by Michael S. Palmer
Get ready, Mutant Readers. September 9th is officially 'X-Men: First Class' Friday as 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment launches a full blown media blitz in support of their latest entry in the 'X-Men' franchise, which has grossed $3 billion for the studio ($1.9 billion at the global box office, and 60 million DVD and Blu-ray units sold).
In fact, 'X-Men: First Class' will be seemingly everywhere for the next week. Football fans will get themed, exclusive content in partnership with Thursday's NFL season opener between New Orleans and Green Bay as well as for Monday Night Football (you know, when New England uses its mutant powers to lay waste to Miami). Also, for our Los Angeles area readers, 'X-Men: First Class' will be projected in 3D across an entire side of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel Thursday and Friday night (9/8 and 9/9).
On to our topic at hand, High-Def Digest was among a group of
esteemed journalists power nerds fortunate enough to sit down with series Producer Lauren Shuler Donner, actor Lucas Till (Havoc), and Visual Effects Supervisor John Dykstra for an early first look at what this Blu-ray has to offer.
First, every Blu-ray will come with codes to unlock 10 Marvel 'X-Men' Digital Comics. One, an 'X-Men: First Class' backstory comic about the Hellfire Club, is exclusive to the Blu-ray.
We then sampled the Cerebro Mutant Tracker, a BD-Live enabled interactive database for every character in the 'X-Men' movie universe. There are over 40 mutant profiles (which include team affiliation, abilities, and connections to other characters) and videos, and this database will expand as more films join the franchise. We got to check out Raven Darkholme / Mystique, which featured clips of both Jennifer Lawrence and Rebecca Romijn.
The 'X-Men: First Class' Blu-ray also includes a feature called X Marks the Spot, which plays during the feature film and allows viewers to branch off into special features about the specific scene they are watching. We sampled a featurette about the film's opening scenes, which is an extended version of the original X-Men's first scene. Bryan Singer (director of the first two films, and here a producer and co-writer of the story) talks about how much detail went in to recreating the first film's location in a completely different country ten years later.
Next, we saw three clips from the eight-part documentary, Children of the Atom. The entire behind-the-scenes featurette covers everything from pre-production through post. The first clip was about the costumes. Since the first 'X-Men' did not have the classic yellow suits, the filmmakers wanted to go back to the original look, but in a functional and realistic way. Turns out yellow is actually the original color of Kevlar, so the idea was that the X-Men are actually wearing bullet proof suits. Each mutant has specific alterations to help his or her mutant abilities. It was fascinating to see the craft going into the various hand-stitched suit panels. Really impressive.
The makeup documentary is a must see for our male readers crushing on Jennifer Lawrence. To use her own words, "It's like a sleepover, except I'm naked and being painted." Well, as close to naked as a family film will allow. Kidding aside, the makeup work is impressive. No CG is used in a process, which includes prosthetics and five (or more) paint layers. A decade ago, when the Mystique makeup was developed for Rebecca Romijn, it took 8 hours for her to get into full body makeup…and then she would shoot for 8-12 hours a day. For Jennifer, they knocked it down to about 5 or so.
Then it was onto highlight the film's composer, Henry Jackman (not related to Hugh). Mr. Jackman's Isolated Score not only plays over the entire film (note: I'm not sure what the audio encoding is for this) when selected, but he also has his own documentary, entitled "Sound and Fury". We got to see a clip where he explains his collaboration with director Matthew Vaughn in creating "Erik/Magneto's Theme". Mr. Jackson is a wildly entertaining and energetic personality. It seems Mr. Vaughn wanted to pay homage to the '60s scores of John Barry who, among his vast credits, composed 'Goldfinger'.
Lastly, effects legend John Dykstra took us through three of the film's clips, and spoke about the challenges of making the film's effects work with what has been established in the franchise universe, as well as realistic and original. There wasn't much new information here, I'm sad to report. I was actually surprised to hear how much they stressed for realism, as when I saw 'X-Men: First Class' theatrically the final effects, while very good, seemed a tad plastic or cartoonish. While we didn't see any behind the scenes footage in the construction of the visual effects work (some of which was done by fan favorite, WETA), one of the eight parts in "Children of the Atom" is about he visual effects.
The 'X-Men: First Class Blu-ray lands in retail locations Friday (9/9), with the choice of two collectible slip covers (one with James McAvoy as Charles Xavier, and the other with Michael Fassbender as Erik Lensherr). In addition to what's mentioned above, there will also be Extended and Deleted Scenes and a Theatrical Trailer. The whole package adds up to more than two hours of special features.