Laserblast from the Past: Our Review of ‘X-Men ’97’

Posted in Disney +, What's Streaming? by - March 20, 2024
Laserblast from the Past: Our Review of ‘X-Men ’97’

Debuting this Wednesday on Disney + is the long-awaited revival of one of the most beloved cartoon series of all time, X-Men ’97.  A direct sequel to X-Men: The Animated Series, which originally lasted 76 episodes over 5 seasons between 1992 and 1997, X-Men ’97 picks up an undisclosed amount of months after the events of the series finale (though we have now moved into the following year). And without the need to include commercial breaks, this new series runs a true 30 minutes per episode, instead of the traditional 21/22 minutes.

Months after the death of Professor X, Cyclops (Ray Chase) struggles to maintain leadership of the unruly crew of X-Men. Though the very public assassination of Charles Xavier (from the finale of the original Animated Series) has done much to quell and calm the relations between humans and mutants in its wake, it has also managed to further radicalise fringe anti-mutant groups. The first mission involves saving  a young mutant with whom Jubilee (Holly Chou) seems instantly smitten.

The group, then, discovers that Charles may have had different plans for the future of the team, as the discovery of his last will and testament puts Magneto (Matthew Waterson) in charge. In an effort to gain trust, Magento allows himself to stand trial in front of a United Nations tribunal. This starts a chain reaction of events that puts all the X-Men in danger, but more specifically puts Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) and a very pregnant Jean Grey (Jennifer Hale) directly in its crosshairs.

Fans nostalgic of the original series will find a lot to love here, with multiple voice actors returning to iconic roles, to a credit sprawl taken directly from the original series, though this time including Morph and Bishop. The animation style, though much cleaner and precise with computer imaging sharpening the focus, still remains very much rooted in the original series. And while the series is perfectly acceptable for a new audience of children, the show is also very aware its main target market is the adults that grew up on the show. As such, the shows also carry a little more adult themes in them, be it pregnancy and childbirth to a steamy forbidden romance.

Perhaps the biggest advantage/improvement over the original series is the additional time allotted due to the lack of commercial inclusion. It may only be about 10 minutes per episode, but it’s instantly recognizable. X-Men ’97’s pacing and concepts feel right from the get go, allowing for more plot and character development to mix in with the action set pieces much easier. And while the first 3 episodes we were given access to for review purposes manage to set up the season very nicely, they only hint at a few of the major storylines that may dominate the rest of the season. All the while, it introduces a possible big bad in the form of Mr Sinister.

In the end, there are many things here for fans new and old to enjoy and the series continues to delve into the topics that the live-action films only hint at without fully developing. It’s also fun to see the series utilise its throwback nature, embracing the period piece it is with inclusions of old square Cathode Ray televisions and Sony Walkmans to name but a few. It’s a fun and highly effective continuation of a beloved series that should captivate fans all over again, and remains some of the truest interpretations of the X-Men comics to make it to a screen, big or small.

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"Kirk Haviland is an entertainment industry veteran of over 20 years- starting very young in the exhibition/retail sector before moving into criticism, writing with many websites through the years and ultimately into festival work dealing in programming/presenting and acquisitions. He works tirelessly in the world of Canadian Independent Genre Film - but is also a keen viewer of cinema from all corners of the globe (with a big soft spot for Asian cinema!)
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