Over a decade later, Bryan Singer's original X-Men and X-Men United remain just as entertaining as ever, with the sequel being the best of the bunch. But Brett Ratner's The Last Stand is a scatter-brained, uninteresting entry that frankly overshoots its welcome. All three films are brought to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with great-looking 4K HDR10 presentations, previously-released DTS-HD MA audio options, and the same set of supplements as before. Overall, the 4K Trilogy package is Recommended for series fans.
Since discovering Marvel Comics as a kid, the X-Men series has always enjoyed a special place in my heart and imagination. Unlike other superheroes where they gain their powers from special circumstances, these heroes are born with unnatural abilities due to some extreme evolutionary anomaly. Their struggles are not as black-and-white, where they must defeat a megalomaniac supervillain, but deeply personal, complex and traumatizing to each character with stories reflecting various cultural anxieties and topically distressing issues. Because they're born with a variety of mutations — some physically visible, others hidden but nonetheless part of a personality — the characters must also combat the harsh, discriminatory judgments of society, treated as defects, freaks, deformed and, of course, mutants. As the feared, hated, and unwanted, their struggles really captured my childhood fascination because their choice to save a society that despised them made it more special and remarkable, raising huge philosophical questions on ethics and free will.
And so, it pretty much goes without saying, I was especially excited to see X-Men finally adapted for the big screen back in 2000. I remember enjoying the movie and instantly loving the performances, especially Hugh Jackman's Wolverine, Patrick Stewart's Professor X, and Ian McKellen's Magneto. However, the production was far from perfect, or at least, the way I envisioned an X-Men movie. Introducing Wolverine and Rogue (Anna Paquin) as drifters accidentally stumbling into the middle of an ongoing war between two different mutant factions is a great way of easing audiences unfamiliar with the comics into this alternate fantasy. Having Magneto and his group's animosity with society as the result of being denied their humanity, refusing mutants equality and survivor's guilt makes for a great plot, but the execution ultimately feels pedestrian and uninspiring, focusing more on the action and visuals, which are great by the way, than on expanding the central conceit into an engaging story. It doesn't help that Toad (Ray Park) and Sabretooth (Tyler Mane) are terrible.
Nevertheless, the first live-action adaptation of a personal favorite comic series remains satisfying and fun enough for this fan.
X2: X-Men United not only surpasses all expectations as a sequel but is shockingly superior to its predecessor. Bryan Singer returns to direct better action sequences, as well as tell a more meaningful and occasionally provocative story about the social injustices we face going into the 21st Century. Here, audiences are introduced to the quietly diabolical Col. William Stryker (Brian Cox) and his frightening fixation of eradicating the planet of all mutants. What makes the film incredibly fascinating — and arguably, one of the best superhero movies ever — are scenes and dialogue which seem interestingly inspired by political discussions that were being debated at the time, namely equal rights for the LGBTQ community. It's no surprise that, in the comics, Stryker is a religious fanatic convinced mutant genocide as God's mission. It's a fantastic film that embraces the plot's deeper issues while also being action-packed and fun.
Sadly, the same can't be said of the third and final installment, X-Men: The Last Stand. Brett Ratner takes over the reins as director and, working from a script by Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn, he does what he can to make a rather bland story visually exciting and action-packed. Like its predecessors, the plot feels inspired by cultural concerns, revolving around the idea of a medical cure for mutants, tempting a few characters with the desire for a "normal" — meaning average and socially acceptable — life. For poor Rogue, who can't touch or kiss her boyfriend Bobby without potentially killing him, the possibility of curing herself of what she feels is a curse rather than a gift is much too enticing. And, when all is said and done, this aspect of the plot is also the most interesting, as the frustration and resentment of society's endless intolerance reaches a boiling point and turns into a war. But, frankly, the rise of Phoenix feels more like a distracting, carelessly tacked-on subplot than a genuine storyline for Jackman's Wolverine to display his dramatic chops.
X-Men — 3.5 stars
X2: X-Men United — 4.5 stars
X-Men: The Last Stand — 3 stars
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings the X-Men trilogy to 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a six-disc combo pack, dubbed the "3-Film Collection," with a flyer for Digital HD Copies of all three movies in one code. When redeeming said code via FoxDigitalMovies.com or Movie Anywhere, the movies are only available in HD SDR with Dolby Digital audio through the various streaming services. The three dual-layered UHD66 discs sit opposite their Region A, BD50 counterparts with four of those discs on two center spindles. The Blu-rays are the same discs previously released, featuring the artwork as before. All six discs are housed inside a slightly-thicker than normal black, eco-elite keepcase with a glossy, side-sliding slipcover. At startup, the UHDs go straight to the main menu screen with full-motion clips, the usual options along the bottom and music playing in the background.
Mutants fight injustice with a great-looking HEVC H.265 encode, offering several notable improvements over its Blu-ray counterpart. Originally shot on 35mm film, the 2160p transfer comes with an appreciable uptick in definition, but it's not a leaps and bounds difference. Still, fine lines in the costumes, hair, and the X-Mansion architecture are detailed for a majority of the runtime with a fair share of softer, more poorly-resolved sequences.
