ADV Films // 2001 // 200 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Sandra Dozier (Retired) // April 5th, 2004
Creation can have its side effects...
No one at Genomex Corporation knew exactly what would happen when, in secret, they experimented with genetic engineering on human subjects. Now that these mutants have grown up and exhibited powerful abilities, beyond what their scientists originally envisioned, Genomex wants to cover up their involvement by hauling in all their creations, preferably alive and ready for experimentation. This doesn't sit well with the lead scientist, Adam (John Shea), and he breaks away from Genomex to create Sanctuary, a haven for mutants where they can be among their own kind and help others. The first to join him are Jesse, a genius with computers who can alter his matter to be insubstantial or as hard as rock, and Shalimar, who received animal DNA and is called a "feral" -- she can leap and fight with the strength of a tigress. Emma, a "telempath" who can read and manipulate emotions, and Brennan, who wields electricity, rounds out their team.
Disc Nine, featuring episode numbers 119-122, is the end of the first season. This was my introduction to the series, actually, and I had a surprisingly easy time slipping into the storyline while getting a feel for the characters. The principals all share good chemistry and I quickly found myself enjoying the stories and the action.
* Episode 119: "Nothing to Fear"
Driven by rage and grief over the death of his wife, a powerful mutant with "telempath" abilities is contracted by Genomex to force the members of Mutant X to reveal their secret location.
* Episode 120: "Deadly Desire"
A criminally minded mutant with the power to enslave men, through a love cocktail of pheromones, sets her sites on Brennan, and it ain't pretty when he turns on his friends and fellow mutants.
* Episode 121: "Dancing on the Razor"
Duped into a staged fight that is recorded for the purposes of exposing the mutants, Adam and the gang finally find something in common with Genomex: maintaining their cover by destroying the evidence.
* Episode 122: "A Breed Apart"
In the final episode of the season, ancient magic goes up against mutants, winner take all.
Mutant X is a Marvel Comics production that is very loosely based on a comic book series of the same name, with mutant characters in an alternate reality X-Men universe. Howard Chaykin, who is well known in comic book circles and helped to popularize the graphic novel format, wrote the first episode and remains a creative consultant on the show. As soon as I saw his name in the credits, I knew I'd be in for a good time. I was not disappointed.
No one, least of all the show's creators, is pretending that Mutant X is a revolutionary new concept in television entertainment. Indeed, familiar science fiction themes are lovingly rehashed, just from a mutant point of view. The goal -- other than to tap into the mutant love generated by their big screen brethren -- is to entertain, and the show has just the right mix of hot babes, martial arts, hunky lads, action, mutant special effects, and tongue-in-cheek humor to deliver. Everyone involved takes their performances and roles seriously, but not too seriously, if you know what I mean. For instance, feral Shalimar isn't constantly turning to the camera and hissing, or grooming herself like a cat, easy clichés that have doomed other series. She's just normal, until she has to beat the crap out of someone dumb enough to take her on. About the only nod to her mutant core is how her eyes flash into cat's eyes when she's feeling pumped. Head bad-guy, Mason Eckhart, looks just like Andy Warhol -- love it or hate it, that's good cult theatre. I blame Emma's more cheesy over-the-shoulder looks to the camera on poor directing choices.
Despite not having an enormous budget, the show looks very good. The Sanctuary is so ultra-modern and hip I want to live there (or at least contract their designer). While some of the wirework looks more fakey than cool, I still appreciate the attempt to create engaging action and fight sequences. Everything on the ground looks great. It does help that Victor Webster (Brennan) has been active with martial arts, kickboxing, and competition for years -- his athleticism lends authenticity to the choreography.
Mutant X is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen and the image is clear and bright, doing justice to the rather muted color palette (lots of leather and dark clothing against the earth tone colored Sanctuary). There are some decent extras on Disc Nine, including an extensive set walk-through featurette with John Shea. My advice is to watch this particular extra after the episodes, as it has a significant spoiler for Season One. Other extras include liner notes for the aircraft "Double Helix" used in the series, promo spots for the episodes, image galleries, and the usual set of previews for other ADV releases. The English Dolby Digital surround 2.0 soundtrack is clear and adequate, but not very lively.
About the only gripe I have with Mutant X is the way ADV is releasing it -- nine separate releases for 22 episodes? At about $20 each, that means the entire season would cost around $180, an astronomical sum by today's standards, when I can get an entire season of Angel for around forty dollars. Although this does allow viewers to check out the series without risking too much of their pocket book, fans will probably be disappointed. ADV, used to releasing anime titles that viewers will pay extra for, needs to change its format in order to ensure lively sales among the cult fan base.
Review content copyright © 2004 Sandra Dozier; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: ADV Films
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 200 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Liner notes for Double Helix craft
* Original Television promotional spots
* Image galleries
* Set tour guided by John Shea (Adam)
* ADV Previews
* Official Site