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X2: X-Men United(2003)
When a shocking attack by an unknown assailant possessing extraordinary abilities points to the work of a mutant, the political and public outcry for a Mutant Registration Act is renewed. Leading the anti-mutant movement is William Stryker, a wealthy former Army commander and scientist who is rumored to have experimented on mutants. Stryker's mutant "work" is somehow tied to Wolverine's mysterious and forgotten past. As Wolverine searches for clues to his origin, Stryker puts into motion his anti-mutant program beginning with a full-scale military offensive on Xavier's mansion and School for the Gifted. Magneto, newly escaped from the plastic prison he was incarcerated in, proposes a partnership with the X-Men to combat their common and formidable enemy, Stryker.
For more about X2: X-Men United and the X2: X-Men United Blu-ray release, see X2: X-Men United Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 23, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry, Famke Janssen, James Marsden
Director: Bryan Singer
» See full cast & crew
X2: X-Men United Blu-ray Review
A very good sequel to a great film.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, April 23, 2009
Sharing the world has never been humanity's defining attribute.
The X-Men franchise seems to follow the classic trend where a great movie is often followed up by a film that comes close to equaling, or even surpassing in quality, the original. Whether it be Aliens, The Empire Strikes Back, The Godfather: Part II, or The Dark Knight, sequels to some of the best films ever made often don't disappoint. Then again, there is always The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Weekend at Bernie's II, and The Chronicles of Riddick. Fortunately, X2 falls squarely into the former category, the film not quite as deep as the original but just as exciting, well-scripted, and far darker and somber in tone. It's a classic sequel to be sure, turning much of the original's foundation on its head without sacrificing integrity or continuity, and ending on a more emotionally downtrodden note that at once both leaves the viewer mentally exhausted and eager for more in the inevitable sequel that, in most instances, can't help but disappoint next to the first two films.
With Magneto (Ian McKellen, The Lord of the Rings) imprisoned in a special holding cell but the anti-mutant sentiment still going strong, X2 opens with a mutant infiltration of the White House where a clear message is delivered -- "Mutant freedom now." Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart, Mysterious Island) and the team set out to discover the real purpose of the attack -- and who is behind it. Storm (Halle Berry, Gothika) and Dr. Jean Gray (Famke Janssen, The Wackness) discover the identity of the assailant, a former circus-performing mutant named Nightcrawler (Alan Cumming, Spy Kids) with the ability to teleport. Meanwhile, Xavier and Cyclops (James Marsden, 27 Dresses) pay a visit to an old friend -- Magneto -- and discover a plot hatched by William Stryker (Brian Cox, Zodiac), a man with a personal grudge against mutants and Professor Xavier, to destroy all mutants using Xavier's own powers against them. It's up to Wolverine (Hugh Jackman, Deception), Rogue (Anna Paquin, Trick 'r Treat), and the X-Men team -- alongside a few surprising allies -- to stop Stryker before it's too late.
X2 continues in the tradition of its predecessor, never forgetting its roots and smartly intertwining thought-provoking drama into the midst of the action. Bryan Singer, returning to direct this sequel, expands the character list; continues to develop the primary characters, particularly with regard to their interpersonal relationships; and doubles up on the action, offering a good deal more explosions, fights, and special effects, but not to the detriment of the emotional core of the series. In fact, the film's darker themes -- including those of self-sacrifice -- make X2 a formidable film, for it ups the ante from the first entry by further humanizing its characters, particularly those not considered "normally" human, and further questioning the motives and thought processes of those who see in the mutants a foe rather than a friend. The film does so in two ways: through the forcible, malicious Stryker and through the more comically-oriented but nevertheless just as intriguing exchange between a quartet of mutants and Iceman's parents. It's the latter that proves to be one of the film's highlights, seeing the conflict not from the extreme ends of the spectrum, which dominated the first film and makes for the crux of the second, but rather from an "every-man's" perspective, where prejudices seem not based in any sort of reality or personal experience but rather on news snippets and questionably-motivated gossip. While certainly not the film's defining moment, the sequence does allow for a different perspective and even a subtle commentary on learned prejudices.
