Gen 13: The Movie ReviewA column article, Shot For Shot by: Daniel Flores
Ah the internet. Holder of great truths, great mysteries and great horrors. This weekend I managed to run across one of these things (hint, it was neither very mysterious nor very truthful) on a website we might refer to as the internet equivalent of "that rape-y abandoned alley that you saw that hobo get stabbed in once." It was a movie never released in the US (and be thankful it never was for the effect of such a movie on the nation's children and teens would have been akin to cultural genocide). It was, however, released in the only places in the world so Mad Max that only they could relate to it -- the portions of Europe we don't know how to pronounce, Russia and of course, Australia. It stands as a bastion to the misguided marketing notions of the '90s, mixing unreal character wackiness with bulging muscles and explosive violence. Ranked first as the movie I've felt the most compelled to write about, not to share, but to warn future generations of humans to never watch this movie as they fight off our robot overlords. This is… the Gen 13 film.
It's on a DVD-R? Even the official DVD is just a torrent.
A (very) quick rundown of the Gen 13 series for those of you not very in the know, it originally took place in the Wildstorm universe and was written by Jim Lee and Brandon Choi and illustrated by J. Scott Campbell. It was a series destined to go through many iterations as it was a '90s title that involved a loose coalition of empowered teens in sexy spandex that fought to '90s grunge music (well, in my head they did). It was basically X-Men mixed with more attitude and sex. While all this screams bargain bin, some versions and creative teams really did some spectacular stuff with it. Plus, how awesome is the series' main leader, Fairchild? Pretty awesome, that's what.
You see folks, for all of its '90s clichés and outdated dialogue, Gen 13 had a pretty solid fanbase that knew what it loved, and loved it well. It's a series that I always argued was born in the wrong decade, the crippled psyche and sexual confusion of the characters could be handled much better now when I trust most writers and illustrators would avoid making it a loop of cheesecake shots and truck-sized guns. Gen 13 as a concept is pretty good, but it all comes down to execution. The animated movie that was produced for it seemed as stuck in all the worst things of the '90s as a reference to Tom Green would be.
The movie begins as a family is chased down by the series' main antagonist/big brother agency I.O. As they speed down a road with no other cars, they make sure to exit the road as soon as possible because fuck roads, let's go crash into a river and shit. The family is composed of Rachel Callahan, her ex-husband Stephen Callahan and two (mostly) unnamed children, all of whom make the brave decision to leave the car before it explodes... because it hit a big rock. Their alternative survival plan of outrunning helicopters on foot doesn't goes as well as you think it would and the mother is shot in all sorts of crazy ways. I'm sure the voice actress prepared great, poignant variations of "ugh!" to allow the scene to express great emotional depth as her body does a jig and plumps down into the water after her one line in the entire movie. Fully realizing the responsibilities of single fatherhood, Mr. Callahan decides to go super-saiyan, explode the helicopter with his mind, vomit blood and die. This, ladies and gents, is the first three minutes of this movie.
"Whadda you mean you didn't want to be an orphan for Christmas? Well it's a bit too late for that, son."
By the way, did you know that Mark Hamill voices someone in this movie? Yeah, it's like asking Morgan Freeman to voice over Jack and Jill -- it's not going to get you the brownie points you want and will instead make people realize where all the money that should have gone into writing and directing went instead. Also, the mechanical design was done by someone with the last name Poindexter. Seriously, go look at it, that's a real thing. I double checked just now writing it. You would think the Poindexter lineage would have died out by now after generations of nuclear-wedgies and terrible facial acne. But they live on.
In what takes little over a minute from the massacre of half the Callahan clan, we get our first cheesecake shot of a college girl's pink panty ass. Classy stuff.
This particular character is not very smart, she's very moody, she's blonde and is somewhat whore-y. Basically, she's most written female characters written by men.
"Hold on Jack, let me open the door and bend over so everyone can see what day of the week panties I've got on."
She is roommates with the series' main protagonist, Caitlin Fairchild, who is smart, pretty, passionate and so insightful that I trust she would have done a better job of writing this movie by not writing it at all. In the following scene, Fairchild is greeted outside her class by Special Agent Barker, who says he is with the National Security Committee and intends to recruit her with the almighty power of a brochure. The brochure, of course, says nothing of what the organization does and is vague as to why the candidates have been chosen beyond "fine academic records" but it's a brochure and it has what appears to be clipart so it seems pretty legit.
