Generation X 1996
I was all set to watch X-Men First Class to kick off my X-Men reviews, but as I was expanding my big list of movies to include home video and TV movie releases I realize that I had forgotten all about a 90’s made for TV movie called Generation X. And on top of that, what better movie to bridge the gap between old cheesy movies and the much better modern movies? So with that in mind, as well as coming off of Fantastic Four, I looked up Generation X and watched what is easily the worst X-Men movie even considering some people’s dislike of The Last Stand and Wolverine. The other thing that is pretty funny is that someone who looks back on it now makes it look like just a cheap rip off of the X-Men, although Emma Frost is a little more high profile nowadays.
I didn’t know anything about this movie going into it aside from the fact that it was picked on my list of 33 of the worst superhero movies of all time. Apparently it was originally intended to be a pilot movie for a new TV series, but for whatever reasons while the TV show deal fell through, the pilot was self-contained enough that they released it as a TV movie. I managed to watch the British version that has some extra swearing that surprised me quite a bit. It’s technically based on an X-Men spinoff comic series that has Emma Frost and Banshee running a Massachusetts branch of Xavier’s school with a whole different crop of kids, and Jubilee. In this movie they have Skin, who stretches and is a computer whiz, although most of the movie he doesn’t stretch on purpose, and it hurts him a lot. And Refrax is essentially Cyclops-lite, he wears sunglasses even though he can somewhat control his powers without them, and he’s also in the process of learning to use the X-ray portion of his powers. They also have M, who is generically super strong, super smart, and has a super attitude. As well as Buff, who is generically super strong, and embarrassed about her muscles. And to complete the trifecta, Mondo who can absorb material properties to become generically super strong as the rock or metal that he’s holding.
As far as the actors that played the mutants, none of them stood out as particularly good or bad. I think I liked Banshee the most, although I wasn’t as fond of his accent. And I wasn’t a fan of Skin at all, when things were going his way he felt too cocky, and when they weren’t he felt too mopey. There was never anything particularly likable about him, especially when he does so many things to make you not want to like him. He gets picked on by the townies which I suppose is supposed to make the audience feel bad for him, but then he uses his computer skills to gain access to the one sealed off room in the school which houses a dream machine. He then uses the dream machine to get the cute townie to fall for him and visits her in her dreams. He also helps the villain of the movie escape from the prison hospital. And while he does get captured and ultimately save the day in the end, it happens so quickly that it never feels earned. The other kids are fairly generic and only get one or two short scenes of character development.
The villain of this movie is Matt Frewer as Russell, who is probably best known for Max Headroom and the voice of Panic in Disney’s Hercules though you’ve probably seen him in some other minor role somewhere. He is an over the top mad scientist with shades of Jim Carrey style goofy humor. His goal is to use subliminal messages and eventually control people’s dreams to make them do or buy whatever he tells them to. And to make his dream-talking even more powerful, he needs the brain of a mutant which apparently removes the need for the machine to travel to the dream realm. At one point during the movie, he becomes trapped in the dream realm while his body gets disconnected from the dream machine. His time in there makes him more powerful, or at least that’s what we’re told by the other characters. In the final fight he never really does much other than get thrown through a wall and come back looking really big for a moment. He was just too laughably silly to be taken seriously as a major villain even with the British-TV only threat to mind-rape Skin’s little sister in her dreams, which was a really weird place to go for this kind of movie.
The special effects for this movie aren’t anything special, but I thought they generally got the job done for the budget they were under. There was nothing that really looked that spectacular, but nothing looked so cheap that it took me out of it. The one thing that did strike me as rather odd was the extreme color palette used in the lighting. Nearly every other scene was awash in green and purple, like it was supposed to be a Hulk movie or something. Especially in places that didn’t make any sense, like outside of a police station. Either that, or the camera was tilted at an angle, it just felt like such an odd choice.
The other thing that kind of bugged me about this movie was the whole discrimination subplot. Don’t get me wrong, I think that the themes of discrimination in regards to mutants is a fantastic plot device in the X-Men universe. It’s a great mirror to whatever minority group that’s being discriminated against at the time. But it felt like a background detail in this movie. There were only a few mentions of the mutant registration act in the beginning, but aside from that it was mostly forgotten or glossed over. In the end, it wasn’t nearly as bad as Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four movie, but it is no surprise that it didn’t get picked up into a full series. If curiosity gets the better of you, you can also watch this movie on YouTube. Thursday I’ll be watching First Class for real this time. Until then, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.