Posted: 05/03/2010

 

X-Men: The Animated Series, Vol. 5

(1996-97)

by Jef Burnham



Now available on DVD from Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment.


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Here its is, the fifth and final installment of X-Men: The Animated Series on DVD. I speculated in my review of volumes 3 and 4 that, given the complete lack of special features to date, perhaps Disney would “blow everyone away with its treasure trove of interviews, retrospectives, and archival promotional material” on volume 5. Now, I did not for one moment believe that this would in fact be the case, and, of course, it is not. But one would think that Disney might have thrown in something— ANYTHING— in the way of compensating for the abysmal quality of the episodes in this final set.

This set is comprised of the last 14 episodes of X-Men in order of their original airdates, meaning that, just like the last two volumes (but not the first two, which were in order of intended airdate rather than the actual ones), the continuity of this set makes little to no sense. The worst offender of continuity here is the fourth episode in the set, “No Mutant is an Island,” which was intended to take place continuity-wise directly after the “Phoenix Saga” and finds Cyclops mourning Jean’s death, though last we saw her, she was alive and well at the end of the fourth volume. But truthfully, this is the least of volume 5’s drawbacks.

The problem is simply that 10 of the 14 episodes herein are the entirety of the series’ fifth season, and, frankly, the majority of the fifth season is unwatchable. The animation is cheap and lacking in the series’ trademark filmic pacing and atmosphere, the voice actors are different and extremely painful to listen to, the character designs are pointlessly altered to make the X-Men look generally repulsive, and the title sequence is sped up, ruining the iconic theme song. Moreover, in the fifth season, there is absolutely no semblance of a story arc (destroying that which I praised most in my review of the first two volumes), and episodes such as “Descent,” which details the origin of Mr. Sinister, and “Hidden Agendas,” which hints at the beginning of a military assault on the X-Men, go absolutely nowhere! Both episodes end as though they present rumblings of big changes in the X-Men’s future, but are never mentioned again. As for the series’ final episode, that is 25 minutes of insultingly rushed garbage you’ll wish you had avoided.

This is not to say that there are no good episodes in volume 5 whatsoever. The two-part “Phalanx Covenant,” for instance, which opened the fifth season and predates the aforementioned changes, is pretty terrific, giving Beast some much-needed screen time. As such, this two-part story partially makes up for his exclusion from the majority of the first season following his imprisonment in the second episode. “A Deal with the Devil” is also decent, featuring one of the most blatantly stupid military decisions ever in a fictional work; “Bloodlines,” dating back to the third season, is pretty iconic as we learn about Nightcrawler’s origins, but it does feel a bit clunkier than the typical third season episode; and “Old Soldiers,” which details Wolverine’s excursion with Captain America in World War II, has a really good script by comic writer Len Wein, but, as part of the worst half of the fifth season, it is a miserably slapped-together failure.

Luckily for Disney though, this is the very last set, and frankly, people like myself will buy it anyway, if for no other reason than to complete their collection. But if you’re not a completionist like me, take my advice and spare yourself the pain of X-Men: The Animated Series’ unbearable final season.

Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.



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