Time to look at one of the big blindspots I’ve had as a reviewer. Few animated adaptations are as well known as the four-part Dark Phoenix adaptation that aired on the Fox X-Men Animated series in 1994. But I’ve skipped it since it was a tv series and especially a TV show I don’t like very much. However it’s long past time I tapped it!
X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga (1994, roughly 80 minutes)
Plot: Possessed by an alien force, Jean Grey turns into a cosmic force of destruction with those who love her trying desperately to save her soul.
Source Material: We’re dealing with one of the greatest comic book stories of all time here, one of the most adult stories adapted for children. Given how the show utterly desecrated Days of Future Past, it was pretty easy to expect a terrible take. But I’ll be blunt: this is one of the truest adaptations I’ve ever seen. Seriously. Once it gets past a first act that needed to clear away previously existing material in the show, this is the comic story with very minor, needed changes such as the Phoenix not killing anybody or the Hellfire Club being renamed the Circle Club. (As a Dante fan, I laughed hard at that.) If you want to see the comic in motion, here you go!
Animation: Look, this was made for TV so I’m going to be a bit nicer than I’ve usually been on the animation. It’s not trying to be theatrical but for what it is, it’s fine. It’s stronger than the later Spider-Man show. There’s some nice action. Character work is fine. It’s not as lush as the DCAU but it gets the job done.
Script: This benefits strongly from a story that easily breaks into four separate beats for four separate episodes from four separate writers. The core focus is on Cyclops and it’s handled well. It’s not exactly poetic writing but it’s highly effective all the same.
Voice Acting: Look, I’ve never liked the 90s Marvel voice work and that’s not changing. It’s very on the nose, really not far removed from the video game. I wasn’t actively bugged by it but it never really worked for me.
Final thoughts: I can’t express how much staying faithful to the source impacts my verdict. This is a 4/5 entirely because this delivered what I wanted. It’s a dead-on take on the Dark Phoenix Saga which works phenomenally in motion. It’s moving. It’s bold. It works.