A brighter contrast delivers crisper, more resplendent whites, and dazzling specular highlights give metallic surfaces a glistening, realistic sparkle while the brightest sections maintain excellent clarity. Black levels are also a bit richer and opulent with darker, inkier shadows and outstanding gradational details. Colors, on the other hand, don't reveal as much of a dramatic change, which is not to say that primaries don't benefit when, in fact, they are a tad fuller and vivid. Toad now has more of a sickly pickle or crocodile green tone, Magneto's costumes show a mix of plum and sangria along with his signature magenta colors, and facial complexions are slightly rosier and lifelike. Awash in a fine layer of grain, providing the 2.40:1 image a lovely film-like quality, the overall 4K presentation is a welcomed upgrade. (Video Rating: 74/100)
X2: X-Men United
The best of the trilogy combats bigotry and intolerance equipped with an excellent HEVC-encoded transfer, delivering strong, sharp lines in the various costumes and clothing. Viewers can plainly make out the stitching and fabric quality of Magneto's cape, every corner and wire inside the X-Jet is exposed, and individual stones of the X-Mansion can practically be counted. Also, a very fine layer of grain throughout provides the 2.40:1 image with a lovely film-like quality fans will appreciate.
The best aspect is the improved contrast levels, making for a noticeably brighter and more vibrant 4K presentation than its HD SDR counterpart. Whites are resplendent and intense, beaming with brilliance throughout without blooming or ruining the picture, and specular highlights radiate with sparkling luminosity that make metallic surfaces shine with realism, such as Lady Deathstrike's claws, while the hottest areas maintain great clarity. Black levels are also spot-on and inkier with good gradational differences between the various shades while dark, midnight shadows penetrate deep into the screen with excellent visibility within the murkiest corners. Similar to the first film, colors don't show as dramatic an improvement, but primaries nonetheless have a slightly deeper and fuller tone. Secondary hues are more nuanced with a tad more variation, such as the distinct reds, oranges and yellows of Pyro's fireballs. Magneto's helmet is now a glossy, deep plum color and his cape has a cherry red underlining, and Nightcrawler's skin looks more dark indigo blue.
However, the 2160p video is not always consistent, as there are a few scattered less-than-satisfying, poorly-resolved scenes. Dated CG effects are rarely well-defined. And sharp edges tend to fluctuate and show a bit of aliasing at times. Still, despite a few flaws, it's overall a very nice picture. (Video Rating: 80/100)
X-Men: The Last Stand
The war between humans and mutants erupts on Ultra HD with the best looking HEVC encode of the trilogy. Definition and clarity are top-notch, revealing every nook and cranny in the mansion, unveiling the most trivial object in the background and exposing the tiniest imperfection in the woodwork, stones and along the walls of various other buildings. Every leaf, the rough, jagged bark of trees and the thick cables of the Golden Gate bridge are distinct from a distance. Wrinkles, pores and negligible blemishes are plainly visible, especially during close-up and even during the flashback sequence where the digital work on Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen looks good. In fact, a majority of the CG still holds up and remains pretty detailed. A tad of aliasing rears its ugly head, but thankfully, it doesn't happen often enough to distract. With a nice layer of natural grain to boot, the 4K presentation has a welcomed, attractive film-like quality.
Contrast definitely runs hotter than its HD SDR counterpart and on occasion, can appear to bloom just enough to engulf the finer details, such as when Professor X pleads with Phoenix and the sun shines on Stewart's head too intensely. However, for a majority of the movie, whites are crisp and glowing with outstanding luminous while specular highlights radiate with a tight, narrow brilliance that reveals plenty of detailing within the brightest spots, providing several metallic surfaces with a realistic glisten and Magneto's plum sangria helmets shows a cool glossy finish. Black levels are rich and inky with superb gradational differences, such as Magneto's cape, the skimpy outfits of Callisto and her crew, and the X-Men. Stygian, velvety shadows penetrate deep into the background, providing the 2.40:1 image with a welcomed three-dimensional appeal in a few scenes. The palette benefits most with richly-saturated primaries and a colorful, varied selection of secondary hues. Most attractive is the mix of orangey, fiery red in Phoenix's hair while her outfit is a combination of dark wine and currant, each clearly distinguishable from the other, making this 2160p video a nice upgrade. (Video Rating: 84/100)
All three movies join the fight on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with the same DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtracks heard on their respective Blu-ray counterparts. Although they would have arguably benefited from an object-based audio option, each track continues to deliver an awesome aural experience sure to give anyone's home theater system a nice workout, with The Last Stand being the strongest and best of the bunch. In either case, they all fill the room with a variety of background activity, generating a wide and spacious soundstage, while surrounds envelop listeners with a splendid array of action and atmospherics. The mid-range is always crisp and detailed while maintaining precise, intelligible dialogue in the center, and each movie comes with a vigorously potent and robust low-end that provides a commanding presence to the visuals. Many of the action-packed sequences burst to life when applying the receivers' Dolby Surround or DTS: Neural:X up-mixing functionality, effortlessly spreading many of the aforementioned atmospherics into the overheads. (Audio Rating: 96/100)
You can read more on each lossless track by clicking on the links provided above.
The same set of supplements for each movie are also ported over and can be enjoyed on the accompanying Blu-rays. However, each movie was originally released as a two-disc package where the second Blu-ray disc contained more bonus material. Those second discs are not included in this package. The audio commentaries are the only supplement shared between the two formats.
X2: X-Men United
X-Men: The Last Stand
As a lifelong fan of the original comic series, the X-Men adaptations will always have a special place in my heart, flawed as the first and last movie may be. Bryan Singer's sequel, on the other hand, has earned a great deal of respect and admiration, appreciated as one of the best and thoughtful superhero movies ever made. All three films are collected for the first time on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray as a six-disc combo pack, and each features a great-looking 4K HDR10 presentation accompanied by the same DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Along with porting over some of the same supplements as their Blu-ray counterparts, the overall UHD package comes Recommended for both fans of the series and those who didn't purchase the previous individual HD SDR releases.