TV Review: ‘X-Men ’97’ Lives Up to Beloved Animated Series

Calista Alma
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March 21, 2024

“X-Men: The Animated Series” remains a cultural touchstone for millennials, serving as an introduction to Marvel’s revered mutant universe. It provided a primer on mutants’ struggles, offering iconic characters like Wolverine and Jean Grey, long before the era of live-action blockbusters and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

With Disney’s acquisition of Fox, the X-Men are finally making their debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The animated series “X-Men ’97” is the first to originate from Marvel Studios, led by Kevin Feige. Unlike previous attempts, this show reintroduces the X-Men independently, avoiding integration into existing ensembles. Headed by writer Beau DeMayo, “X-Men ’97” operates outside the MCU’s continuity, allowing for creative freedom. Set in the late 1990s, the series pays homage to its predecessor while appealing to new audiences. Being off-canon, “X-Men ’97” explores bold storylines while maintaining the essence of comic book storytelling and character depth.

In the conclusion of “The Animated Series,” Professor Xavier faces a near-fatal shooting, leading to his absence in “X-Men ’97.” The series simplifies this backstory, presenting Xavier’s absence as a central plot point. With Xavier gone, Cyclops reluctantly assumes leadership, while his wife Jean suggests prioritizing their family over saving humanity. Surprisingly, Xavier’s chosen successor is revealed to be Magneto, signaling a shift towards peaceful coexistence between mutants and humans. The return of iconic voice actors like Cal Dodd and Alison Sealy-Smith adds depth to the storyline.

This swift narrative shift defines the unique identity of “X-Men ’97,” accompanied by a series of complex storylines that could each serve as the backbone of a standalone film. Condensed into 30-minute episodes, the X-Men encounter challenges such as Sentinel robots, power-neutralizing weapons, and psychic attacks orchestrated by their long-time foe, Mr. Sinister. Surprising revelations, including the revelation of a major protagonist as a clone and Magneto’s rapid alignment with the X-Men, add to the whirlwind pace. Despite the dizzying speed, the engaging throwback animation style keeps viewers hooked, ensuring there’s never a dull moment in the action-packed plot.

“X-Men ’97” briefly flirts with introducing a new mutant to the team, but ultimately finds it unnecessary. The series as a whole grapples with the enduring question of the responsibilities of an oppressed minority towards their oppressor, featuring iconic characters like the blue-furred scientist Beast and the Cajun card-thrower Gambit. While Shape-shifter Morph receives a slight update, their gender neutrality is portrayed as a natural extension of their abilities rather than a modern social statement. As the X-Men prepare to join the MCU, it’s refreshing to revisit them in their original setting. The first two episodes of “X-Men ’97” are available for streaming on Disney+, with new episodes released weekly on Wednesdays.

Review : 5/233
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