Thursday, April 7, 2016

Generation X

Here's a little history, I saw the commercials and billboards for this film back in the day and I was super excited. It was something that I was waiting to see, since it was characters that I really wanted to view in action away from comics. In the 90's I only knew X-Men from the 1992 Cartoon and Action Figures. It was a new experience to see them in live-action form. At the time there was Spawn (that didn't come out till a year later, 1997) and Batman Returns (that I was too young to really love, but still love to this day, it was a great rainy afternoon). These were the films in my life, though there were flicks like Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, The Shadow, The Mask, Tank Girl, and The Phantom that rounded out my pulp and punk heart (click the linked titles for the review). Though I can go on further, but you'll see in future reviews where I've been in the decade of the 90's for films and media. Today we'll be entering a land of TV movies, a land that's not well budgeted, though has a cast of folks you'll be surprised to find in a feature such as this, on a channel that didn't play the movie more than twice (to my knowledge). Join me on this journey into the past, for a movie that needed to wait another four years (maybe 7) to get the full cast of characters to reflect their comic counter-parts.

Initial response to the cover/poster, I don't truly know how to really feel about this poster. It's not exciting and it doesn't really explain a plot. This feels more like a poster for a sitcom that's coming soon, but it hasn't really found it's audience yet, so the promotion team are playing it close to the fence on this one. It's cute that they're really trying to hype it up, though it's not showing the dynamics from the comic, nor from the characters. There are things that are implied that seem superhuman, but it more feels like the designer discovered photoshop for the first time, but didn't want to go overboard with the effects in the photo. The main thing to take away from this is the fashion, this is true blue transition from 90's to 2000. What this means is the tone of a lot of films and fashion are being toned down, becoming less passionate and more predictable. In short nothing really stands out, except for Emma Frost who looks like she's in the wrong film or that one parent that went to try hard mode for her kids, it's admirable, but not needed for this TV movie.

Oh, Jubilee isn't Chinese, I mean at least the Animated series tried (the actor was a clown, literally, Alyson Court, great actress best known for being Loonette the Clown on The Big Comfy Couch), though in this flick they didn't even try. Some of the most popular 80's films had amazing Chinese casts, though this 1996 film couldn't find one Chinese actor that wanted to be in a comic book movie. I didn't even start the film and it's off to a rocky start, but let's enter the world and their mythology.

Anyhow, the movie starts with the usual logos, then a definition "Mutation: n. 1. The act of being altered or changed. 2. The illegal genetic condition [U.S. statute 5504178], first apparent in puberty, caused by the X factor located in the pineal gland of the brain.", from what I've read about the X-Men and seen, this is running in it's own direction and it's 25 seconds into the film. Again, this is their mythology, and it's far from source. Then we're met with the title of this episode of the TV movie "All Life Mutates" over a picture of a brain, assuming from the definition this is the pineal gland in red. Now an individual who's never put on a rubber glove tries their darndest to get it right for the camera. Nothing more creepy then check medical equipment, no wait, they started talking about secretions and grabbed a bonesaw, I had the heebies, then came the jeebies.

We're in a small shadowy room doing surgery, I don't care how evil you are, you need more light in a room that you're going to operate in, still it sets the mood. The patient is strapped to the bed, then we see our villain as they almost slice into the skull of a mutant with claw-like hands. Three doctors break into the room stopping the… murder, honestly the kid wasn't under anesthesia and this isn't even a surgery room, it's like a small storage warehouse of odds and ends in the hospital. Then two MPs (Military Police) come out of nowhere and grab the teen claiming that he was there illegally. Then we get a weird moment where Emma commands the wind it's self to blow the three men into shelfs. Now this is wrong, since this would be something more along the lines of Storm and her powers. And there's the fact that this is Emma Frost, who's a member of the Hellfire Club, the White Queen, a woman that defines desire and turns into diamond, who's power is of the mind. Now them being pushed into the shelves by strong wind could just be her placing that idea into their minds, forcing them to think that thick strong wind could quickly collect in a windowless room and have enough force to push two over weight men like rag dolls. Though I think I'm seeing the start of a faux dream team here. That's right a dream team, a group of characters that the creative team wanted in series that never teamed up anywhere other than this film. Like the Animated Series it sometimes works, right now they have the names of the characters, but the powers seem to be all mixed up, so that's why it's a faux dream team a group that they could get the rights to, but they wanted the powers of others.

