Hello, Gang! It’s time for another edition of Was It THAT Bad?
This time I’m taking a look bad to the mid-90s!
In 1996 Fox aired a made-for-TV X-Men film that would act as a potential pilot for a new television series. No, this wasn’t an adaptation of the immensely popular X-Men: The Animated Series but rather an adaptation of the relatively new X-title Generation X. This was a new comic that was essentially a rebooted version of New Mutants and saw Banshee and the White Queen lead a team of mutant teenagers. Personally, I was a fan of the series but I was pretty much a fan of all the X-titles at the time. Anyway, only two years after the team debuted, Fox aired a film based on it. It didn’t do so well considering it never got picked up to be a show but now I’m taking the time to look back at it and ask the important question of whether or not it was really that bad.
The film basically centers around a very eccentric scientist named Dr. Russel Tresh (Matt Frewer) and this guy is obsessed with dreams—well, mainly a dimension that our subconscious travels to when we dream. He believes that mutants hold the key for him to get there but his work was shut down by Emma Frost (Finola Hughes). Years later, he seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough thanks to the help of the mutant with stretchy skin, the newest recruit to Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, codenamed…well…Skin (Agustin Rodriguez). Little does Tresh realize is that Skin is backed up by some mutant friends who will team together to save him and stop the demented scientist.
So, was it THAT bad?
Short answer: Not really.
For an adaptation of a comic book, Generation X probably could have been a lot worse—lord knows, Marvel has seen some stinkers in both yesteryear and as of late *Cough—Fantastic Four—Cough*. Don’t get me wrong, this made-for-TV movie pilot isn’t without its problems. Mutant powers are a tad questionable as we see the White Queen can control the weather or something akin to this and the story uses the now-abandoned idea that Jubilee has some minor telepathic abilities. The antagonist is pretty weak and not that threatening, the fights are awkward and basically just amount to kicking or pushing people into things and the budget really holds things back. For example, the money was such an issue that the team had to be adjusted for the feature. For example, there’s no Synch, Husk is replaced with a generic super strong mutant, Chamber is replaced with a wannabe Cyclops and forget about getting someone like Penance in something this small. Granted, with the rise of superhero shows and with the things shows like The Flash has accomplished in the world of special effects (think Gorilla Grodd and King Shark) these characters are definitely doable now but back then they just weren’t.
The moments that this film really shines are in the performances and some of the back and forth between the characters. For what it is, the performances aren’t half bad. Sure, some of them are a bit scenery-chewing but there is an element of fun to that. For example, Matt Frewer is super over-the-top with his portrayal of Tresh but it’s kinda fun in a way. Additionally, I really liked the back and forth and the chemistry between Finola Hughes as the White Queen and Jeremy Ratchford as Banshee (who, Fun Fact, provided the voice of Banshee in the animated series). Without a doubt, these elements are what makes Generation X work and keeps it from being a chore to watch.
Still, Generation X is far from perfect. Watching it now means you have to endure the awful 90s fashions (forget the 80s, we dressed really badly in the 90s), a soundtrack composed of the worst and most generic sounding alternative rock that you can imagine (think of a bunch of yuppies who think they are grunge and they start a Gin Blossoms cover band), and a story that never really feels worthy of the X-Men and comes off more like a bad teen drama. Additionally, there’s the oddity of seeing a Wolverine t-shirt on a guy and an X-Men game at the local arcade. So, in a world that fears and hates mutants and what Professor X does with his team, the public loves them enough to make merchandise off of them—and screw over Xavier because if he sued for the rights he would expose his school and the team? I understand they are Easter Eggs but it’s still strange.
There’s also the issue of whitewashing the character of Jubilee. In the comics, she’s of Chinese descent (which makes her powers of creating fireworks from her fingertips a tad on the racist side) but in this adaptation, she’s just a generic grunge white chick. Not to get all comment section here but this type of casting is a little disappointing—but not how people react nowadays to casting.
Finally, the oddest part of Generation X would be the mature edit it has over in the UK. When I watched this when it aired I was in high school (and I even recorded it on VHS and watched it several times because I did actually enjoy it then). The only thing it had was some kinda tame sex jokes about masturbating and “beavers” but the UK is shockingly hardcore. No, not in a Deadpool type a way but in a way that Tresh actually makes a threat of rape on an underage girl, calls Skin a very degrading racist term and there’s even some F-bombs thrown in. Hell, Jubilee drops two in one sentence alone at one point. This was definitely a shock to the system after watching the relatively watered down version. (NOTE: You can watch this edit on YouTube, like I did.)
Generation X doesn’t compare to the golden era of comic book adaptations that we are currently experiencing but it’s not as bad as some have been in the past. It has some problems and it’s far from exciting but it’s amusing and it’s not as bad as originally thought.