video and audio, and tons of extras. This is a no-brainer -- 'X-Men' fans and casual viewers alike can pick this one up with confidence.

Sale Price $15.95
List Price $15.95
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3rd Party $15.95
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
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  • TECH SPECS & RELEASE DETAILS
    Technical Specs:
    Blu-ray,BD-50 Dual-Layer Disc
    Video Resolution/Codec:
    1080p/AVC MPEG-4,480p/i/MPEG-2 (Supplements Only)
    Length:134
    Release Country:United States
    Aspect Ratio(s):
    2.35:1
    Audio Formats:
    English DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround (48kHz/24-bit)
    Subtitles/Captions:
    English SDH,French Subtitles,Spanish Subtitles,Korean Subtitles,Portuguese Subtitles,Chinese Subtitles
    Special Features:
    Audio Commentaries
    Documentaries
    Featurettes
    Deleted Scenes
    Still Galleries
    Theatrical Trailers
    Digital Copy
    Movie Studio: Fox Home Entertainment
    Release Date: April 21st, 2009