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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 1/23/03

X-Men 1.5
Special Edition - 2000 (2003) - 20th Century Fox

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital SurroundTHX-certified

X-Men 1.5: Special Edition Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A/B+

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B+/A

Specs and Features

Disc One - The Film
104 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 61:51 at the start of chapter 28), THX-certified, digipack packaging, audio commentary (with director Bryan Singer and the DVD producer), enhanced viewing mode (allows access to 6 deleted scenes and 17 behind-the-scenes video clips via branching while watching the film), THX Optimizer test signals, animated film-themed menus with sound and music, scene access (40 chapters), languages: English (DD & DTS 5.1) and French (DD 2.0 Surround), subtitles: English and Spanish, Closed Captioned

Disc Two - Supplemental Material
NR, full-frame (1.33:1), video introduction by director Bryan Singer, Production Documentary Scrapbook video (with "enhanced viewing option" - 63 mins), 2 multi-angle sequences (Train Splitting and Fight Rehearsal), Prime Minister of Canada video clip, Uncanny Suspects featurette (with "enhanced viewing option" - 24 mins), Hugh Jackman screen test and first reading footage, character art gallery, X-Factor featurette (with "enhanced viewing option" - 22 mins), costume & make-up test footage, production photo gallery, Special Effects of The X-Men featurette (with "enhanced viewing option" - 17 mins), computer animatic video for 4 scenes, Marketing the X-Men section with 3 trailers, 9 TV spots and 12 Internet interstitials, Reflection of the X-Men featurette (with "enhanced viewing option" - 8 mins), Ellis Island premiere footage (4 mins), international premiere footage (18 mins), X-Men 2 Sneak Preview video with trailer (8 mins), Daredevil theatrical trailer, Easter egg, animated film-themed menu screens with sound effects and music

Fox's X-Men has, at long last, gotten a more polished and spiffy treatment on DVD. But is it worth spending the money if you already have the original "special edition"? Is it worth owning if you're a fan of the Marvel comic book franchise? The short answers are maybe and yes. Read on and I'll give you the long answers. And note that since we've already reviewed the original X-Men: Special Edition DVD, I'll forgo any discussion of the film itself. Suffice it to say that X-Men is a decent superhero flick and is well worth watching for fans and non-fans alike.

This new 1.5 special edition features two discs. The first includes the film in anamorphic widescreen, with an "enhanced viewing option". This is similar to what we got on the first special edition, where you could watch six deleted scenes, roughly in the place they would have been in the film had they been included, via a "Follow the White Rabbit" style interface. When the option is selected, an icon appears at various points during the film. Hit 'enter' on your remote and you're taken out of the film to watch a deleted scene. When it's done, you're taken back into the film at the place you left off. The press release for this DVD claims that you get new deleted scenes, but sadly this isn't so. The deleted scenes here are the same ones we've seen before. Sadly, they also haven't been re-transferred, so the quality is much lower than the rest of the film and they aren't anamorphic. That can be a problem when you're watching the film on an anamorphic display. On my system at least, you have to keep switching the TV viewing mode to full frame every time you watch a deleted scene. Annoying. You also have no option to watch the scenes separately from the film, like you did on the old disc. Equally annoying.

But for this new DVD, the six deleted scenes have been joined by seventeen behind-the-scenes clips that feature on-set production video. There are some surprisingly candid moments, a couple of funny outtakes, and even a couple more moments that didn't make the final edit of the film - more dialogue between Wolverine and Rogue on the train for example, and Storm and Cyclops recovering after the attack on the train station. There seem to be behind-the-scenes clips for every major action scene and each major set or location in the film. It's mostly good stuff (probably about 40 minutes in all), but again you can only view it while watching the film - there's no separate viewing option.

As for the quality of the film itself, I will say that both the video and the audio on this new disc are improved from the previous DVD. The film appears to have been re-transferred, as there's less visible grain in the image. The video is cleaner - crisper without ever being edgy. It's a smoother looking picture, with somewhat more accurate and vibrant color. MPEG-2 compression artifacting is also much less apparent in the new transfer.

Audio-wise, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix included on the first disc seems to have been ported directly to the new release. But also available on the new DVD is a DTS 5.1 track, which features all the added benefits high-end home theater-philes have come to expect from DTS. It's a smoother and wider soundfield, with improved clarity and definition in action scenes. A very welcome addition.

Disc One also includes a THX Optimizer, and a new audio commentary by director Bryan Singer and someone I think is the DVD producer (a Brian somebody or other - they never really say what he does), who interviews Singer and keeps the commentary on track. The press release for this DVD mistakenly says that Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellan and Hugh Jackman participate in the soundtrack. They don't. But no matter, Singer is more than interesting enough on his own. He's thoughtful and clearly has a lot of interesting (and even funny) things to say, making the track well worth your time.

Moving on to Disc Two, I should tell you right away that the Fox Mutant Watch featurette and the Charlie Rose interview excepts with Singer have been lost in the upgrade to this new DVD. But, to the best of my knowledge, everything else from the original DVD release has made the transition, and there's a LOT of new material. In a nice touch, Singer himself sort of indirectly apologizes for the fact that you're getting hit with another special edition of the film. You know... I like this guy a lot. He gets it. Hats off to him.

The supplemental disc itself is divided into two sections: X-Men 2 and Evolution X. The first section features an 8-minute preview of the upcoming sequel film, which includes a look behind-the-scenes and a full trailer for the film. You also get a trailer for the upcoming Daredevil movie, also a Marvel property. But Evolution X is the real meat and potatoes of Disc Two. Basically, it's a series of behind-the-scenes documentaries - two or three hours of material in all, covering all aspects of the making of the film. And each of the major documentaries features the same sort of "enhanced viewing" option that the film on Disc One does. When an icon appears, you can branch out of the documentary to see additional production material - multi-angle sequences, screen test footage, production art galleries and the like (note that you can also view these items separately). There's a ton of material, and I won't cover it all here - you can see the complete list in the spec section above. I will say that you get more on-set video, more glimpses of extended dialogue and moments that didn't make the film, tons of interview clips and quotes from all the major cast and production staff members (including X-Men creator Stan Lee), in-depth discussion of the concepts behind the film... you name it. You even get a funny little video of the Prime Minister of Canada (apparently he visited the set briefly). And there's supposedly an Easter egg hidden on the disc, which I suspect is the Spider-Man gag footage that was a hidden feature on the first DVD. I say suspect, because I can't for the life of me find it, and the disc doesn't allow you to search by title. But hey... the press release says it's there.

Anyway... all in all, this is a nice special edition. Really, a very nice special edition. And if it had been the first version of this film on DVD, it would be completely easy to recommend this 2-disc set. But since it's not, that leaves me as a reviewer in a bit of a dilemma. If the deleted scenes had been re-edited back into the film (as was originally the plan), or even if they were presented here in better quality, that would be one thing. As it is, cool though this disc is, it's tough to get really excited about it. If you don't yet have the original DVD, and you're interested in the film, this 1.5 release is definitely the one to buy. If you're a fan and you do have the original DVD, you'll probably want this one for the DTS track, the new behind-the-scenes material and the X-Men 2 preview... but keep in mind that you'll have to keep the old disc too for the stuff that didn't make the transition. On the other hand, if you're just a casual DVD fan, who happens to own the original disc, you're probably not going want to bother with X-Men 1.5.

So... how's that for a mixed recommendation?

Bill Hunt

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