X2: X-Men United

X2: X-Men United (2003)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Extras: Commentary Tracks, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Galleries, Trailers, and much more

Eagerly awaited, the sequel to Bryan singer’s exceptional "X-Men" is finally making it to DVD. Once again, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has been going out all the way, creating a 2-disc Special Edition for the movie’s DVD debut, and not having seen the movie in theaters I was very eager to take a look at it.

Establishing the real-live versions of the X-Men, the first movie spent quite a bit of time on its exposition, introducing all the characters before unfolding into the story of Wolverine. "X2" doesn’t need this exposition and dives right into telling another story surrounding mostly Wolverine trying to find his identity. The whole principal cast of the original movie is back in "X2" giving the film very good continuity as we immediately recognize the characters and their traits, while also adding a few new faces and, of course, a new bad guy.

Though the entire cast does a souvereign job in their recurring roles. Hugh Jackman once again convinces as Wolverine and this time even Halle Berry gets a bit of action as Storm. Needless to say, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan, Famke Janssen and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos are all putting in tru superhero performances once again. However, for me it was Alan Cummings who stole the show in this film as the new character, Nightcrawler. I’ve always had a great deal of respect for Cummings but his warm, inwardly tortured performance, combined with the selflessness shown by the character makes him a phenomenal addition to the cast and I hope he will be part of the line-up in X-Men movies to come.

Director Bryan Singer once again manages to create a story based on comic book characters that don’t really feel like flat tear-outs, but like real super-powered human beings dealing with their own problems as well as those of the world. Impeccably paced, the film is engaging and thrilling, and full of great moments and ideas.

The transfer of the movie that 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is presenting on this DVD is absolute reference quality. The image is absolutely clean and clear, free of any speckles or defects. The transfer reveals an incredibly high level of detail with colors that are rich and saturated without ever bleeding. Skin tones are naturally rendered nonetheless, and black levels are solid, giving the image good visual depth with finely delineated shadows. No edge-enhancement mars the image and the compression has been handled equally well and no compression artifacts can be found in the presentation.

The audio on the release comes as a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> track, as well as an optional <$DTS,DTS> track. The audio is very aggressive – as expected – and makes very good use of the surround channels. There are many occasions where sound effects zing by you from the rear, or where big ambient effects create an immersive sound field that has a sonic depth comparable to that of the images. Dialogues are well-integrated and never drowned out and the music is as rich and beautiful as in the first movie.

A full-length <$commentary,audio commentary> featuring Bryan Singer and his cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel can also be found here. It is a great commentary that offers a wealth of insight in to the production and into Bryan’s thinking process as to how he applies the comic book background to turn it into these successful live-action films – a domain where all too many filmmakers fail. The commentary not only offers a lot of technical information but also entertaining anecdotes and general information about the filmmaking process.

A second audio <$commentary,commentary track> features the movie’s writers David Hayter, Dan Harris and Michael Dougherty, and producers Ralph Winter and Lauren Shuler Donner. This <$commentary,commentary track> is also full of valuable information, though on a very different level that Singer is providing. It focuses more on the production design, the steps it took to piece it together and how the characters were transferred from comic to the screen.

On the second disc of the set, viewers will find a wealth of background information on the movie and the comic books. "The Secret Origins Of The X-Men" is a featurette that looks at the creation of the characters, featuring interviews with their creator Stan Lee and other X-Men comic writers. The featurette places the characters into the mindset of the times when they were created making it easier to understand where their initial success stems from.

"Nightcrawler Reborn" takes a closer look at the comic book origins of the character. It is a very informative featurette, especially for those who are not necessarily familiar with the extensive background of the character.

In the "Pre-Production" section of the disc we get a closer look at the evolution of the film. "Nightcrawler Attack" is a multi-angle presentation in which you can view the Nightcrawler in the White House scene using four different stages of production. It is exciting to see how the scenes evolved through the stages.

A Production Design featurette is also included, giving you a look at how the sets and production design evolved from sketches and illustrations, while a third featurette takes a closer look at the costume design for the movie. Interesting stuff, really.

In the "Production" section we find Wolverine Fight Rehearsal footage featuring the fight between Wolverine and Kelly Hu’s very cool character. Bryan Singer talks about the making of the movie in a dedicated "Making Of" featurette, taking us on the set of the film with a lot of behind the scenes footage and valuable information.

In "Introducing the Incredible Nightcrawler" we take a closer look at the somewhat angelic character of Nightcrawler. It shows us how Alan Cummings was preparing for the part

"Requiem For Mutants" in the Post-Production section is a look at the creation of the music score for the movie. It features footage from the recording session as well as interview footage with composer John Ottman. Interesting stuff, indeed, and well worth watching.

Highlights from the X2 Webcasts are also included, which is footage of the filmmakers and cast members answering questions posed in some of the Internet live chats for the movie.

11 deleted scenes are also included on the disc, as well as galleries of production photos, illustrations etc. The DVd is rounded out by a selection of trailers.

"X2: X-Men United" is another glorious entry in the superhero movie fare, courtesy of Bryan Singer. The question whether this film is better than the first "X-Men" film remains to be answered by everyone for himself. One thing is clear, though. Singer is one of the few people who seem to continually manage to bring these comic book characters to the screen without dumbing them down, without making them ridiculously out of place, and without filling his films with unnecessary gimmicks and cinematic fashion statements. "X2: X-Men United", like "X-Men" is a solid piece of action character drama with plenty of thrills and a raw energy that permeates the entire film. The same energy that can be found in the supplements of this Special Edition, making it a complete winner inside and out!