Generation X (pilot/TV movie)

Posted: April 25, 2018 in Movies
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In 1996 FOX was riding the wave of X-Men on the small screen thanks to it’s massively popular cartoon series. The cartoon, which is awesome, was my gateway into the world of not only the X-Men but comics in general. I leaped into comics just in time to get excited about the launch of Generation X, created by writer Scott Lobdell and artist Chris Bachalo, the series was to be the latest comic spin-off from the main X-Men titles. Think New Mutants but for the 90’s. I got into Generation X big time and had tons of issues. The series fosued on popular X-Men character Jubilee who joins a new class of mutants at the Xavier Institue with both Banshee and villain turned hero Emma Frost as thier co-headmasters.

FOX saw an oppertunity with the Generation X property to test the waters with a live action version of Marvel’s mutants. This TV movie, from Jack Sholder, the director of The Hidden and Eric Blakeney, one of the writers behind 21 Jump Street (the show) , was to act as a pilot. It didn’t work. Which is a pitty because had this come out post 2010 I think the show would have got a series order. Faults and all.

Generation X is quite faithful to it’s comic roots. Jubilee, Banshee, Emma Frost, Mondo, Skin and M made the cut from the comics. Sadly, due to serious budget woes, popular characters such as Chamber, Husk, Penance and Synch got cut, replaced by two new characters Buff and Refrax. For established fans of the comic that must have been a blow. I know I was slightly gutted those characters weren’t included. Chamber is a boss, he has this fire that grows from his mouth and has to keep it covered at all times, unless he’s kicking someone’s arse. Husk sheds her skin (!) and Penance was this awesomely odd mutant. Her whole body was razor sharp. It made sense then that Skin (his skin stretches) and Jubilee, along with her firework looking light powers, would lead this pilot in displays of power budget wise.

After a prologue that sets up the threat the film focuses on Jubilee and Skin as they discover their mutant abilities. Faced with a choice of a government placement camp or the Xavier School the two teens agree to go to enrol at Xavier’s school so they can learn to better use their mutant abilities. At the school they get to meet their class mates, get into fights with one another and the locales and must learn to work as a team in order to bring down the pilots big bad Russel Tresh, an over the top but good Matt Frewer, who is a mad scientist mixed with a dose of Freddy Krueger.

I know I’m delluded when it comes to 90’s nostalgia but in hindsight this pilot works more than it doesn’t. The cast is good. Finola Hughes is probably the best live action Emma Frost/The White Queen we’ve had to date. Better than any of the other live action attempts. She’s shockingly good. Annoyingly Jubilee isn’t Chinese-American. The actress, Heather McComb, is caucasian but she does a solid job of bringing Jubilee to life. The director has stated the casting sheet that went out didn’t specify Jubilee’s race. To lay the blame for that at the actress wouldn’t be right and she does good. Obviously I would have liked to have seen a more racially accurate Jubilee though and clearly that sort of careless casting wouldn’t fly today.

The rest of the cast do good work.

It’s the look and feel of the film that I liked. The previous year Batman Forever had made big bucks at theatres, with it’s crazy colourful sets and over the top celebration of it’s comic roots and Generation X, whether this is for you or not, follows suit. Contrasting with those comics asthetics is more adult themes and in some scenes this pilot gets quite dark. Jubilee drops the F bomb TWICE and I gasped each time! Haha. The special effects aren’t that bad either. Remeber this was a TV show in 1996. Be kind. Sure the dreamcapse showdown showed off the low budget but it got the point across and added to how weird it all is.

I think I’m clued up enough to wade through what had potential and what was outright shite. Generation X had potential and I still reckon had this come out now the show would have went to series in the blink of an eye. Yeah…this pilot is rocky. Some of it is a bit TOO weird but had it been given room to breath and develop I think it would have been a great ride. Parts of it deal with racisim, abandonment and body issues. Stuff teens could relate to and WAY more compelling than any of the romance of the week stuff the current CW shows are full of.

Imagine watching an episode of this back to back with the X-Files back in good old ’96. That would have been a cool TV night. Sadly comics weren’t as mainstream as they are now back then.

If you read Generation X back in the day check this out. I honestly don’t think you’ll find it as bad as some people make out. It’s no Legion. I’m not trying to say it’s great but it had a fun foundation to build upon. Or, if you don’t like it, like a lot of fans don’t, I guess you can say FOX learned a lesson on how not to do mutants in live action and the pilot was a lucky mistake. Either way this is worth a look in the history of the X-Men on screen.


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