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X-Men Trilogy: 3-Film Collection (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

While there’s no current tie in (Gifted Season 2, maybe?), Fox is on the right track in releasing more X-Men films to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. It dropped the 3 First Class film right away on the format as well as the Deadpool movies and Logan. Now comes the original trilogy of films that started it off. The crown jewel of this set being the original sequel, X2: X-Men United, considered by many to be one of the best comic book super hero films of all time. Now, we sit shy just X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Yuck) and The Wolverine (PLEASE!!!) of having the entire 11 film Fox X-Men franchise on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. That’s pretty impressive! You can grab yourself a copy of the adventure from Toad to “Phoenix” now by clicking the Amazon link!

X-Men 

They are children of the atom, homo superior, the next link in the chain of evolution. Each was born with a unique genetic mutation, which at puberty manifested itself in extraordinary powers. In a world filled with hate and prejudice, they are feared by those who cannot accept their differences. Led by Xavier the X-Men fight to protect a world that fears them. They are locked in a battle with former colleague and friend, Magneto who believes humans and mutants should never co-exist.

The times have come and the times they have changed (And improved) in the comic book superhero cinematic landscape. Whereas 2000’s X-Men was once a groundbreaking film that without it, we are not where we are it at all with today’s multi-billion dollar industry in comic books to live action. Certain things don’t have to be tried, chances can be took, accuracy, cosmic settings, mystical powers and stricter adaptation methods can be done now because the X-Men franchise led a charge to whether a storm (No pun intended). This series was one (And Spider-Man of course) that helped audience to grow fond and get used to just how zany and big concepts could be had they never picked up a comic book or seen a cartoon in their life.

My good friend Scott Mendelson has always referred to this movie as playing out like a glorified television pilot. And as the years pass on, it looks even more like one. However, its a top tier, well acted pilot. That concept also suits the X-Men, as its the most soap opera-esque of any super hero franchise. That’s what brings us to them overall (Deny it all you want, but its the underlying current that drives this universe). The film was perfectly cast and a risk at the time, funny as it is. And as much of a success as it was in the summer 2000, a sequel to it was not a certainty. This film is now more fascinating looking back at this moment in time, as its not the work of an artist holding up in that light like the Burton Batmans. Its short, full of rich, fun characters brought to life pretty well and entertains thoroughly.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: X-Men is a natural 4K transfer as it had been shot on film when it came out. Its a much more crisp image, retaining its fine grain structure. We get a good sharp picture, holding on to detail and saturating its colors and blacks for a very naturalistic and true to cinematic form in terms of picture quality. Many of the special effects pop and manage to not look any more dated than they already would have.

Depth:  Spacing is improved here with much more confident camera pans and character movements. No distortions with rapid movements appeared present.

Black Levels: Blacks are now natural, deep and really can paint a nice bit of shadows while also finding intricate patterns and details still visible.

Color Reproduction: Colors are much better saturated here and we get an extra sting from some things like Cyclops’ beams. Explosion produce a bit more roar. Mystique herself features a bit more intricate color layering and tone.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and contain a consistent running throughout the film’s runtime. This new presentation allows for an improved amount of detail with more wrinkles, lip texture, make-up, stubble and more to be visible.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS, German 5.1 DTS, Italian 5.1 DTS, Czech 2.0 Dolby Digital, Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital,

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Spanish (Castilian), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Cantonese, Czech, Mandarin, Polish

Dynamics: X-Men retains its 5.1 track from the previous Blu-ray release. We can complain about not revising for Atmos, but this 5.1 track is really full and powerful. Its earned the right to stick around as its pretty intricate and layered. The action really hits effectively through all the channels and is satisfactory enough to make you bummed at the setup screen but absolutely fine when watching.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: This one pounds pretty good, from explosions to car crashes to beams just pulsating the area.

Surround Sound Presentation: There are some very good moments, like the train station action scene (Any of them for that matter) as all speakers team together to form quite a bit pandemonium where need be.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp, voiceovers feature really good diction and natural mouth sounds retained.

