Movie: "Mutant Chronicles"
Genre: Science Fiction / Fantasy
Directed by: Simon Hunter
Writing credits: Philip Eisner, Stuart Hazeldine
Reviewer: Dr. Boogie
Plot: Just after the Ice Age, a mysterious device known as "The Machine" is sent to earth to turn the human population into mutants. A hero arose and led the humans to victory over the Machine, sealing it away deep underground. Centuries later, the world is controlled by a handful of megacorporations. During a war between two of them, the seal is broken, and the Machine once again begins turning humans into mutants. The mutant army threatens to cover the globe, but the Mutant Chronicles, a book written by the men who first defeated the Machine, tells of a way to stop it once and for all...
Review: I had first heard of the Mutant Chronicles franchise when they produced a video game wherein you dismembered zombies and mutants alike with high-powered weapons. It was an entertaining universe, to be sure, but I can honestly say I never wanted there to be a movie based on it. I mean, how are you going to explain an army of mutants wielding unheard of technology and magic, facing off against a number of megacorporations in the distant future, in around two hours?
Mutant Chronicles the film attempts to sidestep this issue with a couple big changes. The first is that the mutants, instead of coming from a portal on the newly-discovered tenth planet in our galaxy, come from “the Machine”, a massive device that was sent to earth by evil aliens just after the ice age. The other big change is that in the far off year of 2707, the world has decided to go steampunk rather than regular sci fi.
This is evident right off the bat as Capitol, the American/European megacorporation, and Bauhaus, the for-all-intents-and-purposes German megacorporation, are engaged in WWI-era trench warfare in Poland. Unfortunately, a stray artillery shell shatters the centuries-old seal that was preventing the Machine from starting back up and flooding the world with killer mutants. In the past, an order of knights was able to repel the mutant hordes and seal the Machine away. Unfortunately, the megacorporations only have firearms, explosives, spaceships, and thousands of trained soldiers at their disposal.
There’s only one way to stop the mutants, and it’s all in the titular book. Ancient brotherhood monk Samuel (Ron Perlman) must gather together a small group of soldiers to sneak into the Machine and use a mysterious device taken from the Machine by the knights who sealed it. The group embarks on their quest before anyone can ask why said knights didn’t just do this in the first place.
Up until this point, the movie was mostly just a dull sequence of CGI’ed mutant-on-human violence, but the movie begins a sharp downward slide the moment the assembled soldiers leave the ancient monastery aboard a coal-powered spaceship. One by one, the soldiers are picked off in ways that won’t surprise you at all (guy killed before the action whose death inspires everyone else, guy killed by a reanimated comrade, etc). Okay, that’s not entirely true: some will surprise you by doing stupid things just before dying.
At this point, you’re no doubt starting to pick up on one of the biggest problems in the film, namely that no part of it makes any sense. The movie insists that you not dwell for even a moment on any of the information you are given. The story itself is the biggest example, but in virtually every scene, you are presented with characters doing something that results in you thinking to yourself, “why the hell did he/she do that?” In one case, a soldier is injured when their escape pod crashes and can’t continue on. He decides that, in lieu of a single bullet to the head, he would like to take his own life with a grenade. Thank goodness Tom Jane is there to accommodate him.
Jane plays Major Mitch Hunter, the man who is undoubtedly the hero of the film because throughout the film, he is presented with hokey set pieces wherein he shows that he can stray from the mission to be heroic and still have time to stop those pesky mutants.
Despite his playing a bland, unremarkable guy, I have to hand it to Tom Jane for providing perhaps the funniest scene in the entire film: At one point, Mitch saves a wounded comrade from the mutants. Unfortunately, his friend’s wounds are mortal. The music slowly builds as the dying man starts to reminisce about the good times he and Mitch have had: “You remember that...” and Mitch blows his head off. In mid sentence. I laughed when it happened, but I’m guessing that’s not the reaction the director was looking for.
This film bears the name “Mutant Chronicles”, but it could just as easily been called "Dirty Dozen vs. The Mutants". The ties to the actual franchise are superficial at best, and without them, it’s just another Sci Fi Channel movie with a handful of celebrities slumming their way through a bad script set against some bad greenscreen work. I can’t recommend this film to anyone, least of all fans of the Mutant Chronicles franchise.
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)
Despite the review and despite the obvious hokey factor of the movie, I still want to see it for two reasons: Ron Perlman and nostalgia. Not for a video game but for a miniatures game. Wayback in my college days, in the 90's, I remember playing a Warhammer-esque spin-off game called, yup, Mutant Chronicles. What reminded me of it was Bauhaus. Your character was from one of the Houses (or corporations) and as such got a particular trait. You'd have a mission you needed to run through and accomplish all the while avoiding mutants, traps, and occasionally the other players. Not so big on the survival horror that this seems to lend itself too, but I'll give it a shot from the Red Box for a buck.
As a side note, I am sick and tired of people sealing away ancient evils. Especially when they know how to destroy them. These ancient warriors were all a bunch of jackasses.
Also, modern technology needs to step it up. How come ancient tech is always so much better at destroying these evils than modern ones? And for that matter, if the anicent civilizations had these great evil destroying weapons how come they're the ones who were wiped out?
And why is it that a group of five misfits is always more effective than an army?
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