DVD Review: “Wolverine and the X-Men”

wolverinecoverThe cover has Sentinels on it. The opening credits have Sentinels in them. The back cover seems to promise this will be a really cool, animated adaptation of the classic X-Men comic-book two-parter “Days of Future Past.” So where in the flying hell are the Sentinels and a war-ravaged future in the freakin’ movie?

Oh, right — they’re all at the end. For about ten seconds. Niiiiiiice.

Adult fans of Marvel’s mutant super-hero team the X-Men — and even smaller fans over the age of seven — might be seriously disappointed in the new Wolverine and the X-Men: Heroes Return Trilogy. The DVD comprises the first three episodes of the same-titled series running on Nicktoons, and is in no way a spin-off of the previous X-series that came before it. Wolverine and the X-Men starts off by jumping right into the story, figuring that pretty much everyone on the planet knows by now who the various X-Men are, courtesy of Bryan Singer.  We’re shown a typical training sequence with Nightcrawler, Kitty Pryde and Colossus in the Danger Room, before we find out that Wolverine is leaving the mansion for some alone time. On his way out, he says his goodbyes to Beast and Jean Grey, and is about to chat with Storm and Professor X, when suddenly the Professor and Jean–being the resident telepaths in the group–feel a profound psychic assault, and then a bright light solarizes the screen, taking us forward to one year later.

The mansion was mysteriously attacked and destroyed, the Professor and Jean unaccountably disappeared, and the surviving X-Men have split up in the wake. Meanwhile, the U.S. government has begun registering, categorizing, hunting down and capturing mutants. Wolverine is on the road when he comes upon a train wreck and saves a little mulatto girl (her mom’s white, her dad’s black). The little girl’s race is important, because the X-Men have always been Marvel’s flashpoint for heavy-handed symbolism. Since mutants are hated by “normal” society, they can figuratively stand in for any put-upon minority: gay, black, Jehovah’s Witness. The little girl, Erica, befriends Wolverine and her parents take him in, hiding him at their house. When their neighbor Carl calls in the government’s MRD (Mutant Response Division) to capture Wolverine, he manages to escape, but Erica and her family are captured, and her dad is subjected to torture at the hands of an MRD agent whose scarred face betrays a previous encounter with ol’ Wolvie. Eventually Wolverine manages to get the Beast and Iceman to hook up with him in an attempt to rescue the family, and then set out to reform the team and find the Professor and Jean.

wolverineclawsWolverine and the X-Men has plenty of action to be sure, but it’s fairly tame. Whereas in the comics, Marvel was always ready to dish out some true blood and violence while DC kept things family friendly (until their recent and over-the-top unnecessarily bloody Infinite Crisis), recently their roles have reversed in the animated DVD arena, with DC outings such as Wonder Woman cranking up the volume in respecting the adult sensibilities of its audience, while Marvel now plays strictly to the kiddies.

It’s fair to say that even the wee ones know that when Hugh Jackman pulls out his claws as Wolverine, anyone in his way is going to end up shanked to the Nth power and ultimately dead. In this cartoon however, fans have to settle for a lot of meaningless growls from the character, and him chopping guns and mechanical mutant-hunting robots in half, rather than pushing his claws through anyone’s flesh. Yes, there is one encounter with Magneto in the third segment, where the master of magnetism threatens to forcibly pop Wolvie’s claws through two of his compatriots, but for the most part, it’s a yawner. And again, the Sentinels don’t show up until the very end, when a psychic contact from Professor X serves as nothing more than a tease for the rest of the series, a plot hook used simply to reel in potential viewers.

Kiddies below the age of seven will more than likely enjoy the flashy costumes and go-nowhere-quick “action” of the series. But don’t dare show this to anyone who knows something about the history of Wolverine and the X-Men…you’ll simply offend them.




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