X2's thematic significance and continuity with the foundation established in the first film is once again supported by tremendous action sequences and dizzying special effects. The film sees more involved action sequences that once again reinforce the importance of teamwork and trust to the successful completion of the mission and/or the survival of the team. The film is slicker than its predecessor, with an even more confident air that is palpable throughout the film. Singer's direction is steady but unobtrusive, and the special effects are generally seamlessly inserted into the picture. Rarely does a poor, misplaced, or otherwise ineffective effect to be seen, and like any good effects picture, those seen in X2 reinforce the story rather than tell it. Like the first film, though, X2 would be a far different -- and arguably far less -- picture without the first-class talent in front of the camera. Once again, Ian McKellen steals the show with a fine performance as Magneto. His depiction of the villain is a fascinating one, playing the part with bravado and a subtly-effective over-the-top effort that makes the character all the more sinister but not at all ridiculous or unbelievable. Patrick Stewart, one of the finest pure actors alive, again offers a stellar performance, and the entirety of the X-Men team, and new-to-the-film Alan Cumming as Nightcrawler, turn in efforts above and beyond the call of duty.
X2: X-Men United Blu-ray, Video Quality
X2 comes to Blu-ray with a nicely presented 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. This is a bit better-looking transfer than that found accompanying the previous film on Blu-ray. Details are sharper, the image sports a bit more clarity, colors are improved, and so forth. One of the more noticeable differences is the appearance of flesh tones. Here, they take on a more natural appearance, but still feature a slightly red push. Grain, too is a bit more pronounced over the entirety of the transfer. The transfer also features improved clarity across the board; details are more intricate and offer a broader spectrum of clearly-defined imagery in most every shot. Hairs are finer and flow more naturally, providing visible structure for each strand. Textures, too, are impressive, the rough stone walls of Stryker's underground base of operations or the small bumps that make up a pair of leather gloves in one close-up shot, for example, reveal plenty of visible information. Black levels are rich and inky, though with a slight lack of detail in a few select scenes. Overall, however, X2 looks great on Blu-ray, again far surpassing all previous home video versions.
X2: X-Men United Blu-ray, Audio Quality
X2 dazzles on Blu-ray with, yes, another fantastic DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack from Fox. Once again, this mix offers up a pure sonic assault. Sound effects sweep effortlessly around the soundstage, a fine example being Nightcrawler's constant teleportation all around the soundstage in chapter 10, not to mention the echoing voices heard bouncing off the walls of the cavernous chapel that serves as the scene's setting. Music plays nicely across the front throughout the picture, be it subtle dramatic music or heart-pounding action-oriented notes. Environmental ambience is good, too, from the more mundane of chirping insects or barely-audible drips of water falling to the ground in the back speakers to the power of a series of storms used as cover during the film's thrilling aerial chase sequence. Once again, as was the case with the soundtrack accompanying the first X-Men film on Blu-ray, bass rattles the foundation, reverberates through the chest cavity, and generally leaves the subwoofer crying out for mercy. The surround speakers are used to nearly constant effect, too. Dialogue reproduction is also spot-on accurate. X2 certainly delivers, sonically.
X2: X-Men United Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
X2 comes to Blu-ray filled to the brim with bonus features, spread across two discs. Disc one offers up a pair of commentary tracks, the first featuring Director Bryan Singer and Cinematographer Tom Sigel. This track is another solid one, a light and breezy offering that is easy on the ears but also fairly informative. Singer and Sigel cover all the basics, dissecting the action sequences, the sets, the special effects, and more. The second track features Producers Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter, Co-Writers Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris, and Screenwriter David Hayter. This track is not quite as entertaining as the first, but the participants do a fine job of sharing plenty of anecdotes, recounting the appearances of the sets, shooting locations, production challenges, character traits and developments, and more. It's a decent commentary, one that hardcore fans will enjoy, but it doesn't flow as well as the Director/Cinematographer track and isn't a particularly engaging listen for casual fans. Also included on disc one are trailers for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men, X-Men: The Last Stand, Daredevil, and Fantastic Four. This disc is also D-Box enabled.