After realizing her life would come down to either working for a mysterious, covert agency that could endanger her life or cohabitate with a bad roommate, Fairchild goes for the one with more sleep and less dirty clothes on the floor.
Now on the I.O phoenix base, we are introduced to the other two main characters that immediately put the "fine academic records" thing into some serious doubt -- the affable Grunge, who enjoys beating his surfer lingo into your head, and the rebellious Roxy. Yes, I do realize that certain versions of Grunge depict him as being secretly intelligent. But I assure you, that's not this version. This version instead reminds you how lame the '90s and checkered shirts seem now.
There are exceptions, of course.
In what is probably montage music usually reserved for torturing small Indonesian boys while they build computers, the new recruits train and study in order to trigger an X-Gene mutation (whoops, I mean "gen-factor potential") that none of them know they have. Also, there's a sexy girl fight that activates the potential in Fairchild that is most definitely not just a metaphor for puberty. Probably.
Fairchild, now experiencing extreme headaches that are probably not a substitute to menstrual cramps because girl cramps are icky, fails to realize that her health problems only started once she was taken to a secret base isolated in Phoenix where young recruits were under constant monitoring and physical testing. Seems like "fine academic records" don't quite equal the value of basic survival skills. Let that be a lesson to you grad students: how useful are your business degrees when you're getting eaten by a bear? Well, I would tell you if you weren't screaming so loud. Rude.
Did I mention that right after the sexy girl fight there's a shower scene with Fairchild and Roxy where everyone is naked and steamy while one of the antagonists, later revealed to be Fairchild's brother, spies on them through hidden video monitors? And you thought Grunge's dialect was wacky, there's more sexual tension between Fairchild and Threshold in this movie than the Brady kids.
Fairchild continually dismisses the strange physical effects on her body and half-truths that every authority figure around her seems to be giving her, leading me to believe that she sucked at paying attention to her experience of high school or repressed her memories of it because she was also the female protagonist in She's All That (anyone would repress their memories of Freddie Prinze Jr. too).
FP Jr. laughs at your feeble attempts to escape him.
This goes about as well as you can imagine and she straight up murders anonymous guard #1 by punching him through glass after he threatens the puberty trio of Grunge, Fairchild and Roxy. Free of her clothes now ("What do the kids nowadays like? I got it! Boobies, that's what.") Fairchild proceeds to whip the shit out of some guards which leads to one of them being shot in the head and another having a Dell computer embedded into their forehead. Fairchild 3, Anonymous Guards 0.
Having realized they're now responsible for the murders of at least three random human beings, the trio of "superheroes" take the moral high ground and face the legal system like adults. Oh wait, no they don't, they hide out in a locker room instead. Grunge also farts really loudly. Seriously, it goes from multiple murders to a fart joke in less than 30 seconds.
The team takes a break to make a quick underwear joke (priorities!) before being blown up by a grenade because despite the fact that the entire military facility they were in was looking for them, they decided it was okay to not keep their voices down while Grunge complained about not getting to see Fairchild naked.
If I got blown up every time I complained about not seeing a girl naked, I could promise you that there wouldn't be enough of me to theoretically talk about putting me in a matchbox.
Anyway, Fairchild gets separated from the other two, which leads to further Anonymous guard murder by way of explosions and a boulder to the head (Fairchild 5, Anonymous Guards 0). Meanwhile, her totally competent friends get tortured in their underwear to see if they too also develop powers. I guess no one told the bad guys in this movie that you can't force evolution like that. OH, WAIT, NO -- THEY DEVELOP SUPER POWERS AND MAKE OUT.
Darwin would be sad to see this movie, but for a lot more reasons than this.
After giving superpowers to the people that have been murdering I.O guards left and right, shit goes surprisingly bad for I.O. They are bad at their job. So very, very bad. Fairchild, meanwhile, has moved her murder spree to the top of the Phoenix base where, after failing in her initial plan to impersonate a middle aged German woman, goes to her backup plan of crushing three guards with a mechanical suit and blowing up three jets (Fairchild 11, Anonymous Guards 0). Now joined by her two fellow empowered teens, they go all out Ewok on the guards by throwing wrenches and shit at their heads to knock them out. Showing yet another universe where helmets mean shit to objects being thrown at 4 mph.
