Case Number 03015: Small Claims Court

X-MEN EVOLUTION: MUTANTS RISING

Warner Bros. // 2001 // 105 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Chief Justice Michael Stailey // June 18th, 2003

The Charge

Their daily homework is to save the world

The Case

Capitalizing on the success of the feature film and the continued popularity of the original X-Men animated series in reruns, the Kids WB! unveiled X-Men Evolution in the fall of 2000. Condensing nearly 40 years of comic book history into a series of 22-minute episodes is no easy task. Credit producers Boyd Kirkland (Batman: The Animated Series) and Mike Wolf (King of the Hill) for an exceptional job of distilling the X-Men mythos and creating a new world for these characters to play in.

Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters is home to a group of teenage mutants, learning to control their powers and use their abilities to create a better world. Under the tutelage of Professor Xavier and adult instructors Storm and Wolverine, the kids -- Scott (Cyclops), Jean, Kurt (Nightcrawler), Kitty (Shadowcat), Rogue, and Evan (Spyke) -- face the difficulties of being different in a world that craves normalcy. Attending Bayville High School, our mutant heroes aren't the only students harboring secrets. The Brotherhood -- Lance (Avalanche), Pete (Quicksilver), Todd (Toad), and Fred (Blob) -- have their own training under the watchful eye of Mystique and the shadowy presence of Magneto. Unlike their comic book counterparts, there are no instances of world terrorism or plans for human or mutant genocide. These are kids dealing with real life issues of growing up, relationships, discrimination, and other various ethical and moral dilemmas.

Don't ask me why, but Warner has seen fit to release their first Evolution DVD with four episodes from Season Two...

* "Growing Pains"
Written by Scott Granat and Cynde Clark. Directed by Frank Paur.
Scott and Kurt use their powers to prevent a school bus crash. In doing so, they expose their mutant abilities to a group of fearful onlookers. This poses a tremendous problem for Professor Xavier, who is convinced the world is not yet ready to accept mutants living among them. To make matters worse, the Brotherhood takes things a step further by using their own powers to wreak havoc on the high school pep rally. Trivia Notes: Bayville's new principal is Edward Kelly, chief architect of the comic's Mutant Registration Act. Guest appearances by new students Bobby (Iceman), Tabitha (Boom Boom), Rahne (Wolfsbane), Jamie (Multiple Man), Roberto (Sunspot), Sam (Cannonball), and Jubilee.

* "Bada-Bing Bada-Boom"
Written by Greg Johnson. Directed by Steven Gordon.
A Boom Boom tale. Tabitha, one of Xavier's newest students, is making friends and settling into a new life when her deadbeat father steps back into the picture. Trying to exploit her unique talents to heist cash from a local carnival, she has to decide whether to live up to the expectations of Xavier and her teammates or fall prey to old patterns of behavior. Meanwhile, the tension between Scott and Jean reaches new heights, as both start dating other people.

* "Power Surge"
Written by Doug Molitor and Greg Johnson. Directed by Gary Graham.
Jean's telepathic and telekinetic powers begin to evolve. What starts as little more than a troubling annoyance quickly develops into full-scale danger and destruction. It's up to Scott and the entire team at Xavier's to reach Jean before these new powers consume her completely. Trivia Notes: Oh my stars and garters! Hank McCoy is introduced as Bayville's new science and physical education teacher. Fans know him better as the fun-loving Beast.

* "Fun And Games"
Written by Brian Swenlin. Directed by Frank Paur.
When the adults are away, the kids will play. Charles, Logan, and Ororo are each called away on personal business, leaving Scott and Jean to care for the team. Tricked into taking a drive by Kurt, Rogue, and new friend Risty, the two elder students are left stranded in the middle of nowhere, while the rest of the kids throw a massive house party. Little do they realize the night's events are being orchestrated from the inside by someone with their own agenda. Trivia Notes: One of Rogue's new friends is video game enthusiast Arcade, a longtime nemesis of the X-Men, Captain Britain, and Spider-Man.

If, like me, you haven't watched any episodes from Season One, it may take a few minutes to catch on to the new setup and character revisions. However, once you're up to speed, the series flows quite well. Reverted to teenagers and mainstreamed with normal kids in a normal high school adds a whole new dimension to these characters. Their well-established histories and relationships take on all new meanings, opening up interesting development avenues to explore. Alternate universe stories have long proven highly popular in the comic book genre, and this series proves the animation media is no different. The writers now have a clean slate to pencil in appearances by other familiar X-Universe faces, providing fans (old and new alike) endless possibilities to look forward to.

Presented in 1.33:1 full frame format, the new animation style by Film Roman is a giant leap beyond the Saban/Graz style found on the original Fox series. Energetic colors and deep, lush blacks paint the landscape of Bayville, MA and the various school settings. This is a relatively clean transfer with little dirt or digital tampering. The Dolby 2.0 audio is sufficient enough, given there isn't the intensity of explosive action found in similar series. When the fighting does occur, most systems will do an admirable job of amplifying the action. Again, it's nothing that'll thrill you. Not much to cheer about with regards to bonus features either. Episode introductions by producer Boyd Kirkland are 30-50 second sound bites, offering little value to the casual viewer. Video bios for both our heroes and villains are well done, but once again fall into category of disc padding or fluff. Unless you are bored out of your mind, don't even bother with the cursor driven Comic Book Adventure.

If you're an X-Men fan who has yet to discover Evolution, do yourself a favor and check it out. You'll be glad you did. For those who are already Evolution fans, I would hold off on purchasing this disc, save the $15, and stick to the reruns on Cartoon Network. This court issues yet another citation to Warner for taking good content and condemning it to schlocky packaging. Try giving your other animated franchises the respect you show South Park. Case dismissed.

Content Grade: 90
Disc Grade: 86

Review content copyright © 2003 Michael Stailey; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Judgment: 88

Perp Profile
Studio: Warner Bros.
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

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

Subtitles:
* English
* French
* Portuguese
* Spanish

Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* Episode Introductions -- Producer Boyd Kirkland
* Video Bios -- X-Men and The Brotherhood
* Game -- X-Men Comic Book Adventure

Accomplices
* IMDb
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0247827/combined