It's Five years later, we see Skin and his brother talking about his trip to Xavier's school, he says goodbye to his family and his little sister, then she doesn't let go and his arm starts to stretch. That's what Skin does, more or less, his character isn't like Plastic Man or Mister Fantastic, he's more like Elongated Man, he has his limits.  Then we cut back to a 90's room that's supposed to be a scientific laboratory, again it's dark for no reason other than it being a bad guy's lair. Then he starts talking about how he can enter people's minds, which would be the perfect villain for a telepathic hero (which we've yet to see). Also this reminds me completely of the Riddler in Batman Forever (1995, weird how this came a year before and feels so similar), it's like Nygma's rant word for word or at least emotionally it's the same passion for a device that infects the brain of the public, though this is when they're unconscious.

It's a well acted scene, both parts were amazingly performed and honestly I liked this version of the creepy genius, since he seems less well meaning and wants to hurt people, he just doesn't care. This makes him interesting because this is what charm looks like, he's a jerk, he knows he's the worst, but still has the personality that you want to get to know.

I really don't know how Gom keeps those sunglasses on,
I've given the little bot plastic glasses and somehow they look great on our automaton friend,
still have no idea how they stay on, can't be magnets.

Now we're in the most 90's place on Earth, a dim arcade with no windows, lots of smoking, loud music, and video games. We meet Jubilee and she's playing Virtual Fighter 2, also in the back ground you can see the X-Men arcade game (based off of the failed pilot that was awesome and will be a link here to it in the future) as our villain notices our heroine's powers activate. Everyone starts using the "M" word, yeah Mutant, it's interesting that they aren't using the word Mutie, since it's a slang/slur. One thing that bothers me is that Jubilee's power doesn't effect anyone. I mean last time I checked projectiles of pyrotechnic plasmoids hurt or at the very least burn, so I'm guessing Jubilee is a watered down version of Dazzler. Anyhow she's captured by random MPs in the kitchen of this dark and illegal looking building.

It's 8 minutes into this film and I have to pause, not because of how horrible it is, no, because I can't make heads or tails of it nor the room Emma sleeps in. I just have to stop and absorb the scene… is this a drama, a comedy, a parody for superhero films, also the bedroom of our hero Emma, the caring Doctor, why? Anyway, let's move on past that and focus on her looking at Cerebro the computer that is the same one in the Batcave from the 1966 Adam West version of the Dark Knight, I'm glad the CPU is getting more work.

Now we're back to Jubilee in a holding cell talking to her adopted Mother (though I think it's just her Mother), coming out to her that she's a Mutant. It's an intense scene, also the Mother at least admits that Jubilee was shooting fire at guards. Then we see a shirtless man in front of a fireplace, some quick banter between Emma and the Irish(?) man (I know it's supposed to be Banshee, though he's not quite the type I'd choose first, but I've been fooled before by looks and not on actions). We flick back to the police station and the Mother is trying to spring her daughter free, the cops want to send her to juvie or worst, since she was spraying fireworks all over that arcade, which never set fire and no one reacted like they were being burned (light shows the next terror act of civilization). Then we're met outside in a purple hue after zooming out of a dutch angle the two from… well I don't want to think about the eight minute mark again, so let's just keep going forward.

We're introduced to Sean and Emma, the "stripper's club" remark was uncalled for, since one it's the 90's, horrible fashion is in every movie, and two Emma isn't wearing her classic costume, a corset, thong and fur cape. In this film it's a white jacket, silver pants and low cute button-down blouse (I found out it's a weird looking corset). For some reason this outfit screams less "Sexual Object" and more "I'm going to the PTA meeting, I'll be back after dinner" leaving the house as a single parent, though hoping to gain the eye of a fella that's been taking a liking to her advances. Anyhow the Mother makes a good point that she's not gonna give her daughter over to some strangers in the middle of the night to do with as they please, though the other side of the coin is a camp for Mutants only. I can't even start to think about the turmoil in her mind at this moment, give her daughter to the government and hope she comes out of that camp in one piece or to two complete strangers that can't approach her in a more diplomatic manner to help her child. To Hell with you Devil and your temptations!

