Since their first Marvel Comics appearance back in 1963, the stories involving the X-Men have addressed the misunderstood, the hated and the overall concept of “the other.” However, when 20th Century Fox brought Bryan Singer’s X-Men to the big screen in 2000, many of the cerebral, thought-provoking or deeply emotive aspects of the property had to be sacrificed in order to kickstart it as a blockbuster Hollywood franchise.
The same could be said of Matthew Vaughn’s soft reboot via X-Men: First Class in 2011, which told the story of younger versions of Professor Xavier and his mutant charges, as opposed to the adults Singer employed in his team. What both films held in common was that they romanticized the notion of people discovering they weren’t truly human and embarking on swashbuckling missions against villains who wanted to rule the world. But in the process, they failed to capture much of the depth and grit of the comics’ exploration of what it means to be outsiders struggling against a world ready to destroy you for simply being different.
NBC’s Heroes told this kind of story pretty well in the early stages, opting for substance over style when it came to individuals who were discovering their special abilities. Ultimately, however, the series failed to live up to its early promise. Now, Fox may just have found another working formula with The Gifted, as it delves into the plight of mutants who are being persecuted for well, their gifts.
This series brings a very relatable aspect to this all-too-familiar narrative of people with powers by needling down into the psyche of such individuals. It’s more drama than action, and as a television show, showrunner Matt Nix and his team have a bunch of episodes to spin this narrative, which means that they can flesh out things that feature films can’t. This gives Fox the opportunity to take away the idealist component of mutantkind’s fight to exist in peace, and allow The Gifted to show that for mutants, their powers are just as much a curse. The X-Men movies touched on these issues, whether it be with Rogue in Singer’s early movies, or Cyclops, Nightcrawler and Jean Grey in the wake of First Class, but it wasn’t as in depth.
The Gifted, on the other hand, really expands on the discrimination these mutants experience and offers better insight as to how we would really face the world, and how it would view us, if we woke up one day with superpowers. Thus far, the show hasn’t painted mutants as explicitly illegal, but we’ve seen them detained by the government when they use their powers in public. Clearly, Nix’s writing team is patiently angling towards the destination of full-blown oppression, but with a much slower burn than the movies, and this gives us more time to better connect with the heroes, villains and those in between. What this kind of introduction also does is focus on mutants being feared before they’re hated. This allows us to better understand the systematic approach towards the control, apprehension and imprisonment of mutants as the series progresses.
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