Wednesday, May 15, 2024

X-Men '97 - Tolerance is Extinction

The three-part season finale of X-Men '97 races through several more thread from different X-Men storylines, offers more Marvel hero cameos (although none are present when the fate of the world is at stake), wraps up the Bastion (Theo James) storyline, sees humanity's actions nearly wipe out all life on Earth, and sets up the next season with the team separated across time and presumed dead. With Magneto (Matthew Waterson) freed, he uses his powers to shut down the Earth's magnetic field leaving the Earth in darkness and creates an asteroid home for any mutants who wish to leave the world that hates them.

Before heading off on their missions, the team gets a new look (or an old one) by raiding an old base allowing us to see the characters in other versions of their costumes over the years (and also sell more toys). And so we get two separate storylines with half of the team (unsuccessfully) attempting to stop Bastion and the other half of the team in a truncated Asteroid M storyline attempting to force Magneto to restore the Earth's magnetic field. The first allows for the, extremely short return of the Phoenix (and with apparently no ill side-effects), but Bastion still escapes planning to use Asteroid M to wipe out humanity (who is all too willing to help them in an insanely bad call that nearly wipes out all life on Earth). 

Memorable moments to the episode include Professor X's (Ross Marquand) mind rape of his oldest friend, and his attempts to rebuild Magneto's mind on the fly as the asteroid careens to Earth, Team Summers fighting together, Magneto pulling all the metal out of Wolverine (Cal Dodd), a nice moment between Storm (Alison Sealy-Smith) and Jean (Jennifer Hale), the different costumes (some of which, including Magneto, work better than others), and the tearful goodbye between Cyclops (Ray Chase) and Jean and their son Nathan (Chris Potter) along with an unexpected reunion in the far future.

Head-scratching moments include several X-Men apparent ability to breathe in space, the morality of Professor X's actions, humanity choosing to bring down an asteroid on their own head (what did they think was going to happen?), the bizarre transformation of Bastion after his powers should have been nullified, and none of the Marvel heroes glimpsed in the episode showing up to help save the world.

X-Men '97 has been great at providing moments, stealing them here and there from decades of X-Men comic storylines and then stitching them together. In many ways the show plays like a clip-show, offering highlights of previous adventures all cut together. Of course in an episode like that the adventures have already taken place in fully developed storylines from previous seasons and the context of each is understood by the audience. Here the clips are all we get.

It's an interesting way to hit as many highlights as possible, but not all the storylines fit together as neatly as one would hope (Genosha is awkward as hell) and some (like Asteroid M) get far, far less screentime than they deserve. Attempting to open up a wider animated universe as the season comes to close is an interesting idea that also falls flat given those same heroes not showing up (do we really think Iron Man and Doctor Strange couldn't have helped?). X-Men '97 is a fun show that entertains, but its very structure limits the emotional weight of its storylines knowing it will simply move on to the next big thing almost immediately. As for Bastion, neither he nor Sinister (both of whom go out like little bitches in the finale) would be my first choice to be the through thread to build all of this around. 

  • Title: X-Men '97 - Tolerance is Extinction
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