“At the end of the Ice Age the machine came. It came from outside. It came from space. It came with one purpose, to change man into mutant.”
Mutant Chronicles was based on an old style role playing game. This was the kind where someone actually had to get out some paper and keep track of the game. Real old school. So now the property has been turned basically into a video game. Yeah, I know this is a movie review, but I just spend about an hour and a half feeling like I just watched somebody else play a video game, and not a very good one at that. From the extras it’s apparent this is one of those flipping off the establishment films. I’m sure everybody involved got a ton of laughs about the absurdity and total lack of commerciality. They spend a lot of time patting themselves on the back, bragging about how they showed Hollywood, boy. That’s all well and good, but did anyone think about us poor saps who weren’t in on the joke, but had to watch the film anyway?
“After much suffering and death, a warrior knighted the ancient tribes of man. Together they sealed the deadly machine beneath the earth, in the distant mountains of Eastern Europe. Only the brotherhood descendants kept knowledge of the machine alive in stories and myths, and in the sacred Book Of Chronicles. Years later 4 corporations ruled the world. Each corporation fights each other for what little resources remain in a war without end. On the muddy plains of Europe the Brauhaus Corporation prepares for another assault on the capitol lines between them. Beneath them the machine still waits.”
But not for long. The film opens with an epic battle that, while supposedly in the future, resembles very much the trench warfare of the first World War. An errant canon blast opens up the buried machine and releases the long dormant mutants inside. The horde of deformed humans descends on both battle lines in a bloody rampage. Not content with the warriors, the mutants now head for the sparsely populated villages. There are space ships to take some, but not nearly enough, off world in the hopes of protecting them from these vile creatures. The mutants are almost human in appearance. They are immune to gunfire. They are remarkably strong and wield a large spike-like appendage in place of one of their hands, with which they can slash and dice themselves a pretty good gore fest. They can only be killed by catastrophic tissue damage. It seems a sword works rather nicely. Lucky for us.
Apparently, The Book Of Chronicles, which has become the Bible to this future war torn civilization, has prophesied the event. Now Brother Samuel (Perlman) who is the keeper of the book must assemble a cracker jack team to descend into the cavern with an ancient device that was constructed against this day. It will apparently defeat the machine and is assumed to be an explosive of some sort. The team believes they are on a suicide mission. Beyond the chance to be heroes and save humanity, they are coaxed into the mission with tickets on the escape ships for members of their families.
There are some good name actors in this thing including Ron Perlman and John Malkovich; unfortunately the dialog is incredibly wooden. It only adds to the feeling that you’re watching a video game being played. There’s a ton of blood, but it looks so cartoon-like. It doesn’t really look like it’s even a part of the same picture, but rather animated over the frame. It really was a good idea and might have had some promise, but this one fails on pretty much every level. Game Over!
Mutant Chronicles is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. It’s almost impossible to rate this image. The picture as created is so messed up that it would be very difficult for even the best of transfer make this look good. Contrast is almost non-existent, so things tend to blend into the shadows. There is an almost total lack of color except for the cartoon blood. I imagine this dark monochromatic image was a matter of style. There’s some compression artifact that makes these vital black levels pretty poor. This is a hard film to enjoy even visually.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is just as much of a mess. Battle sounds are explosive and will awaken your sub, but it’s all a terribly mixed pot luck. Dialog is often lost in the mix. Perlman has a brooding habit here that would make him hard to understand under the best of circumstances, which this presentation is not. The score gets too loud, and the surrounds appear random at best.
There is an Audio Commentary by Ron Perlman and director Simon Hunter. This is one of those judge us by our intent justification tracks. Hunter seems to be lost in his own world and throws technobabble out as if it explains everything. You know what they say: If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with ….
The extras appear on the second disc which also makes you sift through trailers.
The Making Of Mutant Chronicles – A Documentary: (1:47:29). Man, this thing is longer than the film. It certainly covers everything from stem to stern, but it is very tedious to say the least.
Green screen and Storyboard Comparisons: (13:59) There are three scenes you can watch with the storyboards. Pick them individually or with the play all feature.
Deleted Scenes: (7:50) There are 6 in all, or use the play all feature.
Teaser Short Film: (7:16) There is an optional commentary here. It’s a piece intended to sell the idea of the film before production.
Making Of The Teaser Short: (3:27) Behind the scenes of the promotional short.
Interviews With Cast And Crew: (25:37) There are 13 in all, including pretty much all of the major players. You can watch them individually or with that play all option.
HDNet – A Look At Mutant Chronicles: (4:42) Merely another promotional short.
Visual Effects: (2:49) A very brief look at some of the gags used in the film.
Comic Con Panel Q&A: (11:37) Thomas Jane leads this Comic Con presentation giving folks a chance to ask some questions after watching a clip. He’s real high on the “outside the studio system” nature of the effort.
Webisodes: (18:08) These 12 short pieces are production galleries obviously placed on the web. They have a redundant long intro that makes this very tedious to watch even with the play all feature.
The film just never satisfies on any level. The image looks far too artificial. The characters are typical cutout stereotypes with no real emotional level at all. Even the final fight which should be filled with emotion feels way too matter of fact. We never really learn why the machine was sent to mutate humans. The society is one screwed up mess with little explanation outside of the prologue. The tag line for the film is “Have faith”. So far, “I haven’t seen much to have faith in”.
08/13/2009 @ 9:28 am
When this premiered at the Toronto After Dark Festival it had a short warm-up film which just so happened to be a friend of mine’s work that I was in.
It got better reviews than Mutant Chronicles by far.
Maybe they too should have congensed the film and saved John Malcovich the effort of preparing to do another moody speech.
08/13/2009 @ 11:16 am
Thanks for the info, William, and the link. It looks as though the opening act was better than the headliner. I’m interested in what your thoughts on MC might have been when you saw it at the festival.
08/13/2009 @ 1:42 pm
And sadly, I still want to see this film even if it is looking like a train wreck :D. Why am I always attracted to movies like this? LOL.
08/14/2009 @ 9:18 am
Sadly, I was only at the Festival vicariously through the movie I was in.
That and through reading the major buzz Lazer Ghosts 2 got and the lookwarm MC recieved. I mainly heard there is nothing really exciting about it.