Case Number 16848: Small Claims Court

WOLVERINE AND THE X-MEN: DEADLY ENEMIES

Lionsgate // 2009 // 113 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Dan Mancini (Retired) // July 20th, 2009

The Charge

"I'm the best there is at what I do, but what I do isn't very nice." -- Wolverine

The Case

Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies picks up where Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy left off, with the X-Men still trying to pick up the pieces after an explosion at the X-Mansion decimated the team's leadership. Professor Charles Xavier is still in a coma and locked under glass in the rebuilt X-Mansion. His disembodied psyche makes occasional visits from 20 years in the future, where he has just awakened. Dr. Jean Grey is missing in action. Her husband, Scott Summers (aka Cyclops), has mostly lost the will to fight. This leaves the mutant superhero team with the most unlikely of leaders: Logan (aka Wolverine), a gruff, violent, and fiercely independent warrior with quick-healing abilities and indestructible metal claws.

Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies presents episodes four through eight from the series' first season:

* "Overflow"
Professor X visits Logan telepathically from the future to warn him that Africa will be decimated by former X-Man (X-Woman?) Storm. Wolverine and a team of X-Men -- including Cyclops -- rush to find Ororo and uncover why she would destroy an entire continent. At the center of the mystery is an evil mutant named the Shadow King who feeds on hatred and can take possession of people's bodies.

* "Thieves' Gambit"
After seeing video footage of Wolverine saving Magma from the Mutant Response Division and putting a collar around her neck that temporarily suppresses her powers, Dr. Sybil Zane hires a playing card-throwing mutant named Gambit to steal the collar on behalf of Senator Kelly so it can be reverse-engineered for devious, anti-mutant purposes. Logan fails to prevent the theft, but finds that the mercenary Gambit is willing to help him retrieve the collar from his former employer...for the right price.

* "X-Calibre"
Nightcrawler and other mutants board a cargo ship headed to Magneto's island, Genosha, where they intend to live segregated from human beings. During the passage, the boat is attacked by the multi-armed Spiral and her gang of Reavers, who want to sell the mutants into slavery to an alien collector named Mojo. With the help of Emma Frost and Cerebro, Wolverine and Kitty Pride locate Nightcrawler and set out to save him.

* "Wolverine vs. the Hulk"
Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. blackmails Wolverine into taking on the Hulk, who is cutting a path of destruction through the Rocky Mountains. During their mega-throwdown, Logan and the big green guy encounter Wendigo, a brute created in a S.H.I.E.L.D. laboratory. Wolverine and Hulk must team up to stop him.

* "Time Bomb"
Charles Xavier's disembodied psyche shows up again to warn Logan that half of the mutants in the world will be killed when a mutant named Nitro explodes on Genosha. It seems that the Brotherhood broke Nitro out of an MRD prison in order to use him as a weapon against humanity. According to Professor X, their plan will go terribly wrong unless Logan and the X-Men stop it.

As Wolverine and the X-Men begins to find its rhythm, it's clear that Season One is made up of two kinds of episodes: those involving Wolverine's gritty battles against evil mutants and the hostile American government, and those in which Professor X's telepathic dispatches from the future set the X-Men off on quests to prevent future apocalypses with their roots in present-day events. The latter is the weaker of the two varieties of episodes as the global crisis plotlines are often corny and the use of Xavier as a deus ex machine is repetitive and silly. The two Professor X episodes here, "Overflow" and "Time Bomb," are easily the weakest in this set. While seeing Ororo back in Africa and being worshipped as a demigoddess, as well as her squaring off against Shadow King, is a fun nod to the character's origin, she's such a minor presence in the show that "Overflow" feels like a distraction from the main story arc. "Time Bomb" is slightly better than "Overflow" because it gives us a glimpse of Rogue's life among the Brotherhood, but Professor X's warning about the impending death of half of the world's mutant population still comes off as lazy, formulaic storytelling.

Deadly Enemies finds its groove with "Thieves' Gambit." The conspiracy plotline and game of one-upmanship between Wolverine and Gambit are a blast. The duo's tentative partnership is dynamic, and their assault on a high tech laboratory is kinetic fun. Plus, Sentinels make a brief appearance. The episode is good enough to make you wish that Gambit had found his way into one of the better X-Men feature films instead of the inferior X-Men Origins: Wolverine. "X-Calibre" is similarly action-packed and entertaining. Nightcrawler dominates the proceedings and proves a solid leading man as we're given flashback glimpses of his troubled past. The episode also sows the seeds for Nightcrawler's involvement in future adventures, though he maintains his independent spirit.

Of the five episodes on this disc, "Wolverine vs. Hulk" is the best and most fun. Hulk's nearly limitless strength and Wolverine's healing powers and thick-headed determination ensure major fireworks whenever they square off against one another. Their battle in this episode is explicitly treated as a follow-up to their knock-down-drag-out in Hulk Vs. (though the violence is toned down for younger audience members). The fact that necessity makes them allies in a battle against Wendigo is only icing on the cake. But the episode offers more than great action. Nick Fury's presence fits nicely into the story arc involving Senator Kelly's persecution of mutants and the government's dangerous experiments with mutations and super soldier serums. The show's handling of Fury is also fresh and interesting -- seen from Wolverine's perspective, he's essentially a government douchebag who doesn't hesitate to abuse his own authority.

Produced by Marvel Animation, Wolverine and the X-Men is a solid piece of work, but doesn't approach the best of television-grade animation. Character design is simplified from the comics, of course, but still attractive. Action sequences are fun despite some rickety character movement. The DVD presents the show in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, enhanced for widescreen displays. Color reproduction is excellent, but the transfer is marred a bit by isolated compression artifacts. Audio is a reasonably beefy (by TV standards) Dolby 5.1 mix.

Each of the five episodes is decked out with an audio commentary. Supervising producer Craig Kyle and writer Greg Johnson provide tracks for "Overflow" and "Thieves' Gambit." The duo is joined by writer Christopher Yost for the remaining episodes. The tracks are lively and informative as the Kyle, Johnson, and Yost talk specifically about the episode they're watching as well as how the series was planned out. They also provide a solid primer in the X-Men comic book continuity that inspired events in various episodes.

Wolverine and the X-Men: Deadly Enemies is superior to Heroes Return Trilogy if only because it offers five episodes instead of three, and includes stories featuring Gambit and the Hulk. Hardcore fans of the show may still want to hold out for a complete season box.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

Review content copyright © 2009 Dan Mancini; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 82

Perp Profile
Studio: Lionsgate
Video Formats:
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)

Subtitles:
* None

Running Time: 113 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Episode Commentaries

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0772145/combined