Emma and Sean's interaction with each other is lovely, though it's weird to see the compassionate Emma in the beginning of the film, then a harder more dominatrix figure walking down the hall to save a scared teenager. Also Sean's accent is horrible, he sounds like a leprechaun, I hope that was someone's direction and not the actor, cause from the scene before he's not a bad actor, it's troubling to say the least. Anyhow they're walking down a hallway and Emma splashes some of her mental whammy onto the guard, they let her and Sean waltz on by to the cell. Emma has become her character, this is Emma from the comics for sure, though the Doctor that saved a kid, was this something they forgot to cut from the film, cause it's not the same person here.

Anyhow, we see them all leave the building and Jubilee doesn't want to have anything to do with Sean and Emma. She thanks them and wants to be on her way, but they explain that she's coming with them. They all end up in a car, assuming, they're heading to the mansion. Then they explain that they're training her to be superhero, that wasn't really the intent of those that joined the school, but again this is the mythology of the film, also what's with the lighting.

Gom is unable to stop smiling nor staring,
though the little dickens tries the best a self-aware being can in a situation.

We've jumped back to the laboratory, it's buzzing with the acting of Matt Frewer (Russell) he's an amazing actor, I love this guys ability to act. Anyhow we get a little more exposition that Russell is trying to blend the worlds of Dreams and Reality.

 Back to the mansion, Emma and Sean start banging away at the computers in the room testing their students, physically. It's a forgettable scene, that seems unneeded in a movie that's implying these kids are training to be superheroes and not learning to just control their powers to reenter into society. Then later we have the kids meet the other students in the mansion. It's a horrible interaction between the teens, they play football (American, I'm surprised they weren't eating apple pie too) then they start tackling each other when skin reacts to his body stretching, it seems that it's not a pleasing sensation.

After that we pop into the dorms, seeing a little bit into the minds of the kids, they more or less seem to be adjusting to each other. Morning comes again and there's only one bathroom in the mansion. Moving on to something that's more dumb, the teens that are about 15 all have to moderator mutants like a job, yeah I don't think the writers have ever been teens let alone read the comic they are basing this all on, since this would never be the responsibility of those that just came to the school. They get a chance to join the X-Men, not forced into being an X-Man because they're a mutant. Then after telling them that they all need to know the highly delicate computers, then they get to school work. We talk about dreams again, though it really feels like it's a student paper on the idea of what dreams are and that we can control them. The human mind is a lot more complicated than a computer, though with modern technology as it is computers are getting closer to minds, so there's a chance that dreams could be the key to a lot of things, but at this time it would be another year before my favorite fighting game comes out (Rival Schools: United by Fate 1997 in arcades, 1998 for home). What the film can have something that's unrelated and I can't, it's a fun game, same with the sequel Project Justice for Dreamcast.

Anyhow they relax after only one class and a quick briefing that they'll have to look over the super secret stuff that isn't public knowledge yet, or is, since this is it's own mythology. It's hard to tell if this is the first team or is this the continuation of the X-Men? Like have the X-Men been around or have superheroes just been a thing in this world? Moving along the one guy that has laser eyes has extremely slow lasers come out of his eyes, now they don't have a TV. I get that the senator is saying something that's horrible and ignorant, but that's a hundred bucks. Then we see Skin training in a simulation of the mind, how to use the computer not his powers. The focus is on the people, which it should be, though it's also on the turmoil of having powers and how to keep one centered.

We talk about dreams again about how easy it would be to enter dreams, for some reason mutants can travel through dreams… 31 minutes and 39 second, this is the time of death. I mean it made it past some of the other movies I've seen, though this simplification of dreams and what the mind is feels like a person that doesn't understand how a tissue box works, they just know if you pull the one tissue the next one will come out, it's magic to them not that they're folded on each other so that when you tug the next one follows.

