The first X-Men film, coming shortly after the surprisingly successful Blade movie really helped to launch and legitimise the genre of the superhero movie, making Stan Lee so rich he could afford to but whatever immortality serum he’s been using all these years. Like him, the X-Men film franchise, by which I mean, the Wolverine plus some other clowns film franchise is still going strong (seriously, even the one that didn’t have Wolverine in it still managed to sneak him in there.) with The Wolverine currently doing well in theatres and getting reasonable reviews from the critics. Next year will see the release of another X-Men movie, with the unenviable task of both tying together the murky continuity of the various films while also adapting the classic comic story, Days of Future Past. I can’t think of a better way to commemorate this occasion than to watch another made-for-TV film ohgodwhycantigetarealjobblearugh!
Generation X was one of the many spin-off books of the X-Men franchise. It was, according to the words of Wikipedia, a book “designed to reflect the cynicism and complexity of the series’ namesake demographic” because presumably saying “it was made for moaning 90’s wankers” would get a citation needed. It was about teenagers with mutant powers, like the X-Men. But more Xtreme. A TV movie was made by Fox in the hopes of spinning it off into a series that could run on the same night as the X-Files. You may have picked up that people in the 90’s really liked the letter X and with that level of perception, by the end of this review you may know why Generation X didn’t end up as a show. It's cheap, confusing and features a bunch of X-mutants that nobody cares about.
It opens with the dictionary definition of ‘mutant’ and really Generation X, the definition opening is usually reserved for more respectable fare than the likes of you. The definition includes “The illegal genetic condition, first apparent in puberty, caused by the X factor located in the pineal gland of the brain”. The next thing we see is a mad scientist attempting to remove said gland from a teen’s brain with a series of tools that in real life aren’t actually used unless a pizza is involved. He is interrupted by Emma Frost, who you may remember from X-Men: First Class being played by January Jones, whose acting was so stiff it’s possible she just had sleep paralysis and they just decided to go with it. When Frost finds out that the mad scientist fellow is basically going to get away with it, she exposes her psychic mutant powers in anger. Or at least the made-for-TV version of psychic powers, which involves things rattling slightly. To be honest, she’s 100% right to get this mad at this clown, and I might as well get into this now.
The bad guy in this film is the most annoying human being in recorded history (records of annoying people obviously going back some time, to the first loud chewer in the Stone Age.) This came out the year after Batman Forever and this actor, Matt Frewer, is Jim Careying all over this film. The impression is very transparent. Carey is grating enough on his own but then you’ve got this clown yucking it up for 90 minutes and it’s almost impossible to sit through. He even throws his boss through a window, just like Carey does in that film. I looked it up and Frewer has a credit voicing Carey’s character in the Dumb and Dumber cartoon, which does not surprise me at all. I like to think there’s a Bill Gates-like situation going on here and this guy came up with the hammy, over-the-top act first and Carey stole his act, while Frewer lost everything. I’m glad. His grating presence really drags Generation X down and it's already a few depths underwater to begin with. His evil boss wants him to use a machine to get into people’s dreams for subliminal messaging for advertising, but Not Jim Carey wants a mutant brain because the dream world is just another dimension and he wants to access it. Take a minute to wrap your head around that evil plot. Somehow a world that hates and fears troubled teens isn't Gen X enough, so there has to be a plot about cynical marketing.
We’re introduced to the first of the Generation X mutants, a young Hispanic named Angelo. He is tearfully departing from his family to leave for the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. We see that he has the power to stretch when his sister won’t let go of his arm as he drives away, stretching it out for the whole neighbourhood to see. He’s clearly in pain and she has this huge smile on his face, she should be the villain of this movie. Next up is Jubilee, playing video games in an arcade that is also some kind of bar, one of those locations that only exists in 90's television.
