X-Men: Evolution. This TV show to come out in the early 2000s “reimagines” the X-Men saga that we all knew and loved. There are four seasons, though the last season is a bit short and the show was cancelled. Season one was a bit rough and I hesitated to even continue.
Here’s the premise: X-Men. But they’re in high school! That made me cringe. Not all of the heroes are young (Wolverine, Storm, and Beast are still adults) but most of them are now high-school aged. The show is infused with high school drama and most of the first season focuses on these high school problems: bullies, self-esteem, cliques… It was all pretty familiar territory but territory I wished that the X-Men didn’t have to explore.
About halfway through the first season, we begin to get introduced to real villains. Before we had high school versions of Toad, Blob, and more (including Mystique as the high school principal) but soon we are introduced to real villains, such as Magneto. Once the scope of the show leaves the small bubble of high school, it actually starts to take off. The storylines become progressively more adult and it becomes more rare for the students to face high school problems.
What I didn’t like… In making the characters so young, some complexity was lost. Toad was downright annoying. Also some relationships couldn’t become what we expected. The Wolverine/Cyclops/Jean dynamic was ignored (since Jean and Cyclops were now in high school). Rogue/Gambit and Kitty/Colossus were also ignored because of the age. Overall though, these were the only things that were really effected.
What I DID like… In the 90s version of X-Men, the storylines were pretty consistent with the comic versions. They were able to recreate most sagas relatively easily. In Evolution, they strayed from the stories that we’ve already seen. They didn’t try to recreate the Phoenix Saga, they didn’t try to beat us over the head with sentinals. They gave us new stories, most of which I think were created for the cartoon. But these stories worked.
Even though we lost most of the romantic relationships, we did get to spend a lot of time on family relationships that were pushed aside before. For the first time, we get to see the dynamics between Mystique and her two children, Rogue and Nightcrawler. Rogue’s struggle with this dynamic is especially interesting and mature for a cartoon. We also spend a lot of time with Magneto and his children Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch. This was relegated to one episode in the 90s series, so it’s nice to see a longer arc.
Since they were able to stray from the source a little more, their envisioning of different characters often had a fresh feeling. The episodes featuring the Juggernaut were much more epic than he was in either the Animated Series or in X3. My favorite villain of Evolution was Apocalypse, who (for the first time) actually felt as powerful as he should have been. For a whole season, they built him up, they created the mythology, and when they finally faced Apocalypse, he destroyed them. It was incredible. In the Animated Series, he appeared every once in a while but was never that threatening.
Overall, I enjoyed X-Men: Evolution. It’s a different take and it definitely took some time for me to warm up to it, but it was fun and fresh to see what they did with it. It’s available on Netflix instant streaming now.