Film Review: Mutant Chronicles
Mutant Chronicles (2009)
Theatrical Release Date: April 24, 2009
Directed By: Simon Hunter
Cast: Ron Perlman, Thomas Jane, John Malcovich, Devin Aoki, Anna Walton
Brutal As Hell Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Review By: Marc Patterson
During the end of the ice age a machine came from space and embedded itself deep below the surface of the earth. It came with one purpose, to change man into mutant creatures designed for destruction of the human race. We pick up the story in the not so distant future. Earth has been divided into four major corporations that span the continents. As is the nature of countries, these corporations must war with each other for position and power. We are dropped into the front lines on the European Front as the Bauhaus Corporation is readying to attack The Capital Corporation. During the battle the mutants emerge from the earth and begin a gruesome killing spree that wipes out vast numbers on either side, sending the world into chaos in the wake of the bloody aftermath.
The Brotherhood, a group of monks who apparently hold the secret to the legend of the machine step forward with their leader Brother Samuel (Perlman) to assemble a team of twenty warriors in order that they may accomplish the very thing that all the armies of earth cannot: destruction of “the machine”. Their suicide mission is to descend deep into the earth, find the machine and destroy it with a bomb. Seems simple enough, but nothing of this nature ever is. The mutants are difficult to kill, feel no pain, and they grossly outnumber the tiny band of rogues. A successful mission will certainly mean the death of every team member.
First, I have to get this out of the way: I’m not going to pretend to have any knowledge of the RPG game because I don’t. I will respectfully comment that I have already heard much dissension amongst gamers because the film all but scraps any relation to the RPG. To the gamers out there I have but this to say: Quit being so goddamned nerdy. And to the rest, who are watching the film on its own merits… well this review is for you.
Up until my viewing of Mutant Chronicles I’ve been pretty stoked for this film. The trailers have been nothing short of fantastic, and the pre-press hype has promised much. You can imagine my disappointment when it failed to deliver to expectation. The Matrix this isn’t. However, that’s not to say this is all bad. I certainly enjoyed the film. It’s a veritable bloodbath from beginning to end, though spotty when it comes to the story. I’m sure the reference to the Dirty Dozen will come up in many a reviewers critique and there’s no denying that the film follows that formula, by taking the ragtag band of warriors and putting them on a suicide mission. But the similarities are drawn to a halt there. Unlike the Dirty Dozen, or The Inglorious Bastards, Mutant Chronicles fails to recognize the importance of fleshing out characters that we can connect with and attune ourselves emotionally to. Albeit a few moments of humor and witty dialogue the film does little to attempt to connect the audience to the characters, the action, or the mission at hand. Story wise, the film was flatly underdeveloped, and that’s an understatement. There was so much going on that much was left unexplained, and the explanations that are given are merely glossed over to the degree it seemed the filmmakers didn’t even care.
The cast was as equally unimpressive as the story. John Malcovich seemed as though he barely showed up to play his part, and grossly failed in what his contribution to the film could have been. Or perhaps, it was a combination of a flat performance coupled with the filmmaker’s underutilization of what his name means to their billing. Ron Perlman, a heavy hitter in today’s horror/sci-fi genre was relegated to his standard one trick Hellboy pony. It’s a sad recurrence that seems to play out all too often for him lately.
There are some impressive themes going on. As a longtime fan of nearly any war drama I was impressed on how the film took the look of a Crusade era to World War II trench fighting segments, to effectively implementing the use of futuristic weaponry. Thought was clearly given to the set design and look of the film, dousing it heavily in CGI laden steampunk. There are heavy nods to films such as Sin City and 300 in use of the CGI to not just fill in the blanks, but become part of the cinematic experience itself. Remember that wretched use of CGI blood in Midnight Meat Train? Here, the same effect it deployed but in the manner it should have been. Mutant Chronicles may disappoint in a shallow undeveloped story, but it certainly hauls out the goods when it comes to being a good looking and sounding film.
When it all boils down, the crux of our judgment falls on the failure to Mutant Chronicles to live up to its potential. This film could have been a lot more with just a little more effort, a bit more creativity, and a stronger script. And upon this we have to remove marks from what was otherwise a fun and entertaining film. We’re not going to tell you to pass on this. It was worth the money I spent to watch it, but likely will not find its way into my collection.