This weekend, "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" hits theaters as Hollywood takes another shot at bringing one of the most beloved comic book stories of all time to the big screen.
And as you're reading this, it's possible I'm sitting in the movie theater right now, trying not to throw popcorn at the screen, lamenting why Hollywood can't just show the story as it was originally written. I'll be especially bummed because I know that Hollywood is capable of getting it right since they already did once - in a cartoon.
For the unfamiliar, "The Dark Phoenix Saga" comes from the pages of the best-selling comic book "Uncanny X-Men," with the first part running 10 issues in 1976-77 and the conclusion spanning eight issues in 1980. In case the movie surprises me and actually follows the original story in any way, I won't spoil anything here. But basically the saga details what happens when an all-powerful entity possesses Jean Grey, an original member of the X-Men and the heart and soul of the team. As the Phoenix entity begins to experience human emotions through Jean, it pushes to feel even more, leading to disastrous consequences.
In 1994, FOX's wildly popular "X-Men" cartoon took on the daunting task of presenting the iconic story, considered by many to be one of the greatest comic book tales ever told. The show had several things working against it from the beginning. First, was the sheer volume of material. The story's writer, Chris Claremont, is a legend in the industry, but he's also exceptionally wordy. In addition to being large and verbose, the material is also incredibly complex and adult - not something you normally see on a Saturday morning kids' show. But when the series debuted in 1992, it did so with the edict that it would be true to the source material, so the series' writers powered through. And while kids probably had trouble following the business of psychic rapport, cosmic soulmates and empathic beings, longtime X-Men fans were thrilled with the result. There were some adjustments, as the nefarious Hellfire Club became the Circle Club and the ending was changed to be lighter and more redemptive. But those concessions for kids didn't really harm the original story.
The nine episodes were not without their issues. Claremont's wordy dialogue came off clunky in many parts, which was not helped by the voice cast getting a little melodramatic at times. But overall, it's a solid adaptation and a good example of how staying true to the original story can actually succeed. I'm hoping the "Dark Phoenix" writers kept that in mind.
Unfortunately, "X-Men: The Animated Series" (as it is now known) is not available for streaming, but you can purchase episodes from Amazon and Apple TV. Both parts of the saga are also available on DVD. "X-Men: Dark Phoenix" is in theaters now.
Angela Henderson-Bentley writes about television for HD Media. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.