While the X-men cartoon achieved a decent amount of success and helped to improve comic book sales in the 90s, the X-men were still far from a household name. However Marvel obviously saw at least some potential in adapting the comics to a live action environment even as early as 1996. They chose to adapt the young X-men team, Generation X into a movie that would have served as a pilot episode for a new TV series if it had been successful.
In the comics, shortly after the Phalanx Covenant, Jubilee was put into a team of young mutants that were taught by Banshee and Emma Frost. This was basically the X-men universe's second attempt at a younger roster after the New Mutants from the 80s had grown up to become X-Force. The series wasn't too bad overall, but I think it got bogged down a bit by some confusing storylines.
This movie doesn't attempt to adapt any of those storylines, mostly just taking some of its characters and putting them into a new situation. Since this was television, a lot of changes had to be made for budget reasons. Chamber, a mutant who literally had a gaping hole in his chest, was replaced with Refrax, a sort of Cyclops-like character who also had X-ray vision. Husk, who could pull off her skin to reveal a new one made of some other form of matter, was replaced with Buff, a girl with super strength. In the comics, Skin was a mutant who had way too much skin and as such always had a saggy appearance to his face and limbs. He is in the movie, but his powers work more like Mr. Fantastic or Stretch Armstrong instead.
Jubilee, who anyone who loved the cartoon might be anxious to see, is not Asian here at all but Caucasian. Skin is appropriately hispanic, but its ruined by the fact that we also get references to him being a gang member at one point in his life. Banshee also has the thickest Irish accent I've ever heard, but in all fairness that's pretty true to the comics. Emma sounds Australian, I guess because there's no Wolverine here.
The villain for the movie is completely made up and not a mutant but a mad scientist. He is played by Matt Frewer, who I generally love because of his appearances in Max Headroom, Honey I Shrunk the Kids, and The Stand miniseries. He is over the top and completely ridiculous here. Over the top is probably what he plays best, but it just can't save this horrible movie.
He and Emma used to work together, but he wanted to cut open mutant's brains for his research, so they had a falling out. Emma has developed a machine that lets anyone, not just telepaths, gain access to people's dreams. Frewer finds one of the machines, and Jubilee and Skin find another one hidden in the Xavier Institute.
You know, I'm searching my brain really hard to try to figure out what the villain's motivations are and why he wants the kids, but honestly, I don't know if they ever explained it. Just suffice to say that Skin doesn't realize he's a bad guy because he helps him invade the dream of a girl he has a crush on. Yup, because this is a teen movie, there's a horrible subplot about how the human teenagers don't like the mutant teenagers, but one girl kind of likes Skin and he invades her dreams in order to ask her out. Frewer asks Skin to return the favor by releasing him from prison. Skin somehow gets stuck and the other members of Gen X have to come rescue him.
If there's anything this movie gets right, it is the dynamic between Banshee and Emma Frost. The two of them have very different ideas on how to teach the students, and the conflict between them is well defined and accurate to their comic counterparts. They even mention, without much explanation, the fact that the Hellions, Emma's former students, died while under her care. So someone was at least partially trying to pay tributes to the comics here, even if it mostly fails in other areas.
The worst of it all is the low brow humor. In order to prove that he can access people's dreams and control them, Matt Frewer makes everyone in the board room of the company he works for fart at the same time. 'Nuff said.
I recommend staying as far away from this movie as you possibly can, unless you really like to watch bad films for the fun of it. It's up on Youtube if you're feeling up to it. I usually can appreciate a bad movie, but this was painful for me to watch. I can't remember what my exact impressions were when I originally saw it, but I'm sure there had to be some level of disappointment. I think I've kept the VHS copy I taped off TV simply as a kind of collector's item and not as something to watch over again.
Fortunately, there were much better X-men films than this, but I probably don't have to tell you that.