X2: X-Men United 

Stryker, a villianous former Army commander, holds the key to Wolverine’s past and the future of the X-Men. This threat re-ignites the call for a mutant registration act. Stryker starts a full-out assault on Professor Xavier’s mansion and school. After escaping his plastic cell, Magneto proposes a partnership with Xavier and the X-Men to combat this new formidable enemy they both have in common.

One of the best sequels in the history of comic book films, X2: X-Men United paved the way for more clearer adaptation and really took note and improved upon lessons learned of the previous film. It also seemed to want to buck a trend and break new ground. Trilogies were all the rage for films around this era, but X2 felt like it was paving the way to just make X-Men and ongoing series. Nothing about this film says, next time, we’ll be wrapping this all up. We’ll get to that on the next one, but this film really opened the possibility that “Okay, this time we had a heavier Wolverine story, next time we’ll focus more on Jean Grey”. But alas, it wasn’t to be.

Even with today’s super hero climate, X2 holds up quite well. It does contain one constant fault of the X-Men movies, but its not so dire here. These movies have a tendency to make big world crisis events and make them feel so small and almost inconsequential. Now, what I love about this movie looking back is that this is primarily focused on a mutant story and its deep there and personal to some. However, there IS a moment in the climax where the entire world is at stake and it never really feels up to those stakes. BUT, I’ll argue our focus is pretty well handled by making this more about those at the scene of everything than outside of it. So, overall its find in this movie, but when we get to something like Apocalypse and the entire world is in danger but it feels like its only going on in a junkyard…then we have some issues.

X2 is full of some doozy moments and some rather good comedic bits as people settle more into their roles. Its a shame Alan Cumming’s Nightcrawler only appears in this film as he’s terrific and has a (still to this day) amazing opening scene. Mystique is utilized more and Rebecca Romijn is super sinister, especially in a scene where her and Magneto are poking fun at Rogue’s hair. Brian Cox proves to be one of the best villains in the Marvel Universe as his Stryker is powerful and quite dynamic even to this day (Including the Avengers films). He and Hugh Jackman just don’t get to share enough scenes together in the film.

This film was once argued as the highest bar in superhero movies. And I think the coolest thing about it is that it doesn’t try to be this humongous event movie as most want to be today. Its just the natural next chapter in the X-Men cinematic storyline. Its not a middle chapter, a crucial piece of the puzzle, the end of all things or any of that. Its the next step and obstacle in these characters’ lives. Things go a little bigger, push a couple more boundaries (For 2002, the Wolverine hack n slash through Stryker’s mercenaries in the X-mansion is REALLY taking it to the limits), but nowhere that doesn’t fit the story cohesively. A for this writer, the film still holds up tremendously and is one of the series’ finest hours.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: X2: X-Men United was shot on film and features a natural 4K transfer onto the format. And it looks absolutely gorgeous. For me it was the best of the set. The image is bold, a strong one that features full colors and a well rounded image full of crisp details and textures. The colors here sing pretty good and there’s just a little bit more fine grain. There were some moments where some of the effects, mainly Pyro’s fire felt a bit obvious, but when you see it blend into natural fire and explosions it looked on point. So it kinda plays with the eyes a little, but overall isn’t that much distracting.

Depth: Spacing and motion are pretty much up to speed with the first film and no distortions with rapid movements to boot.

Black Levels: Blacks are natural and keep things looking deep and neat here. Many of the cavernous scenes at Alkaline Lake or the darkened X-Mansion look well formed and keep plenty of details.

