Friday, March 29, 2024

First Impressions of X-Men '97

(Guest post by Miguel)

The 80s and 90s were a time when Saturday morning cartoons reigned supreme. Even now as adults with children of our own, many of us still remember the theme songs from our favorite shows. Out of all of these opening themes however, one of the most iconic was the opening for X-Men the Animated Series. While there are many popular Marvel IPs nowadays, it was not always so. The 90s was a dark time for Marvel. The once successful company found itself in nearly 610 million dollars of debt by 1996, and filed for bankruptcy. By 1997, the last and final season of X-Men the Animated Series aired and left a hole in the hearts of all mutant lovers. Fast forward to Disney+ Day 2021 when all of that changed.

When X-Men '97 was announced, there were so many questions. Would it be a remake? If not, what would the storyline be? What changes would be made? Would Disney destroy yet another show with unnecessary plot line changes to make it more sensitive to modern demographics? We would have to wait till 2024 to find out. March 20th, 2024 was that fateful day, and if you haven’t watched the first episodes of X-Men '97 yet, you are missing out.

While the show was created with the intention of not only bringing back old fans, but also gaining new ones, a rewatch of the original series is not required. However, in my opinion, it would not hurt to watch one of those YouTube recaps before starting the show since it begins right after the original series ends. In episode one of X-Men '97, we are reintroduced to characters and names that fans of the original show will immediately recognize. Bolivar Trask, Master Mold, and the Friends of Humanity are all still meddling in the lives of our beloved mutants, Jean Gray is pregnant, and Professor Charles Xavier is no longer on earth. While technically off planet, Professor X is talked about as if he is dead. In fact, the first episode ends with Magneto showing up with Charles’ last will and testament gifting all that he once had to Magneto, including the X-Men. Would the X-Men be able to trust their greatest nemesis?

Each of the episodes was 33 minutes long, which is a 50% increase from the original series’ episode run time of roughly 21 minutes. After opening my Disney+ app, I was relieved to hear my beloved theme song in HD. Not only that, but they reimagined the opening with updated animation, character intros, and scenes. The nostalgia was almost too much to handle. The show felt new, yet familiar. Not only that, but Disney managed to bring back some of the same voice actors from the original show. Fans will be happy to know that Beast, Rogue, Wolverine and Storm are all voiced by the same actors as the original series. Let’s be real, who else could voice the mistress of elements but Alison Sealy-Smith? And who else could deliver the back-handed southern quips beside Lenore Zann? The animation style draws its inspiration from the original series’ style, but comes across as fresh, colorful and interesting. Disney and Marvel have done a terrific job with the show’s revival. 

The hour invested in the first two episodes of X-Men '97 flew by in the blink of an eye. I wanted more, but knew I would have to wait a week for the next episode. Another thing that X-Men '97 does similar to the original series is the fantastic use of cliff hangers. The original show had different plot arcs, often coupled with multiple episodes dedicated to them throughout the show. The second episode ends with one heck of a cliff-hanger! It is obvious that the creators of the show are drawing upon the comics for their inspiration of the storyline. Just in these two episodes we see Storm lose her powers (which is a significant plot for her in the comics) and Jean giving birth, only for another Jean to show up at the front door. We know that Mr. Sinister cloned Jean in the comics, but the question remains, is our Jean the real Jean, or the one the showed up at the door? We know how the comics play out, but will X-Men '97 follow suit? 

Whether you are a newcomer or an old fan, the first two episodes of X-Men '97 are a must watch. The only bad thing about the show is that it is slated to be 10 episodes long. I need more! This is the first time in a while where I have been so excited for a new episode of a show to air. X-Men '97 is a perfect mix of nostalgia and innovation. I am ready to see Cyclops use his optic beam to land from a falling ship again, are you?

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