What did critics make of X-Men TV spin-off The Gifted?
The Gifted, Fox's latest foray into the world of the X-Men, made its Bryan Singer-directed debut on US TV last night (October 2).
The new show, which follows young mutants underground as they discover their powers, focuses in particular on one family and stars Amy Acker and Stephen Moyer.
The first reviews are now in, and while the consensus is largely positive (especially when comparing it to Inhumans), many reviewers felt it inferior to FOX's other big X-Men show, Legion.
Nevertheless, there was much praise for the family drama at the centre of the series, even if some felt that it fell short at times.
Here is a round-up of what critics are saying about The Gifted.
Although The Gifted lacks the tongue-in-cheek humor of Netflix's Jessica Jones or The Defenders, it stays afloat with quality special effects and surprisingly excellent performances across the large ensemble cast. It's straightforward comic book fare with familiar beats, but with an earnestness and well-paced storyline that elevates it above the other gritty, supernatural fall TV choices. If you're told to decide between Marvel's Inhumans and The Gifted, choose The Gifted every time and then laugh whomever presented you with that choice out of your life forever.
What ingredients are necessary for a successful show about powered individuals? Cool abilities? Flashy visuals? Likable characters? Interestingly, Fox's The Gifted manages to have them all despite following some formulaic paths to tell its story. Any worries viewers might have about the young, good-looking, CW-like cast should be tossed aside. Everyone from the headstrong but calculating mutants to the strangely sympathetic government enforcers to the argumentative but caring siblings in the Strucker family have levels of complexity not often seen, especially in a pilot.
The Gifted gets points for including X-Men characters with some name recognition and for acknowledging its place within the bigger franchise. That, however, raises expectations, too, as does Singer's adroit work with a budget that no subsequent director is likely to have. Three or four effects-driven set pieces, including an unnerving climax with Sentinel robots more than balance out the soapy family moments. I have very little confidence that The Gifted will be able to achieve that balance in subsequent episodes, but I'll definitely be watching to find out, which is more than I can say for Marvel's Inhumans. It's all a matter of context.
The Gifted works because it smartly positions itself as a spinoff of the much larger and very popular X-Men franchise. Nix isn't trying to rewrite what is by now a very familiar playbook; he's just adding a few new rules and dusting off more than a few old ones. The result is a series with a likeable cast that makes good use of its recognizable comic book characters, but still finds a way to present its human characters as complex individuals who don't necessarily see the choices in front of them in black and white. After a premiere as strong as 'eXposed', it looks like The Gifted will be an easy win for FOX.
The Gifted does little to make you forget you're watching a less ambitious version of an X-Men story. You can see the actors – all of the actors – straining to convey the emotional weight of their struggles, and it helps. Having people like Acker, Moyer, [Emma] Dumont, and the generally strong cast push themselves to give the pilot more of an impact is a benefit that'll carry into future episodes.
What needs to change (but likely won't) is the feeling that we've seen this all before, on a bigger screen (like in X-Men) with better effects (X-Men: First Class) and fresher ideas (Legion). The Gifted should suffice for those wanting to relive the past, but these mutants don't feel all that special.
The aesthetics of The Gifted are, for now, largely dark and serious, and it's hard to know (as always with a pilot) what the rest of the show will choose to focus and follow-up on. But The Gifted has come out of the gate with a solid first hour and memorable cast (something that's hard when there are so many of them), and there are plenty of things that should make viewers optimistic – assuming it can cut through the noise and prove that it deserves to.
Reviewing this only a few days after Inhumans debuted has me worried that I'm lowering the bar too much, but The Gifted so far is... fine. It's exactly what you think it's going to be, presented competently (Nix has been working in genre TV long enough to know how to keep these things moving along), with enough good actors to be encouraging, even if most of them aren't being used to full potential just yet. Legion, set in an even more remote corner of the X-universe, showed just how surprising and strange and memorable a show can be from related source material. The Gifted is aiming for something vastly more conventional, and doing it decently. Considering how poorly this fall's other Marvel show turned out, I'll take it.
20th Century Fox makes use of its long-held rights to X-Men – and the very term "mutant" – with the tepid new drama The Gifted, a show about a family with two mutant children trying to escape the clutches of evil government forces. It's nice to see the X-Men back on screen in some capacity – and Bryan Singer, the director behind the sturdy, successful films X-Men and X2, directs the pilot for The Gifted – but the new drama generally fails to impress.
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