Moving along to disc two, the first feature is entitled History of 'The X-Men', a piece broken into two segments: The Secret Origin of 'X-Men' (480p, 15:26) and Nightcrawler Reborn (480p, 7:37). The former features Stan Lee and Chris Claremont discussing how the characters and the comic came about and moves on to look at the movie franchise, featuring interview clips with Executive Producers Avi Arad and Tom DeSanto, Producer Lauren Shuler Donner, Director Bryan Singer, Lee, and Claremont. The latter examines the history of the character that plays an important role in X2. Next up is Pre-Production, another piece divided into several segments. Nightcrawler Attack -- Multi-Angle Study (480p, 2:23) shows the construction of a scene from four perspectives -- Animatic, Unfinished Effects, Animatic/Final Film Comp, and Unfinished Effects/Final Film Comp. Evolution in the Details -- Designing 'X2' (480p, 18:01) features Production Designer Guy Dyas and Technical Advisor Bob Snow taking viewers through the world seen in the film, looking at the sets and props seen throughout. Concluding the Pre-Production segment is United Colors of 'X2' (480p, 8:57), a look at the costuming of the film.
Production is another feature divided, this time into six separate mini-pieces. Wolverine/Deathstrike Fight Rehearsal (480p, 1:24) is a brief behind-the-scenes piece featuring the fight scene in an early stage of development. The Second Uncanny Issue of 'X-Men' -- Making 'X2' (480p, 59:27) is a comprehensive making-of piece that features a discussion on returning to the world introduced in the first film and moving it forward, writing the screenplay, ensuring continuity in the cast and director, behind-the-scenes looks at the making of various scenes, cast and crew interviews, and much more. Intorducing the INCREDIBLE NIGHTCRAWLER! (480p, 9:49) features star Alan Cumming discussing the character, his rehearsals for the part, and the make-up and prosthetics used. Nightcrawler Stunt Rehearsal (480p, 2:27) features an animatic and rehearsal footage of the film's opening action sequence. Nightcrawler Time-Lapse (480p, 3:40) features the lengthy process of transforming from actor to mutant in a condensed time period. Finally, FX2 -- Visual Effects (480p, 24:58) looks at the making of the many intricate special effects seen in the picture. Post-Production is divided into two parts. Requiem For Mutants -- The Score of 'X2' (480p, 11:39) features Editor/Composer John Ottman discussing his work on the film. 'X2' Global Webcast Highlights (480p, 17:01) features cast and crew answering fan questions from the Internet. Next up are a series of 11 deleted scenes (480p, 11:58) and several still galleries -- Characters, Locations and Sets, Mutant X-Rays, Nightcrawler Circus Posters, On-Camera Graphics, and The Unseen 'X2'. Concluding the special features are three of the film's theatrical trailers (1080p, 0:37, 1:44, and 2:26).
X2: X-Men United Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
X2 is a great sequel to a stellar film. While it is well-paced, congruous with the style and themes of the first, and builds upon the lore of the franchise, it doesn't quite match the level of excellence of the first, but it doesn't miss the mark by all that much, either. X2 is marked, once again, by standout performances by Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, each of whom play incredibly well one off the other and fit their characters nicely. With bigger action sequences and better special effects, once again made a part of the story rather than defining the whole, X2 is one of the best sequels of the decade. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray presentation is first-class. Once again delivering fine picture quality, a demo-worthy lossless soundtrack, and a fine helping of extra material, X2's Blu-ray debut is a must-own. Highly recommended.
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X2: X-Men United Blu-ray, News and Updates
• X-Men Blu-ray Trilogy Gets Detailed - February 5, 2009
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has announced the technical specs and special features for the upcoming Blu-ray releases of 'X-Men', 'X2: X-Men United', and 'X3: The Last Stand', which are due to hit store shelves on April 21st, both individually and as a 'X-Men ...
• X-Men Films Coming to Blu-ray - January 15, 2009
In an early announcement to retailers, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has revealed that they will bring 'X-Men', 'X2: X-Men United', and 'X-Men: The Last Stand' to Blu-ray on April 21st. All three titles we be delivered as two-disc sets with 1080p AVC video ...
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