Archive for the ‘Shadowcat’ Category

*NOTE* Since this film was recently released, this will be a quick, spoiler-free write up that focuses less on plot and more on the feelings that this film evoked within me.

All franchises mutate.

Fittingly, the X-Men franchise is the only comic film series from the modern era to run continuously. These movies are able to adapt and evolve like the mutants on which they are based. In the 14 years since X-Men first hit screens we’ve seen three different iterations of the Hulk (in two different film series), two different, unconnected adaptations of The Punisher, and two whole Spider-franchises. And yet the X-Men continue on, undaunted. There have been ups and downs in their 14 years as a franchise, but with this film I can honestly say that it was all worth it.

It’s rare to see a studio actively admit that they have learned from their past mistakes. But, in the lead-up to this film, everyone involved very publicly acknowledged the miss-steps of the series and assured fans that it would be actively correcting them. That’s a shocking amount of honesty from a studio (it’s telling that one of the most vocal supporters of this retcon campaign was a writer on X-Men: The Last Stand, which is considered a very low point for the franchise). And that’s cool, but in the lead-up to the film’s production there were still plenty of unknowns. The cast seemed unwieldy and continued to grow well into production, some of the character designs were met with skepticism and outright laughter, and focusing on Wolverine in lieu of letting another mutant shine rubbed some the wrong way. While many remained hopeful, there was a growing tide of fanboy whining that threatened to derail the sentiment put out by the studio and makers of the film.

“I don’t like his costume!
Naturally, this film will suck!”
-Fanboy #973

Luckily, fanboy rage is usually misguided. The film was released a couple of weeks ago and it is not only an unqualified financial success (highest grossing X-Movie in only 2 weeks) but also a critical darling (92% on Rotten Tomatoes) as well as the closest a cinematic outing has been to the comics on which they are based.

There are many things to love in this movie: The interaction between the classic and future casts, Sentinels on screen at last and the complicated relationship between Magneto and Xavier. However, to me there is one moment that is the most important of not just the film, but the entire film series: it features a lovingly crafted and warmly set ending that provides a sense of hope in an otherwise dire and dark story.

Because at the end of the day, that’s the purpose of the X-Men. They are here to remind us that life isn’t fair; that there are people out there who hate others just because of who they are and how they choose to live. Some of them will proselytize and do everything in their power to destroy the life that YOU find normal and what’s worse is that they will cloak those sentiments in politics or religion. But in the end, if we band together and face those evils we will overcome them. It may take years or decades but it WILL happen. Evolution marches on and the only thing it leaves behind is antiquated thinking.

Many people in my generation (read: old) have very fond memories of Saturday morning cartoons. Waking up early in order to watch our favorite animated adventures was a way of life that seems to have been pushed to extinction with the advent of 24-hour cartoon channels and streaming services. Everyone had their favorite show back in the day. We all watched all of them, but lines were always drawn. ReBoot was better than Eek the Cat (unless it wasn’t to you). More often than not, X-Men was at the top of everyone’s list. When it was cancelled, it left a bad taste in a lot of fans’ mouths. When a follow-up cartoon was announced, the flavor remained the same. Sure, loyalty to a particular brand of entertainment is great, but fanboys are never good about letting go (hell, I’m still sore about Young Justice being cancelled). Which was really too bad for this show. It wasn’t the same as the original cartoon and didn’t have the slavish devotion to the source material or the same large-scope in its storytelling. But in a lot of ways, it was just as good (if not a bit better) than the original.

“Like, totally radical? Pshh, as if…”

The primary conceit of the show is that it follows the X-Men while they are still inexperienced children (the exceptions being Wolverine, Storm and later Beast who serve as mentors for the core students) being rescued and counseled by Professor X in a world hostile to the newly emerging mutant race. At first glance, that seems like an obvious and cloying attempt to court the youth demographic. However it actually served as a way to add some self-doubt to the heroes that were previously incredibly confident in the past incarnation. Aside from some early episode annoyances (like Kitty Pryde’s voice) it rarely used the youth of the characters to be “hip”.

“That’s cool, I’m in like 12 comics anyway.”

Since I mentioned Kitty Pryde, she’s an excellent example of why this show was so awesome: the cast. The series took the wise step of introducing a new team of X-Men and filling its ranks with a mixture of fan-favorite characters, many of whom had had very little screen time in the past show (or none at all). Aside from regulars like Cyclops, Wolverine and Jean Grey we got characters mostly new to animation like Shadowcat, Berzerker, Nightcrawler and Sunspot. Some characters -*cough*Gambit*cough*- who were fairly overexposed at the time were given smaller guest roles so that less-seen mutants could enjoy a little of the limelight.

Marvel’s Harley Quinn

And of course, this show cannot be discussed without mentioning X-23. When the clone of Wolverine debuted, she was met with trepidation from most fans. Dismissing that her introductory episode was very well done, its understandable that the decision to introduce a young, cool version of Logan caused some unease (if not outright agitation) from fans. And yet, she turned into a fan-favorite character, largely due to her complicated personality and haunting backstory. She was a clone raised in solitude (after 22 failed attempts) and trained/tortured to become an assassin for Hydra. When she was 12, she was put through the Weapon X process. You know, the one that was absolute torture and almost killed an adult Wolverine? Yeah, they did it to a kid. The depth of her conditioning and the question of “what makes someone good or evil” is the core of her story and essential to what makes her an intriguing character. It’s incredibly refreshing to see what could have been a largely disappointing and obvious trope be so fully subverted.

The series lasted 4 seasons (making it Marvel’s 3rd longest running cartoon) and ended on quite the high-note. The X-Men, Brotherhood, SHIELD and other random characters all join forces in an effort to thwart the subjugation of the human race by the ancient mutant Apocalypse. The excellent finale’s final moments give a glimpse of all of the triumphs and losses we’ll never see in the team’s future before settling on a class picture of the extended X-Men roster. Even for an old cynic like me, it was touching.  

Class of 2003
Sadly, this series is rarely thought of by fans today. X-Men is fondly (and rightly) remembered for how groundbreaking it was and Wolverine and the X-Men is still being mourned for its short but dramatic run in 2009. I love both of those series, but as far as I’m concerned, the X-Men are 3 for 3 in television and now that this series is streaming on Netflix in its entirety, hopefully more people will give it a chance.