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Wolverine and the X-Men: Final Crisis Trilogy DVD Review

Wolverine and the X-Men: Volume 6 - Final Crisis Trilogy DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Wolverine and the X-Men: Final Crisis Trilogy (2009)
Show & DVD Details

Directors: Steve Gordon, Nick Filippi, Boyd Kirkland / Writers: Greg Johnson (story & teleplay); Craig Kyle, Joshua Fine (story)

Television Developers: Greg Johnson, Craig Kyle / Executive Producers: Ed Borgerding, P. Jayakumar, Kevin Feige, Stan Lee, Eric S. Rollman / Producer: Jason Netter

Voice Cast: Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine, Telford Porter/Vanisher), Jennifer Hale (Jean Grey), Kari Wahlgren (Emma Frost), Tom Kane (Eric Lehnsherr/Magneto), Jim Ward (Professor Charles Xavier, Sentinels), Mark Hildreth (Pietro Maximoff/Quicksilver), Fred Tatasciore (Dr. Hank McCoy/Beast), Gwendoline Yeo (Neena Thurman/Domino, Master Mold), Kate Higgins (Wanda Maximoff/Scarlet Witch), Graham McTavish (Sebastian Shaw), Nolan North (Scott Summers/Cyclops, Pyro), Tara Strong (Marrow, Stepford Cuckoos, Laura Kinney/X-23), April Stewart (Selene), Liam O'Brien (Kurt Wagner/Nightcrawler), Kevin Michael Richardson (Bishop), Kieren van den Blink (Anna Marie/Rogue), Phil LaMarr (Bolivar Trask), Richard Doyle (Senator Robert Kelly), Liza DelMundo (Lorna Dane/Polaris), Danielle Judovits (Kitty Pryde/Shadowcat), Corey Burton (John Grey)

US Air Date: November 29, 2009 / Running Time: 65 Minutes (3 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (Intended and UK Broadcast Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Surround 2.0 (Spanish)
Subtitles: None; Closed Captioned; Extra Not Subtitled
DVD Release Date: August 17, 2010 / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Reflective Cardboard Slipcover
Suggested Retail Price: $14.98 / Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
To be released October 12, 2010 in The Complete Series on DVD and Blu-ray

Buy from Amazon.com / Preorder Complete Series DVD Preorder Complete Series Blu-ray


The X-Men don't rank among my favorite superheroes. It's not that I don't like them, it's that I don't really know them. I may be the only active critic who hasn't seen any of the three feature films Fox released from 2000 to 2006 or the 2008 Wolverine spin-off. I remember the group's Marvel Comics series being popular in the 1990s, but I've never been a comic book reader. The same decade's Saturday morning cartoon was something I was later interested in discovering, but the timing of Disney's first four DVD releases in 2009 was not ideal for reviewing them and I never got a chance to request Volume Five.
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I now have the opportunity to better familiarize myself with the franchise thanks to Lionsgate, who next week issues a sixth compilation DVD of the team's latest animated television series and this week sent me a copy for review.

If you're a fan of the universe unveiled by writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby back in September of 1963, you're probably shuddering at the thought of this cartoon posing my first real introduction to the crew. Even if you're not a viewer, the DVD's title -- "Wolverine and the X-Men": Volume 6 - Final Crisis Trilogy -- is enough to make clear that I'm not exactly starting at the beginning. In fact, this disc holds episodes 24 through 26, the final installments of the Nicktoons show's first and only season.

Jumping in at a season's closing arc is no easy task, especially here where no introductions are needed or provided despite a large cast of characters playing on three different levels. If not entirely self-contained at their start, these three episodes are at least continuous, which makes their standalone DVD release easier to justify than just some random compilation.

Logan, the not so mild-mannered alter ego of mutant superhero Wolverine, is surprised by what he sees in his smell-enabled replay. The intentions of sultry telepath Emma Frost remain in doubt as she commands the robed Stepford Cuckoos to do her bidding.

Originally aired November 29, 2009 in the United States, the three-part "Foresight" saga involves the abduction of Jean Grey and a looming war situation beginning in the country of Genosha. In Part 1 (21:20), the hot-tempered Logan (a.k.a. Wolverine) is convinced that Emma Frost had a hand in Jean's kidnapping. Part 2 (21:25) spends time with the Hellfire Club as they take measures to harness the Phoenix Force that has contacted their captive. Part 3 (21:49) moves forth with the hasty war Magneto and his giant robotic Sentinel soldiers wage on humanity.

Aired over the course of 2009 in the US (where it trailed the progress made in Canada and the UK by several months), "Wolverine and the X-Men" stands as the third animated series to center squarely on the mutant superheroes. The first two, the aforementioned '90s "X-Men: The Animated Series" and the more recent "X-Men: Evolution", are among the three longest-running Marvel TV series to date. This one, introduced in the wake of the profitable Hugh Jackman vehicle X-Men Origins: Wolverine, had a much shorter life. But at least it made it to series production, which is more than can be said of the X-Men's TV animation debut in the failed 1989 pilot "Pryde of the X-Men."