Cutting back to the lab, it's darker in the laboratory, it seems that Russell is a little more aggressive and wants Bob to play ball. That he wants his experiment with a mutant's mind, but Bob is worried that the board will pull the budget completely out from under them.

"Being allowed out" sorry, they really haven't shown anything that's mutant-like how will they be revealed? Anyhow they do the whole 90's teenager thing, you know pissing contests, shopping, and the most cliche stuff that one can think of and them some. They meet the rich spoiled kids and they bully Skin, not sure why he's been the target in this film. I really feel that this should have been like the Batman Forever movie where Robin had to find his way into the Batcave instead of just be issued into the Bat family. It makes it more interesting especially when one is a 20 something acting like a teenager. It defuses that this person is more adult and not literally an adult, allowing the mind of the audience to decide what age is the actor.

Back to the board meeting, let's see what tricks are up the Riddler's sleeves. I see, so they're using the Steel plot (lucky for them Steel doesn't come out for another year), arcades being an intelligent place to broadcast advertisements. So this isn't about mutants, it's about dreams and the dream world, it seems that people that are mutants, these people can go into dreams whenever they want or are catalysts between worlds. So this whole plot is revolving around the idea that a God like being has granted individuals the ability to access this realm of reality that we all are able to connect when unconscious, but not on the social crimes against humanity, that is the basics of what this series is supposed to be about. Dreams and dream world it is, c'mon Nemo it's time to travel to Slumberland!

Who doesn't want to go to the carnival, it's one of the best things, especially if you live in a small town.
I hope the Cartoon Cyborg Cinema crew has a great time.

Now onto the Danger Room, which is the Nickelodeon GUTS' Aggro Crag. There's no lead up or introduction to this part of the mansion, it's just there and so are we in the nightmare.

Cut back to the board room, it seems that Bob is having an anxiety dream and Russell will be canned, though Russell isn't just a part of the dream, he's the dreamwalker. Splitting the realities between the two and forcing his revenge on Bob double-crossing him, by suggesting that he flies away, out a window, like in Batman Forever. I'm starting to think that the writer took a huge influence from this DC film.

Back to the dream machine, for some reason the X-Men have, no not cerebro, which would make sense, another machine in a shadowy room. Oh so we're in a hospital surgery room I guess, not the X manner. Anyhow Skin is Forge and tells Jubilee that she needs to focus on the person she wants to dreamwalk with, but Russell is doing the same thing at the moment with his own machine. We're joined with Russell in the dreamscape, somehow it was horrible, I guess I'd be afraid of a Riddler rip-off too, but they just talked. Russell acts like the devil, giving Skin a temptation, though Skin bites and shakes his hand, taking the lovely girl in town as the ink dries. Though the Cops come and abort Russell, they don't think that he's hooked up to anything weird like a bomb or a machine that could be a doomsday device, since this is a world of superheroes and all. Skin grabs Russell before he can make it into the dream limbo and Russell is now stuck in this space between dimensions, at least his mind.

Then a teenage back and forth with friends and love, it's a cute little humanizing moment, though we haven't really seen them with powers so it's not something that needs to be seen, since they're not godlike beings, just kids at a boarding school. We're at the carnival in town, it's a neat event, though it's incredibly 90's, I love it. Noise and people, all trying to have fun in the many different ways the world holds. Skin wanders off toward the woods, then is taken back by the girl he likes, they talk and really seem distant. Though I'm not a judge of relationships, just a criticizer of films. A fight brakes out at the carnival, since the preppy kids start making fun of the mutants, since this is a teen film and not a teen film, it's hard to say where they sway, though it's heading in a lot of directions that weren't focused on. Emma pops into the local sheriff's department and springs the group of Eds (they all gave Ed names as a cover, it's very amusing, sometimes the writers amuse me). Then at the manner they all get chewed out, it's a cliche scene of banning together, reducing their punishments from expulsion.

