The X-Men franchise has come to something of a fork in the road. Now wrapping up its 16th year in existence, it’s struggled recently to recapture the magic of its first two films, leaning on the box office clout of Deadpool to keep it relevant. This was only exacerbated by the relatively disappointing X-Men: Apocalypse back in May. With the main timeline beginning to stagnate, there’s still hope on the horizon, coming to us in the form of FX’s upcoming Legion TV series.
[Update, 12/5/16: Added second trailer, below.]
Legion will focus on David Haller, who in the comics is the son of Professor Charles Xavier. He’s also known as the most powerful mutant in the Marvel canon, but also the most unstable, thanks to a disassociate personality disorder that divides his psyche up into dozens of separate identities. It’s also a show that could very well ensure the long-term survival of the non-Deadpool mutant universe. Here’s how.
1. It explores one of Marvel’s most interesting (and chaotic) mutants
David Haller’s Xavier lineage makes him a formidable force in terms of his sheer natural abilities. Thanks to his fractured personalities though, he’s unpredictable at his best, and downright dangerous at his worst. Each personality that manifests for Haller carries a different mutant power, ranging from time manipulation to pyrokinesis. Because of this, it’s hard to know what you’re getting each time one of his personalities come to the surface. He could either be friend or foe, depending on the disposition of the dominant personality. Knowing that, the initial trailer’s description of him as “the most powerful mutant we’ve ever encountered” is far from hyperbolic, making him an intriguing centerpiece for Legion.
2. Continues to distance itself from the main movie timeline
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the true strength of the X-Men franchise is no longer found in the primary film series. Deadpool already proved that in spades, showing 20th Century Fox that there’s a whole world of mutants outside the main X-Men team worth exploring. It’s why Fox green-lit not one, but two new series loosely set in the world of mutants, first with Legion, and soon after that with Hellfire. It shows a willingness on the part of the studio to step outside its Wolverine-centric comfort zone, into territory that’s apt to carry the franchise on its back in the near future.
3. Fargo showrunner, Noah Hawley’s unique take on the superhero genre
With a few notable exceptions, most superhero properties today follow a similar aesthetic, prioritizing a straightforward action and adventure narrative. Legion showrunner is anything but your run-of-the-mill action and adventure talent though.
Noah Hawley is the mastermind behind FX’s Fargo anthology series. Early trailers seem to confirm a different kind of approach for Legion, showing us a surreal, almost dream-like tone. For a main character who’s constantly shuffling among dozens of separate personalities, it’s certainly a fitting approach too. The idea that it takes place in a world of superheroes and mutants seems almost secondary to Hawley’s creative aesthetic, and that’s exactly what we need right now from our comic book adaptations.
4. Marks a long-awaited first step into TV for the modern X-Men universe
Looking at both Marvel and DC, it’s not hard to see the potential of extending your superhero universe into the realm of TV. For Marvel, we have the insanely compelling Netflix universe pioneered by Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and soon, Luke Cage. DC’s own TV-verse even holds the title of being significantly better than its movies. So why has the X-Men universe been conspicuously absent from television since its animated series went off the air in the late ’90s? Whatever the reason, it’s exciting to see Fox entering the TV superhero fray in style with Legion (and Hellfire soon after that).
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