27 April 2009

Movie Review: Mutant Chronicles


Mutant Chronicles
2008, 109mins, R
Director: Simon Hunter
Writer: Philip Eisner
Cast includes: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, John Malkovich, Devon Aoki, Sean Pertwee, Tom Wu
Release Date: 24th April 2009

“Mutant Chronicles” is an ambitious film just not a particularly entertaining or enjoyable one. The film has a few interesting ideas but also plenty of stale ones, certain sequences and ideas seem purely ribbed from films like “Aliens” and even “The Lord of the Rings”. Newbie director Simon Hunter has an intriguing visual palette and solid leading man at his disposal but nearly everything else about the film is messy and confused, not least the meandering and weak screenplay. Fans of this sort of thing might be able to derive a few credible adrenaline kicks from proceedings but otherwise this is a laboured and tired Sci-Fi action vehicle.

The film ladles on the plodding mythology a little too heavy, you know when an overlong voice over narration is required at the start, a film is going to be to dense for it’s own good. “Mutant Chronicles” makes good on that promise and features a wealth of objects, characters and various other intricacies that make the film an ever developing and unappealing mess. Certainly the film has lofty ambitions in terms of creating a believable and unique mythology, but sadly that aim never really comes to satisfying completion. In the distant future Earth’s resources are all but expired, and now four huge corporations dominate the globe and battle each other for the right to most of Mother Earth’s various fruits. One such battle leads to the unleashing of an ancient prophecy, a machine that can turn the dead and nearly deceased into vicious and insatiable mutants, almost unstoppable and with a voracious need to keep their production constant. They spread at a ridiculously fast rate and soon the Earth is engulfed with as many of the human population as possible trying to escape and rehabilitate on Mars. However a Monk named Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman) knows a different way to stop the ravenous hoard and save humanity from extinction. Left behind long ago was a scripture that tells how the machine can be stopped, and so accompanied with this information he recruits a selection of soldiers to go with him and put an end to the evil forever.

There is only one character and performance in “Mutant Chronicles” worth a damn, and that is Thomas Jane playing the embittered central figure in Samuel’s mission. Jane is a pretty decent actor and does have a knack for picking relatively interesting projects, but on this occasion his willingness to sign up for pure craziness has hurt more than help. He gives a reasonably effective central turn and is plenty stoic but the film around him just isn’t up to scratch. I admire his tenacity in pursuing smaller and more intriguing pictures but picking one that has a good script would probably help next time. Elsewhere Ron Perlman coasts on cliché as the wise Monk, and the rest of his reckless renegades are made up of two dimensional performers like Devon Aoki and Tom Wu. Basically it’s slim pickings on the acting front.

So does “Mutant Chronicles” deliver on the action? No, not really. The conclusion has potential and a few moments ramp up the excitement to an acceptable level but mostly this is a film content to get by on promise and gore. What I mean to say is “Mutant Chronicles” smaller scuffles always seem to be mounting to a big pay off but that never happens, audiences will stay purely because the picture seems to promise them something spectacular before the end. Needless to say it just doesn’t deliver, and as for the gore, it’s fairly self explanatory. There are also instances where the film seems to have mild pretensions as a horror film, but director Simon Hunter is not aware of fundamental tension and relies on cheap scares and added blood.

The script is filled with inane dialogue and asinine plot convulsions, and is overstuffed with needless characters. One has to give praise to the pictures atmospheric sets and washed out visuals but they are not and never will be a fair substitute for decent writing. It’s not like anyone ever expected to take tosh like this seriously, but it’s only fair to expect it will deliver satisfying degrees of fun. “Mutant Chronicles” however fails to succeed as even dumb popcorn entertainment, it’s not an utter waste of time but it’s certainly a theatrical inconvenience.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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