|X-Men: Evolution - Season Three (2002)
Starring: the voices of Kirby Morrow, David Kaye, Kirsten Williamson, Michael Dobson, Christopher Grey
Director: Steven E. Gordon and Gary Graham
If you’ve just gone to see “X-Men: The Last Stand” and walked out of the theater, grousing, “Dammit, that is not how it is in the comics,” then…well, actually, “X-Men: Evolution,” the animated interpretation of everyone’s favorite mutants, isn’t going to make you say anything different. The odds of getting a word-for-word, plot-for-plot translation from the comic books to any other medium are, let’s face it, so slim as to make it a sucker’s bet. But when you compare “The Last Stand” to “Evolution,” hey, at least in “Evolution,” nobody dies!
The X-Men made their animated debut in an episode of “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends” (and when is THAT coming out on DVD, I ask you?), an appearance which proved so successful that it warranted a sequel. An animated “X-Men” pilot, “Pryde of the X-Men,” emerged in 1989 and shown on TV as part of the syndicated “Marvel Action Universe,” but it would be three more years before the group actually scored their own series. That show, simply called “X-Men,” would last for five seasons on the Fox Kids Network.
“X-Men: Evolution” premiered in 2000…possibly not coincidentally the same year that the first “X-Men” motion picture hit theaters…and re-imagined the team to a considerable degree, much to the consternation of comic geeks everywhere. The elder statesmen of the team were Wolverine and Storm, with the rest of the group – including longtime group leader Cyclops – portrayed as teenagers, having to deal with typical youth insecurities simultaneous to the exploration of their superhuman abilities. As this third season opens, the X-Men have been outed to the world as mutants and their headquarters, Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, is in ruins, leaving the teens forced to attend a regular high school.
There’s certainly fun to be had here, particularly with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants…oh, whoops, sorry, here they’re called Magneto’s Acolytes. Whatever you want to call them, though, it’s characters like the Blob, Avalanche, and Toad (who sounds a lot like Butthead at times) who make for good comic relief. Magneto’s daughter, the Scarlet Witch, is portrayed as an almost-Goth chick, which is pretty close to how they paint Rogue. (Let me tell you, if you thought Anna Paquin was hot as Rogue in the movies, then, man, you’re gonna love the animated version.) Unfortunately, when things move away from proper superhero/supervillain storylines and into, say, Nightcrawler’s attempts to start dating, you’ll start to twitch.
I know, I know, it’s a cartoon, it was on Saturday mornings, and, by definition, it’s not for adults; it’s for kids. But it’s still about superheroes, you know? The least they can do is not try to combine the heroics with warmed-over “Saved by the Bell” plot lines.
Oh, well, there’s still enough fun to gently recommend it to those seeking out another “X-Men” fix but can’t handle the depression that’d set in from watching “The Last Stand” a second time. If, however, you find that you can’t make it through five minutes without screaming, “Oh, sweet Jesus, that is SO not how it is in the comics,” then, for God’s sake, don’t torture yourself. Just turn it off, walk away, and go read your comics.