The group gets slowed down by a bitch with a whip (which could be an awesome band name too) but ripping her arm off seems to be a pretty good solution at taking out the lady with no superpowers. Feeling the very teenage need to get the hell out of there, they hijack the world's smallest helicopter only to run into Fairchild's secret brother, Threshold. Threshold proceeds to turn the pilot that works for him inside out with his mind powers until he explodes and blasts the helicopter to pieces. Fairchild 16, Anonymous Guards -1.
Roxy takes a moment to comment how annoying it was to have that guy explode next to them before starting a DBZ style battle with the incest brother (also a cool band name, if you're hardcore enough). How levitation powers can match psychic abilities in rainbow color beams is beyond my Holy-Shit-It's-Like-I'm-On-LSD degree from Wikipedia University. Grunge, meanwhile, takes a moment to jump into the battle to have his arm taken off, probably saying to himself how ironic it was that just moments before he tore someone else's arm off. This was also probably followed by three different versions of "Brah" and "Dude", maybe with a "Cowabunga" thrown in there to really express that irony.
"DUDE, NOT MY MASTURBATING HAND, BRAH! COWABUNGA!"
Expository dialogue and the revelation that Fairchild and Threshold are siblings brings the movie to an end as Threshold willingly lets himself be smashed by falling rocks, screaming in horror about how often he yanked it to his sister. Meanwhile Fairchild, Grunge and Roxy go off to find happiness while under constant government surveillance for the rest of their lives.
There is a spark of what makes the Gen 13 series so great here; unfortunately, it's clustered together with clunky animation and nonsensical reactions to dire situations. Just like X-Men (fun fact: they were both created by a guy with the last name Lee), Gen 13 is a story of growing up amongst inner and outer turbulent forces while having a host of diverse characters to interact with and learn from. However, I never thought Gen 13 had anywhere near the consistency of genuine writing that the X-Titles exhibit (all 878,274 of them), continually suffering from the '90s emphasis on sexual and violent marketing. Meanwhile, the Gen 13 movie doesn't do any better by trying to appeal to more groups than it should, going for wacky comedy with violent action and a feeble attempt at an emotional narrative.
What gets to me the most though is that I know the quality isn't what kept it from being released into the United States. Rather, it was because by the time Disney had finished production on the film, Wildstorm had been sold to DC Comics (and subsequently, Time-Warner). Refusing to release a movie that would only benefit a competitor, Disney shelved what probably would have been the most adult thing they've made since Poca-Hot-Ass, Beauty and the Buttcheeks, and all 28 volumes of Donald Duck's Fucktales. To know that Disney would have released this nonsensical trash without a single fuck in the world would… well, validate my view of Disney company practice, actually. Still, they did a limited release for what few bucks they could scrape out of it, although after being forced to make this movie I would imagine Disney owed their animators A LOT. That is, of course, if Disney's animators weren't nameless, orphaned 11-year-old Chinese children with gangrene.
There are, in fact, very few redeeming features to the movie. It has an erratic tone to say the least, the animation can be pretty shoddy at times, and it relegates important characters to the background due to, what I only presume, is a half assed attempt at writing this thing. There is no sense that most of the people that worked to release this fully believed it would ever get seen at all, which is a very real possibility. Unfortunately, not only was it was seen- it was reviewed and paid for its lack of effort. No one gets away from committing a crime like this movie.
For however much potential there is in Gen 13, I have rarely seen it done justice. I would like to see more Gen 13 -- just not this version. Then again, maybe I'm just ultimately looking for something in Gen 13 that isn't there. It is, after all, very possible that what makes the Gen 13 series and its many incarnations so loved is that it defies modern standards and screams out "BOOBS AND EXPLOSIONS ARE AWESOME AND YOU KNOW IT" without a hint of irony and a foamed mouth full of passion. Literary passion, that is.
You know what? Fuck it, go see the movie, there are at least three good scenes in there and I'm sure that wherever you do find it, it won't exactly be at a site known to charge for movies. Then again, if it scars you for life, don't say I didn't warn you.
Daniel Flores was once asked to fight a bear single handed. In response to this, he nabbed all the salmon in all the rivers in the world, befriended the bear in a grandiose feast that forever united bears and humans, became the godfather of that bear’s child after introducing him to his bear-wife and then snapped his neck when they were both elderly southern gentlemen reminiscing on their decades long friendship. Because that’s how Daniel Flores rolls. Also, I guess he’s the News Editor for Comics Bulletin and stuff. But mostly the bear thing.