Did you know that there was a live action X-Men related movie before X-Men hit the theatres in 2000? I only found out about it two weeks ago. This low-budget TV movie originally aired on FOX in 1996 and mostly features then minor characters in the X-Men universe. Is it any good? Well…
Before I get into that, let’s talk about the movie’s background and cast. This TV movie is based off of a comic series of the same name. It started in 1994 and lasted until 2001 with 75 issues. I haven’t read the series and probably never will, but it was fairly well received while it lasted. Most of the titles characters were depowered on M day, a major event that depowered all but 200 or so mutants in the Marvel Universe. The movie itself is about six mutant students in an institute with Banshee and Emma Frost as the headmasters. Some school if there are only six students. Anyway, the students are Jubilee, Monet, Buff, Skin, Refrax and Mondo.
(She looks totally Asian in this movie)
Jubilee has the same basic powers as she does in the comics, but her atomic fireworks are severely powered down. The main issue though is that Jubilee is supposed to be half-Asian, yet here she’s played by white actress Heather McComb. Many fans complained about this. She was probably one of the better actors in this movie, but that’s not really saying much. Her biggest character moment in this movie is threatening the headmasters after they rescue her from being sent to some mutant concentration camp – GENIUS!
Skin’s powers in this movie are quite similar to Mr. Fantastics – he stretches a lot. In the comics, he has six feet of extra skin that he can stretch or reshape at will. Yeah, sounds pretty lame. Either way, He never really lasted too long in the comics before he was killed off in an offensive comic storyline written by Chuck Austin, who wrote what is probably the most widely hated X-men run in history. In the movie, this character’s just a boring stalker who invades his crush’s dreams.
Monet is probably the best known character in this movie, besides jubilee and the headmasters. Here, she’s physically invincible and super strong. She also claims to be a genius, but we never see her do anything smart. In the comics she has tons of abilities including
- Invulnerability: Monet is virtually invulnerable to injury. She is so durable she can withstand blows from beings such as World War Hulk mostly unharmed.
- Healing Factor: Should M be injured somehow, she possesses a regenerative quality allowing her to heal and recover from near-fatal wounds extremely quickly. The effect also has the added benefit of making her more resistant to toxins, disease and possibly also the aging process.
- Enhanced Senses: M's senses are so advanced that she possesses telescopic vision, night vision and superhuman acute hearing.
- Superhuman Agility: Her agility, balance and bodily coordination are enhanced to levels beyond the natural physical limits and capabilities of the finest human specimen.
- Flight: Her flight speed is at least 500 MPH. In X-Factor 04, she caught up with--and leisurely maintained the speed of--a passenger plane carrying a suspect while inducing a psychic illusion.
- Superhuman Strength Lift 10 tons
- Superhuman Dexterity
- Superhuman Speed: Her speed is greatly enhanced far more than peak human. Her top speed isn't known but she can move at least 100 mph.
- Superhuman Reflexes: Her reflexes are enhanced to levels that are beyond the natural physical limits of the finest human athlete..
- Superhuman Stamina: Her physical stamina is such that she possesses greater physical stamina than any ordinary human and can exert herself at her peak for up to 24 hours before the build up of fatigue toxins in her blood began to impair her.
- Telepathy: Ability to read minds and project her thoughts into the minds of others and defensively mask her mind against telepathic intrusion. Monet has also been shown to be capable of other basic telepathic abilities such as illusion casting and memory wiping. The range of her telepathy is generally limited to within a few feet of Monet.
- Superhuman Intuitive Ability: Process information quickly, giving her vast knowledge and intelligence, an accelerated learning aptitude, a knack for quickly analyzing and operating machinery, photographic memory, speed read, and high deductive/reasoning skills.
- Ability to perceive mutants' auras
- Gestalt Form: Monet can merge with her other siblings.
copied from here
She is currently a member of X-Factor, and is the only student from this movie that didn’t either lose her powers on M day or die before M day. She’s Muslim in the comics, but in this movie she simply exists. The only noteworthy thing she does is play several different strength games at a carnival, because repetition is always required to show how strong a character is.
Mondo absorbs the properties of anything he touches, organic or not. This is true in both the comics and the movie. For example, he can absorb the properties of gold and become as heavy and malleable as it is. In the comics, he can also travel through organic matter, such as dirt, in a form of teleportation. He hasn’t appeared since M-Day, so it isn’t known whether he’s been depowered or not. In this movie, all he does is tell others that he doesn’t like Jell-O and break a bully’s hand after absorbing the powers of a rock. Either remove him or Monet and the movie would have felt more balanced.
