Summary

  • X-Men ’97 captures the nostalgic charm of the original series while offering new and exciting storylines for adult fans to enjoy.
  • The updated animation style in X-Men ’97 is a subtle improvement, preserving the original aesthetic while incorporating impressive sequences.
  • The revival series knows its audience has grown up, delivering a living homage to the beloved X-Men: The Animated Series.



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Long before making X-Men screen adaptations meant expanding the bubble around Hugh Jackman’s ridiculously popular Wolverine, or endlessly remaking the Dark Phoenix Saga, X-Men: The Animated Series was a founding stone of Saturday Morning TV. Almost three decades on, X-Men ’97 rejoins the ranks of active Marvel properties in a strangely pertinent allegory for Marvel Studios’ fascination with nostalgic, fan-baiting cameos. And Beau DeMayo’s revival proves it was always about a lot more than just the catchiest theme tune in superhero TV history.


X-Men 97 Disney Plus TV Series Poster

X-Men ’97

X-Men ’97 is the direct continuation of the popular 1990s animated series X-Men: The Animated Series. Taking up where the third season left off, Marvel’s revival brings back famous mutants such as Wolverine, Storm, Rogue, Gambit, Cyclops, Beast, Magneto, and Nightcrawler, who fight villains like Mr. Sinister, the Sentinels, and the Hellfire Club.

Pros

  • The story and chosen plots are excellent
  • The nostalgiThe animation style is a considerable improvement on the originala factor is huge but the revival earns its existence
  • The nostalgia factor is huge but the revival earns its existence
  • Episode 3 is one of the best animated Marvel episodes ever
Cons

  • Some of the voice work is a little off
  • Gambit deserves better

Drawn from the rich history of X-Men stories in Marvel Comics, X-Men: The Animated Series is as close to untouchable as comic book adaptations get. Critically adored, TAS is credited as inspiring the confidence at Fox that led to the X-Men movies of the early 2000s as well as informing the direction of the comics it was born from. For a whole generation of fans, the image conjured by certain X-Men characters is not of Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen or even Jackman. It’s instead of the colorful, yellow and blue-clad heroes who debuted in 1992 as they ate their breakfast.

But 27 years on, is Marvel’s mutant revival actually worth it? Pre-release, the story of X-Men ’97 became a story of misplaced moral outrage all-too-quickly, before DeMayo’s strange last-minute departure added a distracting mystery.


I grew up watching X-Men: The Animated Series, growing incredibly fond of Rogue and Gambit in the process. The animation was never massively impressive, but it didn’t matter, because the stories were gripping and the characters were cool. It was, consciously, a kids TV show, but the revival feels like it’s aimed at adults.


X-Men ’97’s Storylines Are Its Biggest Strength

Come For The Cast, Stay For The Marvel Stories

Like the original series – and conspicuously unlike the main MCU timeline – X-Men ‘97 is keen to show its comics credentials by adapting familiar and popular storylines. The original did the Phoenix Saga (because every iteration is apparently contractually obligated to), Days of Future Past and many others, and ‘97 starts out with Magneto’s seminal redemption as the X-Men’s leader and another great storyline in episode 3 I will not spoil.


There’s the same sense of enthusiastic soap drama that was such an overlooked success in the original too. And perhaps because the target audience is adults who grew up watching the original, there’s a significant whiff of sex about things. Rogue and Gambit were always simmering, of course, but there’s a lot more furtiveness in the revival. A lot more flesh on show too, actually. Is X-Men ‘97 horny? Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what I’m saying here.

For anyone reading waiting to sharpen an ax on the grindstone of supposed “woke progressiveness”, the fact that Morph is non-binary is about as consequential to the events of the show as Magneto having a fetching new costume. It is incidental, and merely part of the same progressive tapestry that this franchise has always woven. I suspect the insurrection subplot and associated moralizing monologue (which is handled very well) is probably going to generate some whines though.


A big part of the marketing focused on that Saturday morning cartoon vibe that has a direct line to the child still playing with action figures in the back of everyone’s brain, and the show delivers on it. It’s not just about throwing out “member berries” or scratching a familiar itch either: the format and the episodic breakup of stories, each with a cliffhanger crescendo is like bottled nostalgia. In a world where binging has made patience an unmarketable nightmare, it’s a refreshing move.

