The Gene Generation


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Gene Generation is a cyberpunk/steampunk kind of thing which consists mostly of actors performing in front of green screens, with the superimposed backgrounds supplied by comic book art. The result is similar to a rotoscope film, except that the humans are portrayed by three-dimensional actors rather than two-dimensional posterized images of the same actors.

That is if you are willing to accept Bai Ling as a three-dimensional actor. Debatable, I admit.

Unlike speculative future fiction, which takes place in a future human society in which some dangerous modern trend has not been properly regulated, steampunk and cyberpunk adventures take place in some alternate universe in which a human-like society has developed with different styles and technologies. The most common conceit involves the extension of the 19th century's obsession with enormous machines, as used in a post-industrial society that could never quite get the "post" right because it never figured out how to miniaturize or transistorize the machines.

If you think about it, you'll realize that we had some periods in human history which played out sort of like steampunk adventures. For the first thirty years of the 20th century, we had recorded voices and silent films, but nobody seemed to be able to put the two together, even though it would have been almost as simple as playing a record while the movie was being projected. Steampunk and cyberpunk writers love to imagine exaggerated versions of these sorts of crazy gaps in technology. The people in their imaginary dystopias have advanced computers, but they operate them with rusty metal keyboards, and their monitor outputs are eternally stuck in the era of green text on black backgrounds. They can alter a human's DNA with a bracelet, but they don't have cell phones, and all of their gargoyle-festooned buildings look like the kinds of places where the Phantom of the Opera would like to snuggle up. They have the advanced technology required to fill the skies with traffic, but the airborne vehicles look like the Chinese junks one might have seen in the Hong Kong harbor in 1890. Their inventions have brought them all the drawbacks of technology, but none of the conveniences. Part of their world is derived from Blade Runner and another part of it from Conan the Barbarian, and the fun of it all derives from the mixing of technologies which should be centuries or even millennia apart.

The Gene Generation has all of those elements I just described, and they serve to create a fairly interesting backdrop for the action, but one cannot build an interesting film solely on backdrop. Like this film, Sin City basically put an alternate comic book universe on screen with live actors, but Sin City would not have been worth the watch except for some interesting story lines, a lot of heart, and an authentic film noir sensibility. In contrast, The Gene Generation is basically just a routine B movie about mobsters and assassins, except with an odd alternate universe in the background. The original premise about DNA re-programming is virtually abandoned, and the little of it that remains is about as scientific as an episode of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Mostly the DNA reordering just involves turning humans into things that look like skeletons occupied by some writhing snakes, and even that bizarre conceit never really becomes central to the action, other than that the assassins will occasionally overpower somebody with a magical snake bracelet instead of bullets.

Strangely enough for a movie with plenty of imagination in the animated portions, the costuming is completely unimaginative. The good people of their world, as well as the evil, all wear leather Fonzie jackets pretty much all of the time. I guess that 1950s bad boy style is supposed to look "punk," but as I surveyed the bleak and sunless landscape of their world, I had a hard time imagining the areas where they raised all the necessary cattle. (Fonzie grew up in Wisconsin, where there is no shortage of cows.) Of course the logic never matters in cyberpunk, but the imagination does, and one thinks the director might have benefited from employing some costume specialists who could have made the people in his foregrounds as outré as the cartoons in his backgrounds.

The bottom line on The Gene Generation is that some good concepts remain undeveloped, and some imaginative background details go unsupported by what the humans are doing in the foreground. The director (who also write the comic book, ala Frank Miller) showed some impressive talent in some areas of film creation, but desperately needed a better story.


* widescreen







There are no major reviews online.


4.2 IMDB summary (of 10)






No significant theatrical presence.





  • Bai Ling showed her breasts and bottom in a shower scene and a sex scene.






Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Some interesting visuals, but a thin storyline.