I really enjoyed my Disney movie blogathon, and I didn’t get sick of it by the end, but I also don’t feel like committing three months to a single blog project again. So instead, I’m here to introduce my second movie blogathon, and this time it’ll be directly connected to one of the franchises that inspired creating this blog in the first place. The X-Men.
I’ll be looking at every live action X-Men movie in order of release. Unlike Disney’s Cinematic Universe, where most of its movies are generally loved, opinions of the X-Men movies are generally mixed. Since getting into comics, my opinion of these movies have changed – some movies more than others. For the most part I’ll try to focus on these movies as movies, but it’s inevitable to at least compare character interpretations to their comic book counterparts – or even some of their portrayals in animated TV shows.
Unlike my Disney marathon, I’ve previously seen all of these movies at least once. I’ve even written about a couple of them on this blog before. But I haven’t talked about any of the cinematically released movies on their own – the closest I’ve been was a post comparing X-Men 2: X-Men United to the graphic novel it’s loosely based on, God Loves, Man Kills. Of course, I haven’t watched several of these movies in a long time. I haven’t watched X-Men 3 in at least 7 years, and I’ve only ever watched X-Men Origins: Wolverine once. Even before I got into comics, I knew that one was bad. I’m dreading that re-watch. But first, I’ll be starting off with an X-Men movie that not a lot of people know about.
Generation X was a TV movie and a failed TV pilot released by Fox 4 years before 2000’s X-Men. There’s a good reason why hardly anyone remembers it, but we’ll get into that. I’ve actually looked at this movie before on this blog, but after looking at that post … yeah, it’s pretty bad. Time for a redo.
It’s hard to believe it now, but in the early to mid-90’s, Marvel faced bankruptcy. The reasons why are more complicated than I care to explain, but it’s a combination of giving the marketing team too much power over their comics, buying a bunch of companies that ended up failing and a couple corporate raiders in a row moving company funds into private accounts. They needed to sell movie rights in order to stay afloat. It’s common knowledge by now that Spider-Man went to Sony, while the X-Men, Daredevil, the Fantastic Four and a few others went to 20th Century Fox. Thankfully Marvel’s since bought some of their franchises back, but Fox has stubbornly held onto the X-Men franchise ever since.
Fox originally bought the rights to the X-Men back in 1994, and for a time that seemed like a decent idea. Fox has a tradition of some great franchises behind them, like the Alien franchise, distribution rights to Star Wars, the Home Alone movies, Planet of the Apes, and majorly successful TV shows like X-Files and The Simpsons. Since then a lot of these franchises have been run into the ground, but you get the picture.
While Fox would move on to eventually release 10 X-Men movies, with at least 3 more upcoming, they originally wanted to start with a TV series. Generation X, a TV movie, was the intended pilot for that TV series. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available for the making of this movie, apart from how Marvel Entertainment and New World Entertainment co-produced it. Most of the movie was filmed at Hatley Castle in British Colombia, Canada, the same castle used as the Xavier Institute in nearly every X-Men movie since. The TV pilot aired on Fox on February 20th of 1996.
To anyone who reads the comics and is familiar with the characters being portrayed in this movie, it’s abundantly clear that this isn’t a straight adaptation. Sure, Emma Frost and Banshee are portrayed as at least recognizable compared to their comic counterparts as the teachers. Emma Frost’s portrayal here is pretty good even. She takes her job as a teacher very seriously, and values the safety of her students above all else. Partly because of her feelings of guilt regarding her former team, the Hellions. Touching on that story in the movie is a nice touch. There’s just the right touch of arrogance and snobbery to her portrayal without going overboard. Banshee is a lot more laid back, balancing out Frost’s harder personality. Seeing how I’m not familiar with the character, I can’t say too much more than that. Apart from the fact that Banshee’s actor, Jeremy Ratchford, is from Kitchener, Ontario (the city I was born in), I can’t think of anything else remarkable about Banshee in this movie.
As for the kids, they’re hardly recognizable compared to the comics. Jubilee started off as an excitable mall rat who is essentially adopted by the X-men. I’m not sure if the comics ever revealed who her parents are. In the Generation X movie, she knows her parents and is just trying to hide the fact that she’s a mutant from them. Oh, and she’s Asian in the comics but white in the movie. I’m willing to let that point slide a bit here since they had a very limited budget, and that wasn’t considered as big of a deal back then. And to be fair, Heather McComb’s portrayal of Jubilee is second only to Finola Hughes as Emma Frost for the best performance in this movie.
