Bryan Singer’s long-awaited screen adventure of Marvel Comics’ band of uncanny mutant superheroes breed of summer hit: the successful letdown. The film made well over $100 million at the domestic box office, yet that figure wasn’t quite as stratospheric as many had anticipated; the film was also generally well-received by critics and an audiences, but not without a tinge of disappointment. The initial DVD release of the film follows the same path–it’s a solid edition, but it has its share of shortcomings.
Fox has always been one of the more imaginative studios when it comes to menu design, and the X disc is no exception. After a retina scan simulation, one comes across a screen patterned after the film’s spherical room containing the computer Cerebro. From this nerve center one can easily navigate to the equally interesting submenus for chapter stops, languages, special features, and the movie itself.
For a film as effects-heavy and challenging technically as this one, supplemental information on the making of the film is in fairly light supply. The making-of featurette is actually a half-informative, half-useless glorified infomercial on the film that aired on the Fox network; it mixes interviews with cast and crew with faux newsmagazine footage on Senate hearings regarding “mutant registration.” A couple of “animatics”–3-D computer-animated segments that play out planned sequences–are included, hinting at the amount of technical planning that went into the action scenes. A selection of set and character concept art, largely devoid of labeling, is also offered (preliminary sketches for characters that did not make the film are hidden on the disc, as is an uproarious prank outtake). For most fans, the big highlight of “X-Men” was not the effects work but the performance of charismatic Hugh Jackman as the focal X-Man, Wolverine, and a nod to that is provided by the inclusion of Jackman’s brief screen test segment, which also features Anna Paquin (who plays Rogue). Some additional insights into the production are provided by Singer himself not in a commentary but in interview segments culled from his appearance on PBS’ talk show Charlie Rose; however, it would have been nice if there were an option to watch the interview segments in a continuous whole rather than only as six 1-2 minute tidbits.
But, as Singer says, “It’s a movie… not a video game,” and the superlative visual and audio transfer of the briskly-paced action-adventure on this disc should more than hold fans over until a more extensive special edition hits stores sometime next year. Bound to irk fans, on the other hand, is an “extended branching” version of the film that theoretically reinstates a handful of deleted scenes (also accessible through their own menu in the “Special Features” section) back into the main feature. On paper, it appears to be a good idea, but unless you have a fast, top-of-the-line player, forget it; the transitions from the main feature and these scenes are far from seamless, for the player needs time to locate the scenes on the disc. Fox would have been better off leaving the movie and these deleted scenes separate, for its presentation of the basic theatrical cut more than suffices.
Specifications: 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen; English 5.1 Surround; English Dolby Surround; French Dolby Surround; English and Spanish subtitles; English closed captioning.