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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/23/00

2000 (2000) - 20th Century Fox

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsTHX-certified

X-Men Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B+/B-

Specs and Features

104 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, THX certified, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 32:36, in chapter 9), custom foil fold-out and slipcase packaging, Mutant Watch Fox TV special, "extended branching" version allows you to watch the film with 6 deleted/extended scenes (also viewable separately), director Bryan Singer interview clips from The Charlie Rose Show, Hugh Jackman's screen test footage, 2 trailers, 3 TV spots, soundtrack promo spot, 2 CGI animatic clips, gallery of character and production design artwork, 2 Easter eggs, THX Optimode test signals, animated film-themed menus with sound effects, scene access (28 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 and 2.0) and French (DD 2.0), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Ahhh... the superhero movie. There's nothing like a good comic book superhero, adapted well for the big screen. Think the first Superman movie. Think Tim Burton's Batman. Maybe they'll never live up to the comics, but they're still pretty fun. But for every good adaptation, there are countless bombs. And since Hollywood is always looking for a franchise, you can bet there are lots of bad sequels to even the best superhero films. Superman 3 anyone? I've often wondered why studios don't just hire the guys who pen the best comic books to adapt these stories into films. Some of those comic stories are simply amazing. Still, as with science fiction, sometimes Hollywood gets it right... but more often than not they blow it. However, Fox's X-Men works for the most part. It isn't the greatest superhero flick by any means, but the potential is definitely there for a whole series of killer sequels. Let's hope they don't drop the ball.

As any fan of the comics already knows, X-Men follows an Evil-fighting team of "mutants" - humans with enhanced powers. Their leader is the wheelchair-bound Professor Charles Xavier (aka Professor X, played here by Patrick Stewart), who has started an institute to teach mutants to use their powers for good. Mutants must constantly be on guard from the fear and paranoia they generate in ordinary humans. This fear is so great, that one mutant has decided to wage a war against humanity - the devious Magneto (Ian McKellen). Now, mutants the world over are taking sides in this great battle, and only the X-Men can save humanity from extinction. Professor X will be aided in this struggle by the likes of Cyclops (James Marsden), Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry), along with two mutant newcomers, Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). And among the evil mutants they'll face are Toad (Ray Park, better known for playing Darth Maul in Episode I), Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). Who will win? Well... you can probably guess. But I'm just betting that the potential of seeing a Halle Berry/Rebecca Romijn-Stamos grudge match got a lot of young men into the theaters.

As I mentioned, the film actually works fairly well. If it has one main problem, I'd say that it suffers from a lot of obligatory setup and backstory. We're getting to know the characters and the situation here and, as a result, the film lags a bit while we learn about Xavier's "mutant" Institute, among other things. Because of all this backstory, there's not as much actual conflict as one would want. And since you never see Magneto really doing much that's truly evil until late in the film, he isn't as effective a villain as he could be (and I think will be in future films). The other problem is that, as many know, this film was heavily edited before its theatrical release. Some 45 minutes was cut from the running time, and you can tell - there's a lot of story hinted at here (like Wolverine's mysterious past) that we get glimpses of but never see. Even the deleted scenes we get on this disc seem far from complete (more on that in a minute). But ultimately, I like these characters and the setup. Stewart and Jackman and the others are likable. McKellen IS a good Magneto and I think we'll get a better feel for that if he sticks with the role. And aside from one really lame duck Halle Berry line about what happens to a toad when it gets hit by lightning, the dialogue works too.

This is a nice DVD from the folks at Fox, but I can't help but feel that there was a LOT of material we're not seeing (destined, perhaps, for a future multi-disc special edition?). But first things first - the video looks generally very good. The anamorphic widescreen picture is occasionally a little sort or a little edgy, but on the whole, it features excellent contrast, deep, detailed blacks and muted but accurate color. You'll see a little digital artifacting in some of the fog/jet scenes near the end (before the Statue of Liberty battle) but on the whole I was very happy with this picture. The Dolby Digital audio is also very good, with tremendous bass, lots of trick panning effects and very active rear channels. This is nifty superhero surround sound.

The extras are very cool but, as I said, seem to hint at a lot more that's not here. First of all, there's no commentary track. Next, we get clips of director Bryan Singer being interviewed by Charlie Rose... but not the full interview. And we get some 6 deleted/extended scenes, but not nearly the full 45 minutes. Also, the animated menus on this disc are cool, but take way too long to transition. That's the bad. But here's the good. To start with, you do get 6 deleted/extended scenes. They're cool to watch, and can be viewed either separately, or in an "extended branching" mode, where they'll appear at the appropriate time when playing the movie (but it's not seamless - think the "follow the white rabbit" feature from The Matrix). There's a 22 minute Fox TV special on the film, featuring interviews and a look behind the scenes. It's a bit fluffy, but some time was spent on it, and it features original, "Senate Hearing" wraparounds with Bruce Davison, who plays the mutant-fearing Senator Kelly in the movie. The Charlie Rose interview clips with Singer are interesting - I had no idea the guy was that young. More power to him. There's also a pair of very cool computer animated "animatics", for a couple of the major action scenes in the film. You get tons of character and design sketches - dozens of them. Hugh Jackman's screen test footage is also pretty cool to watch. This film began shooting without the part of Wolverine being cast, and Jackman came to the table late. Here, we get to see him acting out a scene with Anna Paquin, and he nails it. It's interesting to watch. Finally, there are a pair of fun Easter eggs on the disc. I'm not gonna say how to find them, because they're pretty easy to locate, but one features a funny cameo appearance by Spiderman and the other is a series of character development drawings for The Beast and The Blob - who didn't appear in the final film but will be seen in future sequels. Very cool.

All in all, if you dig superhero flicks or you're an X-Men fan, I think you have to be happy with this film. It definitely isn't a home run. But it's cool enough that it works. More importantly, I think Fox might have a helluva franchise here if they play their cards right... and don't fall into the trap that Warner did with Superman and Batman. This is a pretty easy way to kill a few hours on a lazy weekend afternoon, and the disc delivers just enough to whet your appetite for more. Do check it out.

Bill Hunt
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