The only other well-known character in the group is Monet St. Croix (not even half of her full name). In the comics, she’s got a host of abilities, including near invulnerability, super strength, super speed, enhanced vision, enhanced intelligence (including a near perfect memory), can fly and may have minor telepathic and telekinetic abilities (generally more useful for defense than attack). The movie does reference her invulnerability by saying she’s got level 8 invulnerability … without explaining what that means. But despite saying she’s super intelligent, she doesn’t really do anything smart in the movie besides use overly technical language. She just uses her strength to show off and that’s it.
Apart from that, you’ve got Mondo (copies attributes of things he touches, like hardening his skin by touching a rock), Skin (abilities similar to Mr. Fantastic), and a couple original characters like Buff and Refrax. Buff is a girl with super strength and a muscular body, which she hides with baggy clothes (so that they didn’t need to find a young, muscular actress), and Refrax can shoot heat lasers from his eyes and has X-Ray vision. Apart from Mondo, whose actions cause serious problems for the plot, none of these characters are interesting in this movie, nor do they contribute much to the story. They just feel like typical teenaged movie characters.
I get why they needed to remove some of the comic characters due to budget restraints. After all, it would be hard to portray characters like Hollow (just look up pictures of her), Gaia (reality warping and matter reshaping), Husk (sheds skin into different compositions) and Chamber (his mouth is basically made of energy). But you should at least try to make your new characters interesting … or try to bring in other young X-Men characters like Kitty Pryde and Magik.
The story is fairly straight forward yet really strange. There’s an evil scientist, Doctor Russell Tresh, played by Matt Frewler. He’s easily the biggest name in this movie’s cast. Tresh is researching what the movie calls the Dream World. According to the plot, whenever anyone dreams, they’re not just seeing images created by the brain, but their consciousness is going to another dimension, called the Dream World. Tresh is looking into ways to manipulate people by contacting them through the dream world, trying to sell it as a way to completely dominate the advertisement industry. In this universe, all mutants regardless of their abilities can be trained to enter the dream world at will, without the assistance of a machine. If that’s not bizarre enough – if a human uses a machine to enter, and they stay there long enough, it can trigger mutant-like abilities for themselves.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of the X-Men franchise that being a mutant is entirely genetic?
Tresh’s portrayal is really weird. Some people accused it of being a Jim Carrey rip-off in that he’s very energetic and kind of crazy, but that’s not fair. Frewler had been doing that style of comedy long before Carrey entered the scene. But it is fair to say that Frewler’s portrayal doesn’t fit the generally dark tone of this movie. It clashes with the movie’s themes of racism, corporate evil, brainwashing and what I’ll mention in the next paragraph. There are times when he’s mildly entertaining, but more often than not it’s just weird. By the end of the movie he starts getting annoying.
Anyway, Tresh wants to give himself the ability to travel into the dream world by taking mutant brain matter. The movie even starts with him trying to operate on a teenager. The cops arrive, but they don’t even arrest him for planning to murder someone with unwanted surgery – they just convince the company to fire him. Why? Because it’s an unregistered mutant, therefore he’s not protected by law. Because that’s how the legal system works in Generation X’s universe, whether the teenager is an American Citizen or not.
That mutant, Skin, along with Jubilee, join the Xavier Institute at around the same time. They meet the other kids, are directly told that they’re being trained to be superheroes whether they want it or not. The rest of the first act is a split between a high school drama and Tresh trying to sell his ideas to other corporations. The plot really only moves forward when Skin hacks the Institute’s security, finds Emma Frost’s own dream machine, and meets Tresh in the dream world. It kind of turns into a weird mix of a spy thriller, a horror movie and a bunch of kids hanging around in town and the county fair.
Generation X doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a high school drama with a total of 6 kids at the school? Is it a weird sci-fi fantasy involving high concepts like alternate dimensions and mind control? Is it a horror movie with a villain performance is so over the top weird that it’s both mildly amusing and annoying? Is it a superhero origin story?
I don’t know what to make of this movie. Apart from a couple characters, it has nothing in common with the comics. It’s just a mess that feels like it was created by a committee of people who don’t understand the subject material. A committee of people who all want different things, and instead of trying to figure out a good story, they just settled on throwing in a bunch of different styles, themes and character archetypes, hoping that it would somehow fit together. It didn’t.
I would only recommend Generation X to people who feel the need to watch this out of curiosity. It’s not really a pain to sit through, but it’s not good. It’ll numb your mind though, so make sure you don’t plan anything productive if and when you watch it. It’s to the point where I wrote this post a week ago, and I finally got to publishing it today. It’s that surreal.
Next up is X-Men, which helped save the superhero movie after the disaster that was Batman and Robin. Then it’s X2: X-Men United, which was considered a masterpiece by a lot of people at the time, and then X-Men 3: The Last Stand, which heavily damaged the X-Men movie franchise for years to come.