New Cast Members, But Old Dynamics That Work

Time spent with old friends is time well-spent

The X-Men ‘97 cast is a slightly different affair to the original, with Bishop boosted to full member after a trip from the future; Morph’s return to full active duty; and the episode one arrival of Sunspot. They’re all good additions, even if two of them are already familiar and Roberto Da Costa feels a lot like the X-Men Evolution version of the same character.


Some of the other veteran voices show a little of the wear of age, but nothing like
The Simpsons
does.

For the nostalgics out there, the original cast is mostly very well-preserved. Storm has a slightly too-modern, but character-appropriate Mohawk; Gambit’s off-work clothes are quite jarring because of unfamiliarity; and it may be a touch of self-gaslighting, but Beast feels oddly more influenced by Kelsey Grammer than before. Cyclops is as regal as ever, with a more prickly edge in Xavier’s absence, and Wolverine is a prick. Just as he should be.

There are new voice cast members, of course with several of the original team sadly no longer with us. And none of them stand out as radical departures other than Morph, whose voice is no longer like nails being dragged down a chalkboard. So score one for the replacements in that respect. Some of the other veteran voices show a little of the wear of age, but nothing like The Simpsons does, and 27 years is a long time however you shake it.


X-Men ’97’s Updated Animation Style Is A Subtle Improvement

Whisper it, but The Animated Series didn’t look all that good at the end

For all of the hand-wringing about X-Men ’97’s rumoured switch to a new animation style, there’s nothing at all to fear in the looks department.‘97 has clearly learned a trick or two from Marvel’s What If…? but there’s no wholesale renovation. And it looks markedly better than the final season of X-Men: The Animated Season, which rose-tinted visor wearers have forgotten suffered a noticable dip in visual quality.

The… overriding commitment to the original’s aesthetic is quite beautifully preserved


There are easy direct comparison points too: in season 1 episode 4 (“Deadly Reunion”), Professor X and Sabretooth have a mental battle in the astral plane, where Charles encounters monstrous creations. At the time, it was an impressive sequence, but one particular, anime-influenced sequence and another similar battle in ‘97 episode 3 surpass the original episode to an almost comical degree.

There is more movement in the animation, more depth and more compositional scale.

The effects work is more impressive, the use of different fields more immersive, and the nonetheless overriding commitment to the original’s aesthetic is quite beautifully preserved. This is a fine-tuning with the gift of technology in a way that makes a mockery of the idea that AI is the future of animation. Only fans could observe this well.


All of that is to answer the one question anyone sitting on the fence about the revival’s style actually wants to know: does it look good? I can confirm, with no hyperbole, that it looks both very good and understands the need not to crush the quaint charm of the original under the boot of technological progress. It looks right, and throw in some incredibly impressive sequences (seriously, episode 3 is magnificent) and it’s all a cynical old fan of TAS could ever have hoped for.

Related

10 Best Episodes Of X-Men: The Animated Series

X-Men: The Animated Series is one of the greatest animated shows of all time, with several incredible episodes that hold up to modern scrutiny.

So Was X-Men ’97 Worth The Near-30 Year Wait?

X-Men’s revival knows that we all grew up… And it did too


Did I need to wait 27 years to see more of X-Men: The Animated Series? Absolutely not, that’s too long to wait for anything. But the pleasant reality is that the newly formed Marvel Animation has done something that very few belated sequels and revivals manage. It has created a living homage to the original that actually improves on it without straying too far from it. X-Men ’97 knows that its central audience has grown up in the time it’s been away, and instead of making a conscious play for a new generation, the show has grown up too.

That said, there is no radical reinvention in X-Men ‘97, even with a raft of changes, and from the moment that iconic music kicks in, it just feels good to be back among the mutants. And while the MCU live-action X-Men projects continue to be intangible beyond Wolverine’s impending return, this is a great little appetizer.

X-Men ’97

Cast
Jennifer Hale , Chris Potter , Alison Sealy-Smith , Lenore Zann , Cal Dodd , Catherine Disher , Adrian Hough , Ray Chase , Chris Britton , George Buza

Release Date
March 20, 2024

Seasons
1

Streaming Service(s)
Disney+

Writers
Beau DeMayo

Directors
Jake Castorena

Creator(s)
Beau DeMayo

Key Release Dates

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