DirectorBryan Singer, Brett Ratner
Release Date(s)2000-2006 (September 25, 2018)
Studio(s)Marvel Entertainment/Dune/Ingenious/Bat Hat Harry/The Donners’ Company (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: See Below
- Video Grade: See Below
- Audio Grade: See Below
- Extras Grade: C-
- Overall Grade: B
With so many of the more recent films in the franchise already available on 4K Ultra HD, it only makes sense that 20th Century Fox would get around to releasing the first three X-Men feature films on the format. Now they’re available together in a single 4K Ultra HD collection.
Let’s take a look at each film individually…
As any fan of the comics (not to mention the more recent films) already knows, X-Men follows a 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 leads an institute that aims 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 is aided in this struggle by Cyclops (James Marsden), Dr. Jean Grey (Famke Janssen) and Storm (Halle Berry), along with two mutant newcomers, Rogue (Anna Paquin) and Wolverine (Hugh Jackman). 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).
As both a film and a franchise launch, X-Men actually works fairly well. If it has one problem, it’s that it suffers from a good deal of obligatory backstory. We’re getting to know the characters and the situation here and the film lags a bit as a result. And since you don’t see Magneto doing much that’s truly evil until late in the film, he isn’t as effective a villain as he might be. The other problem is that 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. But ultimately, these characters are likable and their setup is interesting. Stewart, Jackman, and McKellen are all terrific. And aside from one really terrible Halle Berry line about what happens to a toad when it gets hit by lightning, the script works too.
X-Men was shot on 35mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and Panavision Primo anamorphic lenses and finished on film. It appears that either the original camera negative and/or master interpositive was scanned in full native 4K. The resulting image was then graded for high dynamic range (HDR10 only) and it’s presented here on Ultra HD at the proper 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. Note that this is the theatrical cut of the film. Overall image detail is beautiful, with lovely intact grain structure and surface texturing. VFX shots are were produced at a lower resolution given the day and scanned back out to film, so they obviously exhibit a bit less detail. The HDR grade is stunning, with deep but detailed blacks, and bright, luminous highlights. Colors are rich but accurate and exhibit more nuance than ever.
Audio is included on 4K in the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix available on the previous Blu-ray edition. The quality is excellent, with a large and aggressive soundstage, strong dynamics, robust bass, fine atmospherics, and highly-active panning and movement, especially in the latter portions of the film. It was a reference quality mix on Blu-ray and it remains so, lacking only the height enhancements DTS:X might have provided. Also available are Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, along with Czech and Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. Subtitle options include English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, two forms of Chinese, Czech, and Polish.
The only extra on the 4K disc is carried over from the previous Blu-ray:
- Audio commentary with Bryan Singer and Brian Peck
It’s available with optional subtitles in several different languages. The package also includes the original theatrical cut Blu-ray, which has the same commentary and adds the following (most in the original SD):
- Enhanced Viewing Mode Deleted/Extended Scenes (6 scenes with optional commentary – 11:02 in all)
- The Mutant Watch Fox TV Special (21:57)
- Bryan Singer Interview (5 parts – 6:17 in all)
- Animatics (2 clips)
- Art Gallery (2 galleries)
- TV Spots (3 spots – 1:36 in all)
- Music Promo (:31)
- Marvel Universe Trailers (HD – 5 trailers)
Unfortunately, the original Blu-ray release of this film was a 2-disc set and that second Blu-ray of bonus features is not included here. So all of those features are missing. Definitely don’t get rid of your previous Blu-ray edition.
X2: X-Men United (2002)
X2 begins a few months after the end of the first film. Logan is searching Alaska for clues to his past, Magneto is contained in a plastic prison, and classes at Professor Xavier’s school for the gifted are in full swing. But a new mutant, Nightcrawler, attempts to infiltrate the White House and assassinate the President in the Oval Office. The attempt fails, but the action sends the public’s fear and paranoia of mutants to an all time high, so the President authorizes a military team led by Colonel William Stryker to take action. Professor X and his X-Men launch their own investigation and discover that Stryker has found a way to control mutants... control he’s using to start an all-out war between mutants and humans. Stryker’s goal is nothing less than the complete destruction of all mutants everywhere. So The X-Men must work with their former enemies to stave off disaster.
Director Bryan Singer and his writing team intentionally patterned X2 after the great genre sequels of the 1980s, crafting a story that’s not only better than the first film, but one in which both the stakes and the action have been elevated significantly. Nightcrawler is a great addition to this series, though the overall character development does suffer a bit (particularly that of Cyclops, who is given very little to do). Still, this is a great superhero film, hugely entertaining and with many strong performances. Better still, it’s accessible even to those unfamiliar with the original comic books. X2 is great fun from start to finish.
X2: X-Men United was shot on 35mm film in Super 35 format using Panavision Panaflex and Aaton cameras and Panavision Primo lenses and was finished on film. Either the original camera negative and/or master interpositive was scanned in full native 4K. The result was graded for high dynamic range (HDR10) and it’s presented on Ultra HD at the 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio. The resulting image looks very good in 4K, but the Super 35 process isn’t quite as generous with fine detail. There’s also more VFX in this film, which were produced digitally at a lower resolution and scanned back out to film. Texturing is still nice, as is the grain structure. The HDR grade once again deepens the shadows and makes highlights more luminous and natural looking. Color is rich, accurate, and more nuanced.
