Generation X (1996) Review

Rating: 0.5 Star

The following review contains spoilers.


Generation X feels like they found somebody on the street who had never made or even seen a movie before, made them watch Batman Forever a half-dozen times, then gave them $14 and asked them to give filmmaking a shot. Nearly every scene is lit by colored lights—usually purple and green, but sometimes pink or blue—and nearly every shot is a dutch angle. Even an establishing shot of the school, which is just a plain old front yard with some birds walking around, is filmed at almost a 45-degree angle. It’s an hour-and-a-half long and the first time I checked to see how much time was left was after 20-minutes and I was absolutely dumbfounded.

Years ago Dr. Russ Tresh was working at a government facility with Emma Frost, trying to develop a machine to allow users access to the “dream dimension.” When Emma catches Tresh about to perform brain surgery on an unwilling mutant, she quickly stops him with a blast of wind, and soon causes him to lose his job. Nowadays, Tresh is working for a marketing company, using subliminal messaging to sell products, but his ultimate goal is still to manipulate the dream dimension (to enter people’s dreams and sell even more products). He assures his boss that the dream machine is nearly complete.

Meanwhile, Jubilation Lee (soon shortened to “Jubilee” and then shortened again to “Juby” for some reason) is playing games at the arcade, when some half-remembered subliminal messaging encouraging kids to play Virtua Fighter (which is either product placement or a sick burn on Virtua Fighter) causes her to play so hard that fireworks explode from her fingers. She’s detained by police, and is about to be sent to a mutant camp for registration and “re-assimilation”, when Emma Frost and Sean “Banshee” Cassidy arrive posing as MEA agents “Hootie” and “Blowfish”, taking her to the Xavier Institute instead.

Once Jubilee arrives at the school she’s stripped nude for some reason (the character is supposed to be 15-years-old, by the way), and then allowed to meet the other students: Skin, Mondo, M, and newly-created characters Buff and Refrax. After a class on how all mutants can access the dream dimension if they “relax and concentrate”, Jubilee and Skin (who has been put in charge of the school’s security system for some reason) are searching the library and the forbidden areas of the school for ways to access other people’s dreams. Soon they discover a hidden room with a fully-completed dream machine.

At the same time, Dr. Tresh has also completed his version of the dream machine, which he tests out on the board of directors at his company, implanting a hidden command in each board member to fart at 10 AM (yes this is a real scene in a movie that exists). Marketing to people in their dreams is apparently a bridge too far even for these corporate fat cats, and they agree Dr. Tresh needs to be fired and reported to the police (for unspecified crimes). That night, Tresh meets both Jubilee and Skin in the dream dimension, repulsing Jubilee with his creepiness but charming Skin by helping him implant a dream suggestion in the mind of a cute townie that she’ll accept a date with him. Unfortunately for Tresh, the police choose that moment to raid his home, disconnecting him from the dream machine, and trapping his mind in the dream dimension with no way out.

The next time Skin meets Tresh in the dream dimension, Tresh forces Skin to agree to bring some dream equipment (by threatening to “mindrape” his kid sister, including a very, very unpleasant scene where actor Matt Frewer licks a small child’s face) to the minimum-security prison hospital where Tresh is being held so Tresh can return to his body. Skin does this, only to be somehow subdued by Tresh and taken back to some secret lair that Tresh apparently has somewhere. Skin uses every mutant’s “relax and concentrate” powers to appear to Jubilee in her dream, letting her know that he’s been captured and is about to have his brain cut open.

Jubilee gathers the team together, and Emma Frost uses her powers to open a physical portal into the dream dimension so everyone can just walk right into it. This is needed because Emma has also somehow put Tresh’s entire secret lair into the dream dimension. It’s unclear why they couldn’t just go to the real, actual place instead of putting literally everyone and everything into the dream dimension, but whatever. Anyway, Tresh, a middle-aged scientist wearing a massive kimono, easily holds his own against the entire team of superpowered mutant teenagers until finally Banshee screams Tresh through a brick wall.

It’s then that Tresh discovers he’s omnipotent (???). Right before Emma can sacrifice herself to trap Tresh in the dream dimension forever, Skin pushes his way past her, wraps his arms around Tresh, then leaps into a bottomless dream dimension pit. It seems like Skin is gone for good, until suddenly a hand reaches up through the portal and Skin pulls himself back up into the dream lab. There is much rejoicing.

Best Parts:

Finola Hughes is a marginally better Emma Frost than January Jones or Tahyna Tozzi.

At the very end they show one of the students in their “new uniform” and it looks pretty much like the Generation X uniform from the comic.

Worst Parts:

Every aspect of this movie is bad. It looks bad, the writing is bad, the acting is bad, and the costume design is bad. Every character looks like they were designed by someone trying to make fun of the 1990s.

Jubilee is now a white girl. M is not French. Banshee is played by a Canadian actor, but don’t worry, he’s doing an absolutely terrible Irish accent.

Matt Frewer’s Dr. Tresh is an excruciating mash-up of Jim Carrey’s Riddler and the Genie from Aladdin. Every single moment he’s on screen is full of weird voices, weird faces, manic gesticulations, and lame pop culture references (e.g. he wakes up from the dream dimension yelling, “I liked it so much I bought the company!”). He is absolutely unbearable.

There’s a whole subplot where Kurt/Refrax has a crush on Arlee/Buff, who always wears baggy clothes because she’s ashamed of her ultra-muscular body. Refrax mentions early on a few times that he’s trying to develop his x-ray vision, and later when they’re making out in the car it finally kicks in and he sees her vagina, I guess. She gets very upset about this but later forgives him after he interrupts the rescue mission for Skin to tell her, in front of everyone, that he quickly stopped looking before he saw more than just her thighs.

“Home sucks, man. Freedom rocks!”

“She could scare the pimples off a football player’s butt!”

In the final scene, the team is playing a special Xavier Institute card game that is 100% gibberish, and though I can’t quite put my finger on why it bothered me so much, I found it infuriating. Here is an actual transcript of the entire scene:

“I want full enlightenment.”
“Doctor D’s gone corporate, can you dance?”
“Cabin with a necro-buyout! Bam!”
“Acausal defenestration, chica.”
“Call it!”
“Alchemical marriage? I got Francis Bacon.”

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