Anyhow the focus of the film is only on Skin and his relationship with the local blonde, it's as interesting as a tic tac commercial, though it's expanding the dream plot. Russell visits Skin in his dreams, though he really doesn't seem to be sleeping, seems a bit awake for lack of better words. Then Skin stumbles on the name of someone that's been bothering Russell for the last five years, Emma. Russell tries to get sin to break the law and help him get his body back, though implies that he'd give everyone including Skin the most horrible 8 hour nap of their lives, if he doesn't get his body back. It's not really explained why Russell was arrested, it's skimmed over by him too, I mean he's the bad guy, but what crime has he done?

Skin sneaks into the hospital and revives Russell, he comes back to life with a pop culture reference. I'd really like to see Matt Frewer as Count Olaf, sorry, just a little side note, I think he'd be the perfect actor for the job, since he's insane and in complete control of his emotions and body. It's hard to find actors that know enough about themselves and their limits, then go beyond those limits and push where the line is and how it's drawn. Matthew Frewer is a professional that I hope you've seen and that we'll all see more of in the future. Sorry spent another 20 minutes looking up everything that Matt Frewer has done, if I ever find a film with him and James Hong… I don't even know how to even process this properly.

Back to the feature, the guard at the hospital runs in fear of Russell, not sure why, though Russell is a bit of a wild card, so I would too. Then he grabs Skin and we fade to black, well after the exclamation of taking his brain. Mind you this is a teen that has superpowers, why is it so hard to either escape or beat up a guy that's been asleep for weeks. Anyhow there's a new creepy lab and Skin is strapped down. Again he can stretch his body, the straps shouldn't be a problem. Oh also shouldn't a powerful telepath like Emma feel that her students are playing around with an idea that she literally wrote the book on. Skin sends a psychic message to Jubilee… I just don't think anyone involved with this movie read one comic, oh not just of X-Men, I mean any comic, ever. This has nothing to do with the X-Men or Generation-X, hell it doesn't even have anything to do with Captain America or Spider-Man. The Closest thing that comes into the realm of being a superhero and dreams/this plot is Sleepwalker. Look him up, he's a bit obscure, though I like his villain 8-ball, it was a cute idea.

Anyhow, Sean and Emma with Jubilee try to figure a way to save Skin before he's murdered by Russell. The cast collect into the danger room, which is also the room with the fireplace in it, that doesn't matter, what matters is that there's 10 minutes left in the film and it feels like all of the plot was condensed into this moment, everything else was filler. Then we have some banter with Russell and Skin, he hates his hair too, I'm glad someone said it. For the first time in the film we see the mutants have power and they display it in an amazing way, but for some reason Russell is incredibly resilient, like nothing can damage him. I guess his plot armor kicked in and he's able to, no wait we're in a dream, sorry about that. It seems I'm caught with my pants down. Russell starts to show the students what he's learned in his time on the dreamscape. Then as the kids escape Russell has a conversation with Emma that leads nowhere, but Skin felt passionate about what was said and attacks Russell. Taking him and himself to the depths of the unknown in the dream realm, again the only time that anyone shows their mutant power. Then a cop out happens, Skin comes back from the darkness, they return to reality. Now we're in the mansion again, the teens are playing a card game(?), then Sean and Emma show off the Gen-X costume, they look source perfect. The last scene is the blinking Russell, lost to this reality and maybe the dreamworld too.

If you like bad movies and great villain acting, then I'd say watch this movie, though if you wanted to see a X-Men movie about strong teens fighting for Justice, I'd see X-Men: First Class. For a TV movie this was great in effects and wonderful in (villain) casting, it was a wonderful start to the X-Men series, but a whiff on the swing. The characters were bland and uninteresting, the plot was stolen from Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 and Batman Forever, then there was the actors. I can't say they were all negative comments, this was for most of the members their first time acting. I've said this about many films that wanted to keep the rights to a franchise and their characters, but had a plot that was interesting for something that never met the source material eye to eye. Would I see this again, totally, it's a bad movie that has some neat ideas and great (Matt Frewer) acting, but this is a teaching tool to show students how keeping one idea and focusing on a single idea at a time.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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