One of the more popular versions of the X-Men animated series is Evolution, which follows Cyclops, Jean Grey, Rogue, and the core cast of mutants as they fight for a world that fears and hates them. This animated series had a four-season arc that allowed the world of X-Men to grow and evolve into one of the best animated comic book shows for kids. X-Men: Evolution has multiple Daytime Emmy wins including Outstanding Individual in Animation and Outstanding Sound Editing – Live Action and Animation. It’s been 20 years since the pilot of the animated cartoon, does it still hold up to today’s standards?
The world of X-Men is extremely rich and has some of the most compelling characters to grace comic books. Of course, the X-Men aren’t perfect, but there’s so much potential to tap into that X-Men: Evolution has a high standard to live up to. There are plenty of ways to fumble the X-Men universe, notably trying to tackle as many characters at once. Smartly, X-Men: Evolution lets the audience know instantly who’s the leader of this ragtag group of mutants. The focus is on Scott Summers and it helps set the stage for what’s to come. Would it be nice if the pilot more so focused on the entire dynamic of the X-Men as a whole? No. Every show or film needs a protagonist, even if it’s an ensemble cast. The writers wisely focused on Summers not because they felt he was the most interesting guy on the roster, but because he’s the leader of this version of X-Men. The animation is a bit outdated, though it’s not something so off-putting that you can’t still enjoy the episode. Surprisingly, the show never feels crowded because of the stacked roster they have on board. Names like Spyke, Shadowcat, and Rogue don’t make an appearance because they’re not important in this episode. The focus is on Nightcrawler, Jean, Toad, and Cyclops.
It’s not a story that will instantly blow you away, but X-Men: Evolution does a great job of introducing audiences into their world without going overboard in that aspect. Every mutant showcased served some type of purpose, though it would’ve been great had there been a little more focus. The story dances between Scott Summers and Toad, and Nightcrawler’s introduction. Since the focus is mostly on the former, Nightcrawler isn’t really given the attention that he deserves. Then again, there’s only so much to do in a 21-minute time span. It would’ve been better if the Wolverine story was cut and saved for the next episode. That way, we could’ve gotten into Nightcrawler’s psyche a bit more and why’s he’s such a shy person. Obviously, he’s a blue mutant with a tail, so it’s not hard to draw conclusions on the reasoning, but Nightcrawler’s purpose seems to only serve the purpose for Scott and Toad’s story. Speaking of which, it would’ve been cooler to focus more on Scott’s unpredictable power and how he controls it. The narrative between Scott Summers and Toad is fine, as it helps establish both characters and the reveal of the show’s big bad, Magneto.
However, the big explosion was handedly quickly with ease. The premise of the show plays on the fears of these mutants living in a society that doesn’t feel that they belong. While not tap into that theme by expanding on the explosion as a storyline that’s resolved by the end? I know I’m coming down harsh on X-Men: Evolution, as in reality, the show isn’t bad and the half-hour premiere went by quickly. It was fun, but there’s so much potential here that it’s a shame that it really isn’t explored to greater depths. It’s a kids show, so it makes sense why it doesn’t really go into more complex themes, but why introduce plot points like that if it serves as nothing more than a moment? Other than those nitpicks, the story is fine and the aspects that standout the most are Mystique and Magneto. They don’t have much screentime, but the dynamic between the two villains is intriguing. What does Magneto want? Why is Mystique working for this guy? And what does it have to do with the X-Men? The final minutes of the show are well done and helps showcase what’s to come. While the pilot is a bit of a mess, X-Men: Evolution still makes a serviceable introduction to the mutant world. It’s not perfect, but the series goes on to be one of the best animations in television so this solid episode is only the beginning of something greater.