Monday, September 17, 2012

Marvel Media Mania: Astonishing X-Men: Gifted

Astonishing X-Men: Gifted is Marvel's first motion comic, originally released online in iTunes and other such venues in 2009. The six episodes have since been collected on DVD.
Astonishing X-Men: Gifted
Although this motion comic was the first, in some regards it is the best of the bunch I've reviewed to date. 

First, the story is, without a doubt, the best of the motion comics. If it seems familiar to you that's because elements of this story were recreated for the third X-Men live action film such as the "cure" for mutation. 

The plot is actually thin on action and heavy on philosophy. There are plenty of scenes that just have the X-Men sitting around and talking or fighting among themselves. To me, that's a strength of the series. When the mutant "cure" is released, the X-Men don't just rush off to destroy it - they discuss the tenets behind their philosophy... who are they to deny mutants the ability to shed their mutation? But what if the government weaponizes the "cure?" Also, in the Professor's absence what remains of his philosophy and dream?   

The episodes also balance the cast out extremely well. Wolverine doesn't dominate the show and some characters that don't often get the limelight get a chance to shine. The tension between Kitty Pryde and Emma Frost is wonderful to watch. Beast's inner struggle with a personal choice weighs heavily upon him, forcing him into a confrontation with Wolverine. Cyclops and Wolverine both are still trying to get over the death of Jean Grey and everyone wonders if Emma is mind controlling Cyclops.

If I can find a fault with the plot it's that it that there are too many plot threads that either aren't introduced properly or aren't resolved. Marvel literally translates the comic panel by panel, word by word. But it would actually benefit from a little bit more explanation and backstory. Things that would shock or excite someone that's been reading X-Men for 20 years lack a punch without the proper context. For example, there's a "surprising" return of a character long thought dead... but to the viewer you don't even realize that's the case. Likewise, the tension between Kitty and Emma, while highly entertaining, isn't resolved and doesn't really have a true significance in the story. Sure, it sets up future events... that aren't on this DVD. 

This word-for-word translation lends to a few awkward moments. One is when a student says the F-word, only to have it bleeped out. In the comic, this would just be squiggles like this #$!@#^&$#! but on screen it just seems weird to have a bleep in the middle of a DVD. Then Wolverine goes on a swearing tirade that's entirely bleeped. I don't know if they were trying to be funny but it just comes across as being odd. I would have preferred that they simply substituted some words that would pass the censors on regular TV.

The music and voice acting for this series is surprisingly good. I would say the frantic music with a heavy beat is one of the strong positives for the show. 

The animation is really good... until it isn't. Mouths move much better than they do in some of the later motions comics. I thought action sequences looked very smooth and natural. They really used 3D effects to great advantage. I really liked the fact that little details were attended to (such as breathing and blinking) that make the characters seem very real. But when a character turns their heads they used some type of morphing technology where the image morphs into the turned head image. It ends up looking like a reflection in a funhouse mirror. The same effect was used for shifting emotions and it just made the faces look distorted. 

Ultimately, though, was the viewing experience enjoyable? Yes, thanks in large part to Joss Whedon's amazing story. The guy who made the Avengers a billion plus dollar movie doesn't go wrong with the X-Men either. It's worth checking out but fans will enjoy it much more because casual viewers might find themselves a little lost.

1LR REVIEW - 14 out of 20! It's a Hit!

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