Welcome back to Boomb Tube! The weekly column chronicling comics’ effects on television and, more recently, the utter horror that was made-for-TV movies from the 1990’s. This week: we continue our expedition of the horrid with 1996’s Generation X, based off Scott Lobdell’s X-Men spin-off and one of the most 90’s comics to ever 90’s.
Generation X starts just like all the other X-Men films by defining what a mutant is, although instead of a voice over it’s now just a dictionary definition displayed on screen. Scientists are experimenting on some teen with claw hands until Emma Frost walks in to tell them to knock it out by causing a miniature storm(?) Unfortunately, Claw Lad is taken away by the government to be held in a mutant camp. Five years and one opening title sequence later, one of the extras from Stand By Me leaves his family so he can join the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters. As he’s driving off, his sister grabs his arm which causes it to stretch six feet and oh my god he’s Skin: the superhero with the power to be a suckier Mr. Fantastic. I have no idea why anyone would want the main character of their X-Men film. Anyway, at Generic Evil Corporation, one of the evil scientists from before, who in the five years since the prologue has been getting his acting lessons from watching Jim Carrey movies while drinking a vodka and pop rocks cocktail. Then after I wrote that joke, I looked this movie up on Wikipedia and oh merciful heavens the actor is actually Max Headroom. Thank you, Generation X, for making my life so much easier. Headroom goes on about how he’s been entering the Dream World to plant subliminal messages in consumer’s head so they’ll buy GEC’S products. He then runs off to the world’ s most unrealistic arcade (which looks less like an arcade and more like a rave) to check on how his subliminal messages are going.
At the “arcade” Jubilation Lee (who is white here because the film industry is awful) is playing Virtua Fighter, which apparently is one of the products that uses subliminal messages, demonstrated when Max Headroom’s face appears on screen to tell Jubilee to keep playing. This is the worst product placement in any movie since Trojan’s deal with Teeth.
Jubilee is so good at Virtua Fighter that her mutant power of fireworks coming out of her fingers manifest. When the Anti-Mutant Task Force comes to take her away, she can’t defend herself because her power is seriously just so dumb. Elsewhere, at the Xavier Institute, Emma Frost wakes up to that Cerebro, just a computer monitor here, has detected Jubilee. She wakes up her boytoy Banshee who is literally not even trying to have a believable accent. Banshee’s actor (who by the way is Canadian) performs like he’s constantly dissapointed that he didn’t nail the Lucky Charms commercial audition and got stuck with this gig. He speaks in an Irish accent the same way Garth Ennis writes one.
Meanwhile, at the police station, Jubilee’s mom visits Jubilation to tell her that everything’s going to be alright. Emma and Lucky show up to tell her to not sound so stupid and just let the woman in a corset and the man with the terrible accent take away their daughter to Xavier’s School. Mrs. Lee accepts the offer because this movie doesn’t have enough run-time to make sense. Frost and Lucky rescue Jubilee by using Emma’s psychic powers to disguise themselves as two Anti-Mutant Officers named Hootie and Blowfish. Fine. The three of them then take off for Xavier’s, picking up Skin on the way who was apparently just hanging around a pier instead of actually driving to the school, and, in a pretty disturbing scene, Jubilee has to strip in order for the school’s system to have a full body print of her (there is no way that’s a thing). Frost and Lucky don’t care, Jubilee is somewhat disturbed, and Skin stares creepily at the naked and uncomfortable 15-year old. Ray Palmer would approve.
After everyone takes a cold shower, Jubilee and Skin are introduced to the rest of the team: M who has the powers of being perfect, Mondo who’s like a teenage Absorbing Man, Arlee who has a mutation that affects her body and as a result keeps it completely covered up under loose clothing, and 90’s Cyclops.
Skin is put in charge of the Mansion’s security system because even Lucky Charms (whose accent is constantly shifting between Irish caricature and Wisconsinite) recognizes that Skin’s powers are completely useless. In class, Emma Frost instructs her students to record their dreams since the plot’s going to have to come back to Max Headroom’s evil plans sometime. The next day, all of the teenagers want to drive into town on their own so they can do teenager stuff, which includes shopping and going to Johnny Rockets to get bullied by the amalgamation of every popular kid crowd in any movie. While shopping, Jubilee walks in on Arlee changing and discovers that her mutation causes her to be really buff. This leads to the greatest part of the movie.
So that’s supposed to be Arlee without her sweatjacket right? Two seconds later, when we’re looking at Arlee from the front, her back can be seen in the mirror and it’s no longer muscular. . Either the budget allowed for some truly groundbreaking prosthetics they could only use in one take or they had to bring in a bodybuilder to pose as a teenage girl in a bra and wig so they could film his back for 4 seconds. I have no idea which booth at the career fair prepares you for that job, but it’s probably the one covered in tears. Meanwhile, at the Mansion (which by the way is actually the same castle used in every X-Men movie, which I will take to mean all of these movies are connected), Skin hacks some computer stuff by saying what people in the 90’s thought hackers said and mashing the keyboard until he’s allowed into a secret room containing what looks like an Animus.
Earlier, Max Headroom revealed that he gained access to a mutant brain which meant that he could access the dream world or something? Anyway, he goes on to explain that his master plan is to get revenge on Emma Frost for interrupting his dissection of Claw Lad five years earlier. He also says some rather obscene phrases regarding Ms. Frost, but I feel that it’d be damaging to the glorious reputation of Max Headroom to reprint them here. At a meeting with the executives of Generic Evil Corporation, Headroom reveals that his Animus-like machine (developed in tangent with Frost) is used to enter people’s dreams. He also reveals that he visited every executive in their sleep and left a hypnotic trigger in their brain that would activate at 10:00 A.M. When the clock strikes ten, the entire room begins uncontrollably farting.
That’s… that’s a good place to leave off for now… not a “good” place… but… but a place…
Come back next week for our conclusion of the Generation X recap!