Audio on the 4K disc comes by way of the same English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix found on the previous Blu-ray edition. Once again, the mix is excellent, with a big soundstage, strong dynamics and atmospherics, firm bass, and highly-aggressive surround panning and movement. It was a reference quality Blu-ray sound mix and lacks only the height channels an object-based DTS:X would have given it. Also available are Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS, along with Czech and Polish 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround. Subtitle options include English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, two forms of Chinese, Czech, and Polish.
Fox’s 4K disc includes two extras, carried over from the previous Blu-ray:
- Audio commentary with Bryan Singer and Tom Sigel
- Audio commentary with Lauren Shuler Donner, Ralph Winter, Michael Dougherty, Dan Harris, and David Hayter
These are available with optional subtitles in several different languages. The package also includes the original movie Blu-ray, which has the same to commentaries adds the following:
- Marvel Universe Trailers (HD – 5 trailers)
Once again, the original Blu-ray release of this film was a 2-disc set and the second Blu-ray of bonus features is not included here. This is all you get. So again, don’t get rid of your previous Blu-ray edition.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
When a “cure” for mutants is developed from the DNA of a young man with the power to reverse the mutations of others, the world is turned upside down. A few in the mutant community see this as an opportunity to finally return to a normal life with their friends and family. But many others, including Magneto, see it as nothing less than an all-out war by the human world against mutant-kind. Sure enough, the United States Government militarizes the program to produce the cure, making the research facility the target of Magneto’s wrath… and the site of a final showdown between his hostile forces and Professor Xavier’s X-Men.
Having directed the first two films in this series, Bryan Singer left the franchise to make Superman Returns (2006) instead, turning the reins over to Brett Ratner, then best known for leading the production of Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, and Red Dragon. Unfortunately, while the story of X-Men: The Last Stand unfolds logically from the earlier films, the script is an uneven mess. It was cobbled together by two different writers (Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn) under intense pressure from studio executives, who meddled with various elements in unfortunate ways. The resulting film isn’t bad, but it isn’t very good either, too often choosing to go over the top with action instead of paying off its character arcs with any depth. X-Men: The Last Stand is an unsatisfying conclusion to the original X-Men trilogy.
X-Men: The Last Stand was shot on 35mm film using Panavision cameras and anamorphic lenses but was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. It’s been upsampled for this release, graded for high dynamic range (in HDR10) and it’s presented here on Ultra HD at the correct 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The resulting image is good and offers a modest bump in detail over the Blu-ray edition. But compared to the other two films in native 4K, it’s a bit lacking. Fine detail and texturing are good, but the grain texture is a little more noisy this time. The HDR again deepens the shadows, enriches the colors, and brightens the highlights. The HDR grade isn’t quite as impressive as the first film in 4K especially, but it does offer enough of an improvement to make this the preferred viewing option for the film.
Audio on the 4K disc is the same English 6.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix available on the previous Blu-ray edition. The mix delivers the same terrific bang as those of the first two films, with a remarkably aggressive and dynamic soundstage, thunderous bass, immersive atmospherics, and smooth, lively surround placement and movement. The track was reference quality on Blu-ray, lacking only the height channels of an object-based DTS:X mix. Also available are English 5.1 Dolby Digital EX, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, Spanish, Czech, and Polish 5.1 Dolby Digital, and French, Castilian, German, and Italian 5.1 DTS. Subtitle options include English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, Spanish, French, Castilian, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, two forms of Chinese, Czech, and Polish.
The 4K disc contains two extras, both carried over from the previous Blu-ray edition:
- Audio commentary with Brett Ratner, Simon Kinberg, and Zak Penn
- Audio commentary with Avi Arad, Lauren Schuler Donner, and Ralph Winter
These are available with optional subtitles in several languages. The package also contains the original movie Blu-ray, which has the commentaries and adds the following:
- Trivia Track Deleted Scenes (HD – 12 scenes with optional commentary – 9:13 in all)
- Trailers (HD – 4 trailers)
As with the other two films in this 4K set, the original Blu-ray was a 2-disc release and the extras Blu-ray is not included, so this is it in terms of bonus features. Again, hang on to your original BD if you care.
Note that in addition to the extras listed above for each individual film, the package also includes a Movies Anywhere Digital code on a paper insert. So that’s something. But the lack of the original Blu-ray bonus discs is still disappointing.
Is Fox’s new X-Men: 3-Film Collection worth the upgrade to 4K? Certainly, the films have never looked better than they do here, especially the first two. The sound options remain the same and you’re missing most of the Blu-ray extras… but then at a sale price of around $30, you’re only paying $10 a film for 4K and HDR. That’s not too bad. If you’re a fan of these films and you’ve made the leap to Ultra HD, you’re probably going to want it. Just make sure you keep those original BD sets for the extras.
- Bill Hunt