Buff and Refrax were both created for the Generation X movie and have never appeared elsewhere. Buff’s powers increased her muscle size and strength, but she’s uncomfortable with the way it’s affected her body. Refrax has x-ray vision and shoots heat beams out of his eyes – basically ripping off one of Superman’s abilities. The two of them are in a relationship, and the movie just had to include the cliché fall out that repaired before the final (only) action scene. These characters were never brought into the comics, probably because their acting was more wooden than Mondo after he touches a tree
(Banshee looks completely wrong, but at least he's Scottish. This might actually be Emma Frosts's best live action portrayal yet)
Emma Frost and Banshee are similar to their comic book counterparts. Emma Frost is a telepath (her diamond form wasn’t created in the comics until later,) and Banshee screams really loud. Banshee can’t fly here however, probably due to budget limitations. They have absolutely no chemistry here, but they’re the only mutants that actually do stuff in this movie. Admittedly I do like the sound effect they use for Banshee’s scream though – another plus for making him Scottish and Emma British, something X-Men First Class failed to do.
(This guy is easily the most entertaining character in the movie)
The final cast member is Russel Tresh, played by Matt Frewer. He’s a mad scientist that wants to use the dream world to make anyone buy anything. Hmm, I may have discovered the inspiration for Inception. Anyway, Tresh is by far the most interesting character in this movie, acting nutty enough to appear insane without being annoying. He’s not funny, but he's still entertaining enough to stop you from falling asleep.
Now that I’ve got that out of the way, how’s the movie? If you haven’t figured that out already, that’s kind of sad. The low budget is evident in every aspect of this film. The special effects look tacked on as if someone glued lasers and sparkles onto the film reel. The dialogue is weak and jokes aren’t funny. None of the characters have any real chemistry with each other, even those who are supposed to be in a relationship. The plot is silly and nonsensical. It’s just…bad.
My biggest complaint is that the six students argue and fight a lot at first, yet at the half-way point they’re suddenly best friends. When did this happen? It’s like some school yard bully bruises a kid’s face after school for looking at him funny, yet the next day they’re walking side by side picking up chicks. Either have them gradually start to like each other or have them get along in the first place. There are enough conflicts with the town bullies and the main villain that you don’t need to fight among yourselves.
(Great special effects; they look more like film scratches than fireworks)
The basic plot is that Tresh creates a device to enter the dream world, where he can influence anyone to do anything he wants. He tries to sell this as an advertising tool, but fails after his company’s board questions his morality. Emma Frost has another dream device locked away at the X-Mansion, which Skin randomly finds. He uses it to spy on a girl he has a crush on – not creepy at all. He meets Tresh, who eventually kidnaps him and tries to get a sample of his brain tissue. Apparently a mutant brain can access the dream world without the special device, and Tresh thinks that Skin’s brain can turn himself into a mutant. The rest of the X-kids come to the rescue.
The final … correction, only battle takes place between all the mutants and Tresh in the dream world. The battle basically adds up to one mutant beating on Tresh at a time, and then Tresh runs away until the next mutant catches up with him. Is this X-Men or a Looney Tunes rip-off? Eventually Tresh is locked away in the depths of the dream world forever and the mutants travel back home.
Really? You didn’t want to finish Tresh off? Now he’s free to do whatever he wants in a world where no authority on earth can touch him. Besides that, where did this thing about any mutant being able to enter the dream world come from? In the comics, only telepaths can enter the astral plane, which you could equate as the dream world. How can someone else’s brain tissue transform your entire genetic structure? That’s like if swallowing a dog hair will greatly improve your sense of smell.
I will give this movie one thing though, it made the X-Men movies possible. X-Men 2 is still one of my favorite superhero movies, even with its problems. Interestingly enough, the castle used as the mansion in X-Men 1-3 was also used here as the mutant hideout, and that was fun to see. As for this movie, only watch it if you’re really into the 90’s comics and are ready for a world of hurtin’. I wasn't bothered by it that much, but then again I've seen far worse superhero movies. Well as a TV movie, at least it was free to watch.
(Well, it's better than turtle costumes in Ninja Turtles 3)
Two word review: embarrassingly stupid