ack in the mid-90s, the most popular team in comic books
wasn't the X-Men, but a group from independent publisher Image Comics. Created
by Jim Lee, Brandon Choi and Jim Scott Campbell, "GEN 13" was the
sexiest, edgiest team on the shelf and a hit with readers. An animated film
version was soon produced by Disney to be released under their Hollywood
Pictures banner directly to video. But Disney decided to change their
distribution plans after seeing the final product, dumping the film on the
direct-to-video market in only a few countries overseas. After seeing the final
product, you can't help but think they made a wise choice.
"GEN 13" introduces us to Caitlin Fairchild, a
teenager offered a place in an institute for gifted children. She soon learns
that the school isn't really a school, but rather a military project to turn
children with a special genetic structure into super soldiers. After developing
incredibly enhanced abilities, Caitlin rebels against the program that created
her. But all is not what it appears; there are some in the military who want to
help her, and a deadly enemy is actually a long lost sibling.
As the voice of Fairchild, Alicia Witt ("Vanilla Sky") does an excellent job. She makes her
transformation from bookish teen to a fearless Amazon very believable. Mark
Book: The Movie") is equally enjoyable as the psychotic
Threshold. All attitude and psychosis but impeccably dressed, Threshold is the
perfect adversary for the fledgling superheroes. John DeLancie's Col. John Lynch
is also impressive, voicing his part with the right combination of authority and
concern for the children being tested. Unfortunately DeLancie is not in the film
enough to make much of an impact.
Sadly, those three are the exceptions. Cloris Leachman does
her best with the role of Helga, the students' instructor, but she winds up
sounding annoying with her affected German accent. As Ivana Baiul, Lauren Lane
sounds like she's trying to channel every villainess in all the spy movies ever
made. It doesn't work, and she grates on your nerves quickly instead of sounding
seductively evil. The biggest disaster is rock star Flea as Grunge, who manages
to voice his character like a surfer who's been hit repeatedly on the head with
his board. When he acquires his abilities, you cringe because he's the last
person you'd want to have superpowers.
Of course the failure of "GEN 13" isn't just
because of four bad performances. Kevin Alteri's leaden direction doesn't help
matters, making 90 minutes feel like an eternity. The script, which Alteri
co-wrote with producer Karen Kollis, is anything but noteworthy. Basically it's
an extended origin story that takes too long in getting to the point where the
characters become superheroes. Background information is good, but it would be
nice to see Caitlin's powers already developed and how it happened told in
The animation is fair, mainly of the afternoon cartoon
caliber, although occasionally there is a scene that makes you sit up and take
notice. But those are few and far between, although they do remind you how much
better "GEN 13" could have looked. Another problem is the music by
Amotz Plessner, which ranges from the overly loud to practically nonexistent.
Not the kind of score you'd want to enhance an animated drama.
Although "GEN 13" was never distributed in the
United States, you can still find it on eBay or from import video dealers. The
best audience for this misfire is fans of the comic, and die-hard fanboys in
general who'll watch anything comic book related. But everyone else just looking
for an exciting 90 minutes should look elsewhere.