ARCHIVE: Original Post Date – November 18th, 2006
When the first X-Men film hit theaters in July of 2000, fans raced to the theaters making studios realize that tons of money could be made in these superhero films. We all know that the second X-Men made more money than the first mainly because the film had more character development and flowed in a more logical manner. It took sometime, but the third (and final?) X-Men hit theaters this previous May to extremely impressive figures but rather lukewarm critical reception. Many saw the third film as a step below the first two, partially due to the direction. When Director Bryan Singer opted out of the third film for another comic film in Superman Returns, many saw the series direction go out the door as well. New Director Brett Ratner stepped in (a funny switch as Ratner was suppose to direct Returns) and took away all the visually interesting styles that Singer presented in the first two. It’s not that X-Men: The Last Stand is a bad film, it’s just that it lacks the overall spark and fun that the first two films had.
The ending of the last film, X2: X-Men United, saw our mutant heroes in quite the fine position. Support for the “Mutant Registration Act” had halted and uber villain William Stryker (Brian Cox) failed to eradicate all the mutants. Everything else was running smoothly (despite Jean Grey dying), surely signaling that the eventually third film in the series would continue on. Well, I’m sad to report that new Director Brett Ratner destroyed everything. X-Men: The Last Stand introduces so many new characters, some of who get less than 10 seconds on the screen, that we don’t even catch some of their names (only briefly seeing their powers especially in the last sequence). While this was annoying for myself (I’m the type of movie-goer who loves attention to character detail), I will fully admit that Ratner definitely knows how to film an action scene that audiences will love.
First the bad news of X-Men: The Last Stand. The problem I had here is that every little thing that Singer made excellent about the first two films is completely ignored by Ratner. He introduces new character we couldn’t care less about, eliminate characters we do care about, and has the remaining characters involve themselves in sequences they seemingly don’t want to be involved in. Even though Ratner tries to remain in sync with the vision and style that Singer created, it just felt like Ratner purposely tried to not expand the story (or maybe that Fox told him not to). The first two expanded the story in manners we cared about and wanted to see. There was not a moment in X-Men: The Last Stand were I cared about what was going on to any of the characters (especially after one particular character dies, I just about was ready to shut the film off).
Like any review, I do have (thankfully!) a few positives to report. I did enjoy, to a certain degree, how Ratner tried (key word tried) to give these characters a more humanistic quality. As we find out in the film, a cure is found to treat mutations drawing lines against the various X-Men. The scenes where each of the X-Men spoke (during the forest sequence) telling their side to the story, gave the film a more ‘let’s feel for these characters’ moment. Unfortunately, where Ratner failed is that these characters you are suppose to believe in, are shortly eliminated or, worst, ignored. Another positive, especially for this Blu-Ray release, is that every action scene is a blast to listen to, but more on that later.
As of press time, it was reported that X-Men: The Last Stand would be the last audiences would see of these mutants. Naturally, probably due to the high amount of return, Fox is going to think of some way to bring the series back. If The Last Stand is the final film of the series, I wouldn’t necessarily rate it is a poor way to end the series, but rather as a lukewarm method. Sure X-Men: The Last Stand isn’t the best superhero film, but it’s certainly better than more recent superhero films.
X-Men: The Last Stand is THE flagship title for Fox. It will determine if Fox is a company to be reckoned with in this format war. Knowing the PS3 was being released the same week (and competing Microsoft’s HD DVD add-on drive), Fox decided on releasing this juggernaut of a film. Did this method work or did X-Men: The Last Stand go down in flames?
Arriving in an 1080p, AVC/MPEG-4 Encoded, 2:40:1 Widescreen Aspect Ratio, X-Men: The Last Stand certainly has that high-definition look to the film, but feels a bit out of place in some areas. The first possible problem might be that Fox decided to use a BD-25 disc instead of the early rumored BD-50 (films like Click get a BD-50, but not this one)? The video quality doesn’t suffer completely though as many sequences looked fine. The use of detail was NEARLY perfect as the facial features on many of the characters (especially Wolverine’s beard) sparked to life. The only poor use of detail was the sequence when Magneto moved the Golden Gate Bridge (many of the smaller details were hard to make out).
The Super35 film process that Ratner loves to use in his films, gives the film a grainier look, but that isn’t really a big issue. Dirt or damage wasn’t present on the print. Color usage was great with no real color being over-saturated. X-Men: The Last Stand is a winner for Fox, but I just feel that a BD-50 disc would have given Fox the trophy for Blu-Ray disc to beat.
As per Fox’s other initial release titles, X-Men: The Last Stand comes equipped with a English a DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio Track. Despite how appealing this track sounds, no player at this time, besides the Playstation 3, comes equipped with the ability to decode this audio. Once I get my hand on a system, I’ll be sure to update this review with my thoughts. Despite this, Fox has given us an excellent Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 1.5mbps.
Dynamic Range were excellent with numerous sequences giving crystal clarity via sound effects and the film’s dialogue. Bass was powerful creating a booming effect throughout. Surround usage was aggressive and one that shouldn’t be messed with. Ratner has always loved his action scenes, and that certainly is the case here. Every action scene cries out as a demo material. The final X-Men fight was perfect giving us a full 360 degree sound field that captured all the screams, clashes and grunts of the mutants battling it out.
X-Men: The Last Stand was a big disc for Fox as it had to prove what the company was all about. Luckily, Fox has delivered a good video presentation and an excellent audio presentation. V/A junkies, we have a nice demo disc here.
While it was nice to see all the ported SD-DVD extra’s on this Blu-Ray release, there weren’t any huge features signaling that Fox may be prepping something in the oven.
- Audio Commentary with Director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg: What an disappointing commentary here. Director Ratner and his screenwriting buddies never dwell into any aspect of the film giving us zero information. Instead they would rather joke around about facts we already know (wow! I didn’t know CGI allows for things to appear that aren’t there in real life)! Give me a break.
- Audio Commentary with producers Avi Arad, Lauren Shuler Donner and Ralph Winter. : I figured with someone like Avi Arad on this track, it would fare far better than the first listening experience. Well, Arad simply picked up where Ratner left off giving endless cast appreciation and many accolades to himself and the participants. What a load of shit. If I wanted to hear you praise yourself, why didn’t you do that in a intro, not in a commentary where true fans of Marvel want solid info, not some fluff.
- Deleted Scenes/Alternate Endings: Here we ten different deleted scenes and three different alternate endings. While many of the deleted scenes served as extensions to their existing counterparts I did enjoy some of the scenes. The different introduction for Beast and Logan was great. The different alternate endings though seemed out of place and scrambled. A commentary by Ratner may have helped answer some questions I had.
- Trailer: Similar to Fantastic Four, we are treated to the film’s trailer in full 1080p glory.
X-Men: The Last Stand was a mixed affair for myself. While I enjoyed the film on a certain level, it failed to lack that spark that Singer brought to the first two. On a technical level, this Blu-Ray release is exactly what Fox needed. The disc contains a good enough video presentation with a rocking audio presentation that can only probably get better with the included DTS-HD track. The features were disappointing though, forcing me to put this one in the rental column for causal fans, and in the recommended column for those V/A junkies.