X-Men ’97 review: Marvel’s omega-level nostalgia game

Aside from a few recent cameos, the X-Men have been noticeably absent from Marvel Studios’ projects thanks to a long-standing partnership with Fox, which previously owned the rights to the characters. It was fascinating but weird to see Marvel build an entire cinematic multiverse, without a single mutant in sight, considering the popularity of X-Men: The Animated Series is part of what led to the X Men films and the rise of modern comic books. But after almost 30 years, Disney Plus’ X Men ’97 series gives the cartoon mutants their due – with a few caveats – by picking up their story and shedding a nostalgic light on what made them ’90s icons.

There was nothing like it X-Men: The Animation series before debuting on Fox Kids in the fall of 1992 and introducing a generation of viewers to the altruistic telepath Charles Xavier. After five seasons and 76 episodes inspired by comic book storylines such as “The Dark Phoenix Saga” and ‘Days from the Future Past’, X-Men: The Animated Series ultimately came to an end by letting Charles Xavier’s students determine their own fate. As some of the world’s most powerful superheroes, Cyclops (Ray Chase), Jean Gray (Jennifer Hale), Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith), and Rogue (Lenore Zann) have saved humanity countless times by battling foes like Magneto (Matthew Waterson). ). But X Men ’97 begins at an interesting point in the X-Men’s lives, when their heroism has changed public opinion and prompted the United Nations to dismantle the Sentinel program, which hunts mutants.

Even ’97 is a sequel to The animated series, it makes a point of giving newcomers to the franchise an easy entry by introducing Roberto da Costa (Gui Agustini), a young Brazilian mutant with solar energy who plays a role similar to that of Jubilee in the original cartoon. There, Jubilee was a teenager on the run from killer robots who found family in the X-Men after being rejected by her adoptive parents. And here, Jubilee is one of the X-Men who saves Roberto from an anti-mutant militia group before whisking him away to their headquarters – which is also a school – in upstate New York.

In the beginning, X Men ’97 uses Roberto to remind you who older characters like time-traveler Bishop (Isaac Robinson-Smith) are, but the show becomes much smoother as it delves into the soapy drama unfolding among the team’s veterans. With Xavier seemingly dead, there’s a different kind of intensity in the way Cyclops leads the X-Men on missions. With a baby on the way, Jean’s priorities have changed, and while she cares deeply for Wolverine and the others, part of her also feels that Xavier’s departure is one of many signs that it may be time for her too is to leave.

In the show’s first two episodes, written by recently fired showrunner Beau DeMayo, X Men ’97 sets in motion a classic story about how fleeting moments of relative peace and acceptance often are for Marvel’s mutants. The route X Men ’97 sees the persecution of mutants as a parallel to racial discrimination in the real world, is nothing you haven’t seen before if you’ve read a few X Men books or seen part of the original show. But after years of Marvel Studios’ projects largely refraining from talking about issues like racism, the mutant-as-minority metaphor feels telling no matter how explicitly and repeatedly it’s spelled out here.

Although supervillains threaten mutants and humans alike, X Men ’97 uses characters like Henry Gyrich (Todd Haberkorn) – an extremist who equates tolerance with extinction – to highlight how racist acts of terror are byproducts of societies poisoned by narrow-minded thinking. Magneto, once a megalomaniac in his own right, helps the show deepen its exploration of this idea as he becomes a different, even thornier kind of presence in the lives of the X-Men. And by characterizing Magneto as a complicated man who has weighed his past actions against his hopes for the future, X Men ’97 is effective in making him feel like he has grown over time.

Still familiar with it X-Men: The Animated Series makes it much easier to appreciate the work ’97‘s creative team has done everything they can to make the show feel like a Saturday morning cartoon. For every poignant sentence spoken, three more are delivered with a theatricality that reads almost like camp. Sometimes, X Men ’97 is just as cheesy as the original show, made in the 90s for kids. But The animated series also spawned one of the sickest theme songs ever to air on television, and X Men ’97 composers The Newton Brothers work wonders with a score that fantastically enhances the flashy set pieces of the new show.

There are action-oriented scenes where Cyclops and his team unleash their powers X Men ’97 – produced with Studio Mir – is visually at its best. But the power of X Men ’97‘s explosive combat is contrasted by a distracting stiffness in some of the slower moments. You can clearly see that the new show has taken visual design elements from its predecessor. But because X Men The backgrounds of ’97 are often highly detailed to convey depth and the lighting is more naturalistic; the characters themselves sometimes feel relatively under-animated.

X Men ’97 also flows a little differently than The animated series. That’s partly because the new show wasn’t built with commercial breaks in mind, but also because the creative team is working within the confines of a 10-episode order for the first season. X-Men: The Animated Series always moved at a brisk, cartoonish pace, but the speed at which X Men ’97 zooms through the first major arc, makes it feel rather rushed by the time it comes to an end.

The breathless plot doesn’t seem like something that will be ironed out over the course of the first season. But at a time when the larger Marvel project is starting to feel a bit stagnant and directionless, that might not be the worst thing. Marvel has been trying to recapture the energy that made its early films so successful X Men ’97 does something similar. But by having such a clear vision for oneself, and then sticking to it, X Men ’97 makes it hard not to be nostalgic for the days when comic book adaptations could just do their own distinct thing, unencumbered by the pressures of a cinematic universe.

X Men ’97 It also stars Eric Bauza, Gil Birmingham, Christopher Britton, George Buza, Alyson Court, Cal Dodd, JP Karliak, Ross Marquand and Chris Potter. The first two episodes are streaming now on Disney Plus, with new episodes debuting on Wednesdays.

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