"Wolverine and the X-Men" didn't interest me nearly as much as the recently-retired show, "The Spectacular Spider-Man." Of course, I entered that 'toon with an appreciation for Spidey and knowledge of his world. Plus, I got to see the entire 13-episode first season in order courtesy of Sony's two-disc set. Joining "Wolverine..." on its final lap has its disadvantages, but the series itself also isn't as rich, accessible or riveting as its Marvel contemporary. That's not to say it's bad; I was pleased to find "Wolverine" driven by characters and dialogue as much as action, particularly in the DVD's first two episodes.

In a bit that looks and feels like Christopher Nolan's "Inception", Jean Grey joins Professor Xavier in a grayed suburban world where it's hoped the Phoenix Force will be summoned. Magneto's domination plans (today Genosha, tomorrow the world) have hit a snag by the time the Phoenix makes an appearance in "Foresight Part 3."

The press release claims that though the series is targeted to boys ages 6-11, it also appeals to comic book fans of all ages. I think the same could be said about most animated Marvel adaptations, and as usual the youngest and least seasoned viewers are the easiest ones to win over.
There isn't anything particularly childish about the program, but it doesn't opt for the darkness and daring of certain similar cartoons.

All three parts of "Foresight" retain their original opening and closing credits here.

VIDEO and AUDIO

On DVD, "Wolverine and the X-Men" is treated to a nice 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation reflecting the series' design and the aspect ratio of its UK broadcasts (Nicktoons crops it to 1.33:1 stateside). The picture quality is practically perfect; the only thing keeping it from that is mildly distracting interlacing. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack can't even be nitpicked to that extent. Crisp, robust, and appropriately engulfing, it pleases in every way. Subtitles are unfortunately absent, but the disc does supply English closed captioning and a Spanish Dolby Surround dub.

Wolverine, whose top billing seems undeserved based solely on the Final Crisis arc, is the first of five X-Men loaded in the DVD's Cerebro Online database main menu. Despite the lack of a dedicated page, there are audio commentaries.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

Like past volumes, the DVD's one real bonus feature is audio commentary, provided on all three episodes by developer/writer/supervising producer Craig Kyle, developer/head writer Greg Johnson, and writer Chris Yost. Though people take their comic book heroes seriously and these men sometimes do, the tracks are marked by a jokey atmosphere, especially the laughter-filled "Part 1."
Fans should appreciate these ruminations, which reveal a discarded reaction and unrealized storylines. Other topics include Jean Grey vs. Emma Frost, voice acting, dealing with international broadcasting spoilers and YouTube redubs, and the various themes being tackled. They're a nice inclusion that many shows wouldn't bother to provide on something perceived as a family title.

The main menu menu's other listing, "Trailer Gallery" adds previews for "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles": Season 7 Parts 1-4, Super Capers, and Battle for Terra to four promos that play at disc insertion: Alpha and Omega, Thor: Tales of Asgard, Planet Hulk, Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow. Joining the latter but not from the menu lot are a trailer for The Spy Next Door and a short DVD ad for Speed Racer: The Next Generation: The Fast Track - The Movie.

The short-looped animated main menu shuffles through indiscernible "Cerebro Online" profiles of five featured X-Men while dramatic score plays. Beyond their transitions, the submenus are silent and static. The black Eco-Box keepcase is housed in a glossy foil slipcover.

With hand blades drawn, an angry Wolverine confronts a distressed diamond form Emma Frost near the conclusion of the three-part "Wolverine and the X-Men" series finale.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Judging from just these three episodes, "Wolverine and the X-Men" probably isn't something worth going out of your way to see if you haven't already. The series is satisfactory in this arc, but not too conducive to jumping in without having watched the 23 previous episodes. That suggests limited value to this DVD, which is priced like its five predecessors despite carrying just 3/5ths as much content as most of them.

Bundling handfuls of episodes into light compilations like this appears to be a necessary evil; inexpensive DVDs sell better than high-priced ones, especially kid-friendly impulse buys. Many consumers don't seem to recognize or care that the bigger collections are always a greater value. If you're someone who does, you'll be pleased to know that Lionsgate will release the complete 26-episode "Wolverine and the X-Men" run on 3 DVDs ($29.98 SRP) and 3 Blu-rays ($44.99 SRP) on October 12th. If you haven't already committed to the 1-2 hour volumes (and with over 530,000 copies of them sold, you might have), I see no reason whatsoever not to wait for the complete series set if this is something you'd like to own.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com / Preorder The Complete Series: DVD Blu-ray

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Reviewed August 12, 2010.



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