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X-MEN

X-MEN ($30) is a really good superhero movie offering that could have been great had it had a longer running time that would have interspersed a few more action sequences between the film's extensive exposition. To introduce the film going public to the universe of the Marvel comic book sensation, co-writer/director Bryan Singer is forced to cram a lot of information into a relatively short running time. Singer does manage to create an involving story with well-realized characters that are intelligent and not at all cartoony, however a comic book movie, such as X-MEN, needs a bit more rock 'em sock 'em action than what we find in the final cut. Don't get me wrong; I really like X-MEN and how Singer has brought the story to life. Without question, he has laid the groundwork for a great movie franchise that, in future outings, will be able to give the characters more exiting things to do, instead of spending most of the running time explaining what they are.

Set in a not too distant future, X-MEN tells the story of how humankind begins to take their next step in the cycle of evolution through mutation. While the mutations don't affect everyone, there is a large enough population of mutants to scare normal Homo sapiens. Preying upon this fear is Senator Kelly (Bruce Davison), who is calling for a law that would require all mutants to register themselves with the government. Of course, there are members of the mutant community who see parallels between Senator Kelly's propositions and what happened in Nazi Germany. Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is a mutant with great telepathic abilities, who is working within the system to stop the Senator's irrational efforts against the mutant population.

However, another mutant leader, Erik Magnus Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Ian McKellen), witnessed Nazi atrocities firsthand and is willing to start a war with normal humans to save his own kind. As the film progresses, we are introduced to three of The X-Men, who operate out of Professor Xavier's school for gifted youths. Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) has powerful psychic and telekinetic abilities, while her fiancé Scott Summers aka Cyclops (James Marsden) must wear a visor over his eyes to control the powerful energy beam that emanate from them. Then there is the beautiful Ororo Munroe aka Storm (Halle Berry), who has shocking long white hair and is able to control the weather. X-MEN also introduces us to another mutant named Logan aka Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) who has incredible regenerative abilities, as well as having a skeleton that has been infused with an indestructible metal and razor sharp claws that emerge from his hands. Logan reluctantly becomes part of the X-Men team after a young mutant named Marie aka Rogue (Anna Paquin) is abducted by Magneto's forces that include Sabretooth (Tyler Mane), Toad (Ray Park) and Mystique (Rebecca Romijn-Stamos). As I stated above, co-writer/director Singer handles the material very intelligently, making this a movie that will appeal to adult audiences, as well as teens and children. The special effects work and the makeup is absolutely first rate, with every last penny of the film's reported 75 million dollar budget up on the screen.

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has made X-MEN on DVD in a wide screen presentation that restores the film's 2.35:1 dimensions, as well providing the anamorphic enhancement for playback on 16:9 displays. The transfer is very pleasing, deliver the level of quality one generally expects from a brand new, big budget movie just coming off of theatrical release. The image is crisp and it provides an excellent level of detail. Colors are usually quite vibrant; with the flesh tones appearing very natural. There is no evidence of chromatic distortion and the rock solid hues never smear nor bleed beyond their boundaries. Blacks are pure, plus the picture has very smooth contrast and plenty of shadow detail in the darker scenes. Even though the film presents a number of challenging visuals, clean dual layer authoring keeps digital compression artifacts at bay.

The Dolby Digital 5.1 channel soundtrack has a spirited action movie mix that blasts sound effects around a very active soundstage. Channel separation is clean and split surround junkies will find enough effects to keep them happy. Dialogue is fully intelligible and the actors' voices resonate with a natural timbre, which greatly benefits both Stewart and McKellen. The bass channel provides enough energy to knock someone out of his or her seat and Michael Kamen's effective score if rendered with its full musical integrity in tact. English and French Dolby Surround soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English and French subtitles.

Full motion video, animation and sound have been implemented on the DVD's cool interactive menus. Through the menus one has access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as a nice complement of supplements. X-MEN includes an extended branching version of the film that require viewer intervention to play additional scenes during the course of the movie. Personally, I would have like a longer cut of the film that would have played on its own from beginning to end, with even more extra footage than what is included here.

The Mutant Watch is a television special that aired on the Fox Network to promote the theatrical release of X-MEN. Containing its own story, as well as scenes from the movie, it is entertaining and somewhat more involved than the standard publicity puff piece that accompanies most films. On the DVD, one will also find excerpts from The Charlie Rose Show in which Brian Singer talks about X-MEN. Hugh Jackman's screen test, two theatrical trailers, three TV spots and a promotional spot for Michael Kamen's score are also included, as are a nice section of conceptual designs and two computer generated Animatics.

X-MEN is a solid, entertaining movie based upon one of the most popular comic books of all time. The DVD provides a first rate representation of the film's theatrical cut, which will certainly appeal to fans and home theater enthusiasts. Hopefully, Fox will someday choose to revisit this title and produce an extended director's cut DVD of X-MEN that employs seamless branching.

 
X-MEN 


X-Men

ENHANCED FOR 16:9 TELEVISIONS 

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DVD reviews are Copyright © 2000 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.


 

 

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