Color Reproduction: Colors are quite strong here from natural to the flamboyant. Its a pretty blue and grey looking film at times, but there are moments that burst with some good HDR usage. Cyclops’ beams once again look rather pretty and a lot of the Stryker-Cerebro sequences that use read really shine off the screen with good saturation to boot. I found the colors a bit of an uptick over the first X-Men, but also the two are close to being on par with one another, this film may just have a couple more opportunities to relish.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish. Detail is up to par with the first film in terms of detail and texture.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish 5.1 DTS, German 5.1 DTS, Italian 5.1 DTS, Czech 2.0 Dolby Digital, Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Cantonese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Mandarin, Norwegian, Polish, Swedish

Dynamics: Once again, frowny face, there is no new Atmos remix, but smiley face, the 5.1 was terrific to begin with. This is a full track, that feels very fresh and modern, with a great bit of turned up volume. You’ll be as happy as you were with this when the Blu-ray edition first came out.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Explosions, roaring fire, engines gunning it, helicopters, guns and more pulsate through the subwoofer with good impact.

Surround Sound Presentation: There is a whallop of sound that assists from the rear speakers. From water rushing from behind, cavernous sound additions and guys sneaking around into the X-Mansion, its all covered in some terrific fashion.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud, clear and crisp.

X-Men: The Last Stand 

The discovery of a cure for mutations leads to a turning point for Mutants. They may now choose to give up their powers and become fully human or retain their uniqueness and remain isolated. War looms between the followers of Charles Xavier and his school for the gifted, who preaches tolerance, and those of Magneto, who advocates survival of the fittest.

X-Men: The Last Stand has a reputation of being quite the reviled movie. But, I think that purely extends to the fanboy aspect of everything. The film made $234 million domestically and almost half a billion worldwide back in 2006. You don’t do that business without being enjoyed. While I’m not going to proclaim the film great of better than the first two, I’m not going to spend my typing ragging on it. Its one of the bottom tier X-Men films, there’s no question. The biggest crime the film commits is not adhering to the source material from which they base it on. The ideas are there, but the screenwriters clearly are going in their own direction with it. Many blame the exit of Bryan Singer, not realizing this is probably closer to what he wanted than they assume. He left pretty late in the game and Brett Ratner was employed very late in the game to do the script they already had. I hate defending that guy, but it is what it is.

X-Men: The Last Stand’s take on one of the comic book’s most memorable storylines and its handling of some its primary characters is downright bad. For the comic fan going into this movie, I feel ya. But, after the slap in the face, go back again and see what you really received. While the adaptive qualities of this movie are disappointing, the film itself is still pretty entertaining. And instead of taking the character motivations and such from the comic book page they took a progression of them from what was there in the first two films. As a generic super hero action movie that has characters from the X-Men, its okay. Its a bit overloaded and is trying to do too much.

As I mentioned, X2 does not feel like a middle chapter in a trilogy, yet Last Stand comes crashing in as some sort of conclusion to this saga. The story feels kind hackneyed because it never really felt like it was ready to end. In fact, some things feel like they are just getting started. Since its the “last time” (Yes, there was a solo Wolverine film in the works as well as a Young Magneto movie rumored during this time), they’ve decided to cram in all the mutants they can to give them their shot. Some work out wonderfully, like Beast and Kitty Pryde but then there are others that are flat out insulting to fans like Psylocke (YUP, she is in this movie). The story rushes to ahead and sort of figures the wrong angle on many things to follow and the climactic moments and situations feel very forced and disjointed.

Despite it all, the movie still is quite entertaining. And its a short one, so it moves really fast. Some of the best action sequences in the whole series come from this movie. The seminal one of it all for me is the battle inside Jean Grey’s childhood home. Its still impressive today. There is a lot of stuff going on, but it features terrific mutant action, sweet moves, great effects and a moment where Juggernaut tosses Wolverine up in the ceiling and he comes crashing down in the next room over. Another terrific, and intense, sequence is Juggernaut chasing Kitty Pryde as she goes to protect Leech. When I first saw this movie, I really enjoy Ellen Page’s performance one, and two thought that she was the foil for Rogue and Bobby’s relationship that she might get off’d in a moment of sacrifice since this was the “last” movie. And I don’t want to forget that the final battle has great moments and also nice bits of humor tossed in for good measure.

