I was never a comic book reader. Many of my friends have boxes upon boxes of collected comics, most of which are worth money, I have no doubt. For some reason though, the fascination never took hold in me. I was never patient enough to wait from week to week for the story to unfold and, if I was going to have to see a story told with pictures, I preferred them to be moving.
Consequently, watching X-Men the movie was an opportunity for me catch a glimpse into a world that has largely been lost on me. Fortunately, while I'm sure it's nothing like actually reading the graphic novels and comics, X-Men is a great movie. It's also a movie that had a lot to live up to.
Director Bryan Singer took his responsibility to legions of X-Men fans very seriously. The result is not only the kind of eye candy that movie goers expect from today's sci-fi, but also a movie that manages to establish and examine the prejudice and loneliness experienced by individuals who did not fit with the "in crowd," which is the very basic theme underlying the intense popularity of the comic books.
X-Men the movie is the story of a world where human DNA is evolving in such a way that some folks are being born with mutations. These mutations manifest themselves differently in different people, but essentially, people with these mutations live in fear of a world that lives in fear of them. "Normal" people are afraid of the mutants and treat them with hostility. The mutants hide their abilities as best they can in order to live their lives unmolested.
Dr. Xavier (Patrick Stewart), a mutant with telepathic abilities and a lot of money, has established a school and safe house for mutant teens. From his students he has built a crack team of superheroes called the X-Men, who make it their business to protect the world from bad mutants, most notably Magneto (Ian McKellen), while attempting to influence acceptance and understanding for their kind.
Anyway, this is the first of what I hope will be several X-Men features, and as such, there was a great deal of back-story and character development to be done. Sometimes that can bog a movie down, but not so in X-Men. If anything I found myself wanting more and more information and story for each character. Wolverine (Hugh Jackman)'s mysterious metal implants left plenty of questions unanswered, we barley see enough of Storm, and there is no back story on Xavier whatsoever. I'm ready for the sequel already. Oh yeah, every now and then they get into a really cool fight scene and kick ass!
Bang! Pow! Zam! This DVD busts out of the screen at you. I can't say much more than that. It looks and sounds as close to theatrical quality as any DVD I've yet seen. This is a must have disc for showing off your home theater system. But I'm warning you; you're going to want one of those fabulous flat screen televisions.
Lots of goodies on this disc. Not only do we have both theatrical trailers but also all of the television spots. This is a really cool way to see the evolution of the marketing department's concept for how to sell the movie: "In this trailer we'll wow them with the effects...and over here we'll hit them with the emotional human interest stuff..."
Concept art on all the major characters is really neat and allows us to see the transition from art to screen. The ideas for costumes and makeup, prototypes for Cyclops' goggles and Xavier's wheelchair, as well as Wolverine's claws, were really fun to check out. And, something I wanted more of, this disc includes two clips of animatics, the digitally animated versions of the scenes, as they should look, before they were filmed. The two that we get are both fight scenes, the one from the train station and the one from the Statue of Liberty. Very very cool.
The segments of Charlie Rose's interview with Bryan Singer were interesting though not something I'd watch more than once. Hugh Jackman's screen test was a little disappointing but will be of historical interest in a few years as Jackman's career and this franchise grows.
The X-Men Feature is a great look at each of the main characters with some additional background info and descriptions from the cast members themselves. It's a little hokey in the set-up but it's a much better featurette than many I've seen.
One of the best extras here involves the 10 minutes of deleted footage. With this DVD you have an option. You can watch each deleted scene independent of the film or you can watch an extended branching version of the movie where the deleted footage is sewn back in, with on screen indicators when the material is extra. This is a great way to look at the film from the editor's chair.
DVDeastereggs.com pointed me to a hidden extra within the special features Art menu. If you click on Wolverine's dogtags in the center of the menu screen you will find concept art for two characters that were not used in the film. If either makes it into the next movie we'll have gotten a neat sneak peak at them.
Also included in my DVD keep case is a coupon for a bonus CD-ROM to be redeemed at www.x-menrom.com. The CD seems to have additional animated storyboards, another featurette and photos taken on the set.
Oh yeah, there are 28 chapter stops and the menus are fabulous and easy to navigate.
If I may bicker over one little thing I would have liked an isolated soundtrack feature for this movie. The score is brilliant and deserved to be showcased. Though I suppose that would have reduced sales of the soundtrack album. Oh well.
Have I convinced you to buy this DVD yet? Welcome to the next millennium folks. If the home theater arena improves much more than this we'll never leave the house again.
(Though Amy didn't get her wish for an isolated soundtrack, a new two-disc edition of this movie titled X-Men 1.5 was issued to replace this now out-of-print version, and it is even heavier on the extras. -ed)
Amy Morrison, 1/14/2001