Originally meant to be a TV Pilot, it was later released as a made for TV movie.
A group of young mutants–humans with a genetic variation that gives them superpowers and makes them feared by the population at large–begin training at a school for heroes. Their studies are interrupted when they must rescue one of their number from a mad scientist who can enter others’ dreams.
The opening text has definitions of mutants and mutation, including this:
2. The illegal genetic condition [U.S. statue 5504178], first apparent in puberty, caused by the X factor located in the pineal gland of the brain.
I guess my two questions are: how can a genetic condition be illegal? And who could have guessed the X Factor would have such a lasting impression on society?
The first scene appears to be from Fox’s Alien Autopsy, released the previous year. Oh never-mind, Russel Thresh (Matt Fewer) is conducting experiments on what I assume are mutants, when some people bust in and save the mutants, and then some random girl (but not Storm, probably) trashes the place with wind.
Now we meet a kid named Angelo Espinosa (Agustin Rodriguez), who is being sent to Xavier’s school for gifted (but not in the academic sense) children. As the boy is being driven away, a sister (or someone) grabs his arm and stretches far beyond normal capacity.
At the (assumed) evil corporation, Thresh is talking about his fancy brain wave mind control device. Matt Frewer is playing this role very similar to Jim Carrey as the Riddler in Batman Forever, which also came out the previous year. I find it annoying.
Now he is in an arcade, which has Jubilation Lee (Heather McComb) playing Virtua Fighter. She sees some subliminal messaging appear on the screen and then has a mutant freak out and sparks it up. The cops grab her and we see that Cerebro has detected yet another mutant has been detained. Emma Frost (Finola Hughes) wakes up in her bizarre white room and goes to see the alert. This movie is jumping all over the place, trying to quickly establish all these different characters. Emma wakes up Irish accent Sean Cassidy (Jeremy Ratchford) to go save Jubilee, and Jubilee’s mom is arguing with the cops, because these silly mutants ain’t got no rights, so she is being sent to Mutant Camp, which is probably a lot like summer camp, but with a lot more torture and subjugation. I find Emma and Sean’s over the top accents to be kind of annoying. They rescue Jubilee from the cops and then basically kidnap her.
Science guy blabs more fake science crap about dreams and mutants. Our two new mutants arrive at the school and are immediately subjected to a battery of tests. Emma makes Jubilee get naked in front of her, which is weird. Then they introduce the other mutants, Kurt Pastorius (Randall Slavin), Mondo (Bumper Robinson), Arlee Hicks (Suzanne Davis), and Monet St. Croix (Amarilis). I guess there are only six kids at this school including the two new ones. They throw a lot of random levels around, level 3 this, level 8 protection that , I can’t tell if we are playing D&D, but I wish there was a player’s manual.
Pretty much all of these adolescent mutants are jerks. Also this huge mansion seems to only have 1 bathroom, as they are all waiting around for it. And they don’t appear to be studying traditional high school subjects, unless dream journalling and security monitoring are normal subjects on this Earth (Earth-700029 to be precise). Dreams are a major theme of this movie, the bad guy wants to enter them and use mutants to turn dreams into reality, the good guys are forced to study dreams for some reason. All this dream stuff comes across as annoying.
The kids take a field trip into town. I think there is a 100% chance they cause trouble. In town we learn that Arlee really doesn’t like being a muscular woman and the towns people don’t like mutants and bully Angelo. Incredibly there is no trouble. Later that evening back at the mansion, Angelo is working security and finds a secret room he doesn’t have access to, and then hacks the computer to gain access to it. In the room he finds Emma’s dream chair. They call this place the Xavier Institute, but thus far Xavier is a no show. As far as I can tell there are only two adults and six teenagers at this whole facility (and 1 bathroom).
Now we find the annoying scientist has duplicated the dream chair, and to demonstrate his new power, he makes the board of directors all fart at the same time. So classy and hilarious… The board hates Thresh and wants to fire him. Thresh finds out and makes his boss commit suicide, Freddy Kruger style.
Angelo and Jubilee decide to use the dream chair. Jubilee visits her parents, but then Thresh invades her dream invasion. Then Angelo uses the chair, and Thresh in real life is disconnected from the machine, but his consciousness lives in the dream dimension. The next morning they are talking about their experience, and Jubilee drops two F-bombs, which is surprising in a TV pilot turned TV movie with a TV-PG rating in 1996.
Now all the kids go to the carnival. And of course they get into a fight with the local humans. Emma busts them out, and then expels them all. Sean talks her out of it. Angelo uses the dream chair to pursue a girl and there is a pointlessly long dance sequence. Then
Angelo goes to sleep and Thresh invades his dreams and convinces him to reconnect him to his body. He gets Thresh back into his body. Then Thresh captures Angelo. Angelo uses some kind of telepathy to send a message to Jubilee.
They assemble the team. Bizarrely they have spent this whole movie focusing on dreams and what not, and never once do they work on developing the kids’ powers. I guess that part of it isn’t important. And now Emma makes a doorway into the dream dimension, to face Thresh. And the kids use their powers, which they have never been shown to practice. Thresh’s stay in the dream dimension apparently mutated him, and now he is all powerful (in that dimension). So you almost wonder why they chose to fight him there, instead of the real world. I’m not even sure how Thresh and Angelo got into the dream world based on the sequence of events.
Angelo sacrifices himself to save the team, by plunging Thresh and himself over the edge of the walkway in the dream dimension. But then he comes back, so I guess it is okay. Then they reveal the tough girl dressed in a red uniform. This is the new inspiring uniform of the X-man. And the movie ends showing Thresh once again catatonic from having his mind disconnected from his body.
Final thoughts. About a third of the way into this movie I remembered watching it when it originally aired on TV. As a teenager who had grown up watching X-Men: The Animated Series, I was super disappointed in the show. Twenty two years later, I can say this is still a super disappointing take on the X-Men. To think, a successful movie and the beginning of an 11+ movie franchise (with a Star Trek level of adherence to continuity) was just a short 4 years away.