Jubilee has never been the most popular mutant with fans and she kind of demonstrates the difficulty in continuing to come up with interesting super powers for such a long running franchise. She’s a Chinese-American who basically shoots fireworks from her fingertips, the X-gene apparently believing in stereotypes. She was a real point-of-view character in the 90s X-Men cartoon but here she's just another in a crowd of mutant teens who either have no personality or really annoying ones. Sadly, she is portrayed in this film by a distinctly non-Asian looking actress, because in Hollywood, Asians are not allowed. Jubilee is arrested after her powers go off during a product placement of Virtua Fighter (We see Not Jim Carey’s face in the game, demonstrating that whoever made this doesn’t know what ‘subliminal’ messages are.) She is rescued from prison by Emma Frost and her fellow X-Person, Banshee. Banshee is doing just the worst Irish accent I have ever heard. He sounds like if Julia Roberts in Michael Collins was punched in the throat. In this movie, Frost and Banshee are the only two people running Xavier’s school. I know they were in charge in the Generation X comic but my theory is that they’re just the janitorial staff playing pretend and all the real X-Men are off doing actually important things.
|Mickey Rooney was first choice to play Jubilee, since Asians are not allowed|
Jubilee and Angelo are brought to the academy and introduced to their classmates, the only other students seen in the film. The student fees must be sky-high to accommodate just the six of them. Kurt, who shoots beams out of his eyes and is developing X-Ray vision, Mondo who has the ability to make his skin as hard as whatever he touches (please make your own erection jokes, I have an article to finish.) Arlee, who is very strong and body conscious and Monet, who has the mutation of being “perfect” both intelligent and strong, which is as fucking lazy as you can get when coming up with superpowers. Jubilee, Angelo, Monet and Mondo were all on the team in the comic, as far as I can tell Kurt and Arlee are new creations. They are a team who don’t get along, which means that you already know what happens at the end of this story. Just once I’d appreciate a film about a ragtag group of misfits who don’t get along, so they all kill each other.
Not much happens for the next while. They bicker and say strange phrases that no teenager would be caught dead using like “what’s your dazzle?”, “Her body’s totally freak dimension” and “Boom! Bing! Ping!” While everyone hangs out in the game room, playing pool and watching television, Angelo says the place is like a prison because they’re not allowed out to town “until they’re ready”. That would be the game room in the fucking mansion he’s just compared to a prison by the way. Kurt uses his laser eyes to blow up the TV when there’s a political commentator on comparing mutant powers to AIDS and despite the fact that Kurt dresses like a member of the Burger King Kid’s Club Gang, I agree with his decision here. Real world commentary has its place in superhero stories, especially X-Men, but while I could just about handle the sledgehammer subtlety of Jennifer Lawrence saying “mutant and proud” in First Class, the last thing this goofy rubbish needs to be doing is introducing AIDS to the proceedings.
|A screenshot from the film|
Angelo starts investigating Emma Frost’s involvement in building a machine that allows you to access the dream world, the same one Not Jim Carey worked on. It works better on mutants because science speak. A few scenes later he finds the machine, which apparently Frost has just left lying around the mansion’s basement. Later, the teens convince Banshee to let them go into town without him as a chaperone. Banshee relents very easily, obviously preferring to spend the afternoon getting trashed in an abandoned mansion rather than keeping tabs on mopey teenagers. Once he uses his sonic voice powers to crack open Professor X’s whiskey cabinet he’ll be all set. The teens get up to boring hijinks in the town. Kurt tells Mondo he fancies Arlee and that he secretly felt her up during a scuffle earlier. Our hero. Angelo stares creepily at a blonde townie but is then bullied by the jocks, getting us one step closer to Teenage Cliché Bingo.
There’s only so many words I can devote to Generation X before I reach breaking point, so I’m going to write about the second half at a later date. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up for now than by discussing the Fart Scene. Yes, the Fart Scene. Even fucking GoingOverboard didn’t have a Fart Scene. Not Jim Carey is making his big presentation to the Board of Directors of…something. He tells them all about how dreams are another dimension and how when he worked for the government he helped build a machine to access it. Using the machine he can make suggestions directly into people’s minds while they dream. It’s clear that Generation X was a big influence on Christopher Nolan. The board are skeptical but luckily, Ace Ventura Head Defective visited them all in their dreams and gave them a suggestion to fart at exactly 10 o’clock. The head…board...person (chairman?) asks “is this supposed to be funny?” which is a very pertinent question. And then, they all fart. There are burp noises too. He tells them to consider the possibilities. This was supposed to air on the same night as The X-Files?
So to recap, dreams are another dimension, Asians are not allowed, the team don’t get along, a lingerie model and a drunken Irishman are pretending they’re qualified educators while Professor X’s back is turned and Not Jim Carey wants to use the power of dreams for evil. And worse, advertising. Be sure to check back in…tomorrow…for the mildly thrilling conclusion of Generation X!