Sure, I get the turn offs this movie has, but its purely based on “They didn’t adapt it correctly” moreso than “Is this an okay movie or not”. And I think its okay. Trust me, I have the SAME grievances about this movie as you do, but I’m able to separate myself from it, and just enjoy aspects and solid things that they have delivered here. And also, with the X-Men Origins: Wolverine and X-Men: Apocalypse, this one is no longer sitting on the bottom or right next to it. Heck during this time around, I realized I actually really like how they’ve handled Storm’s relationship with Wolverine and Professor X in this movie. And if you’re JUST going off the movies and not the comic books it actually makes sense. And she seems to be the only one in the film series to recognize that…”Yo, Logan has only been here for just a couple weeks, guys, why have we given him the keys to Mutant City?”. When it all comes down to it, the film delivers in some (at times) terrific mutant action spectacle and that’s making good on the LEAST amount required to have this thing be entertaining.

Video 

Encoding: HEVC / H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: While X-Men: The Last Stand was shot on filmed, it was finished with a 2K Digital Intermediate back when it was release. As far was we know, this 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray debut is an upscale. But, for me it looks pretty darn good and a noticeable improvement over the Blu-ray. Details are strong and the coloring and blacks look pretty enhance, helping to make this look lovely.  Some effects are a little more revealing here, but nothing distracts from the enjoyment of watching the film.

Depth:  Spacing is solid here, you get more confident movements and camera swings in this with no distortions. Pushback is all right and the final battle feels a hair more open than it did before.

Black Levels: Here’s where I think this one excels over the others. It has a bit of a natural darkness to it that does look quite rich and well saturated. It made the film have a little more dour feel at times which was honestly kind of fitting.

Color Reproduction: Coloring here is natural and rich with good greens, strong reds and more. Fires roar with good oranges. HDR helps the effects to pop in all the right places.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film. Facial features come through strong and Jean’s “Not Dark Phoenix but I Guess They Think Its Phoenix” face comes with plenty of discernible features.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 6.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish (Castilian) 5.1 DTS, German 5.1 DTS, Italian 5.1 DTS, Czech 5.1 Dolby Digital, Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Spanish (Castilian), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Cantonese, Czech, Mandarin, Polish

Dynamics: X-Men go 3 for 3 in retaining the original audio tracks from their Blu-ray counterparts. And the hat trick extends to these being great presentations. Last Stand is really loud and proud, probably featuring the most saturated and in your face action feeling of the bunch. Its also a bit more playful in terms of speaker interplay and unique sounds from rear channels.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: You subwoofer pounds, especially on the Juggernaut’s movements and the like. This film features more heavy action than any of the others and it delivers in shaking the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: Another great bit of fund with awesome examples of motion throughout the 6 channel setup. Many things come charging from behind and move around from side to side with good fun.

Dialogue Reproduction: Once again, vocals are solid, at a good volume with great clarity.

Extras 

X-Men Trilogy: 3-Film Collection comes with the standard Blu-rays and digital copies of each film. Aside from commentaries, bonus materials are found on the standard Blu-ray discs.

X-Men

Audio Commentary

  • By Bryan Singer and Brian Peck

Enhanced Viewing Mode

Deleted Scenes / Extended Scenes With Optional Commentary (SD, 11:02)

Fox Special: “The Mutant Watch” (SD, 21:57)

Bryan Singer Interview (SD, 6:17)

Animatics – “Liberty Head”, “Train Station”

Art Gallery – Character Design, Production Design

TV Spots (SD, 1:36)

Music Promo (SD, :31)

Marvel Universe Trailers

X2: X-Men United

Audio Commentary

  • By Bryan Singer and Tom Sigel
  • By Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris and David Hayter

Marvel Universe Trailers

X-Men: The Last Stand

Audio Commentary

  • By Brett Ratner, Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg
  • By Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter

Trivia Track

Deleted Scenes (HD, 9:13)

Trailers

Summary 

Sure, we’ve come a ways since, but don’t forget how crucial the X-Men films were to getting us where we are at in today’s comic book film culture. This 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray set makes for a VERY nice upgrade in picture quality, the only aspect that has been upgraded. However, its selling at a price that’s really hard to refuse. If you’re even decently a fan, its an easy pickup at that price!

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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