November 10, 2009

Rabid Rewind: "Mutant Chronicles"

Title: Mutant Chronicles
Starring: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, and John Malkovich
Originally Released: 2009
Genre: Horror/Sci-Fi/Steampunk/Role-Playing Game Adaptation/Cult/Kitch/Did I leave something out?

Tom Jane in The Mist, loved him. Ron Perlman in Hellboy, adored him. Devon Aoki in Sin City, lusted her. John Malkovich in anything, worship him. Throw in some rampaging mutants, gratuitous gunplay, and a broody chick with some wicked swordsmanship, and I should be loving this movie. "Should" being the operative word there.

I found out after watching this film that it was based on some role-playing game from the eighties. And while I don't want this to be taken as a slight against RPGs, there was something about the movie that made me think it was off-pudding (okay, that was a bit of a slight).

Positivity first: I thought this movie was gorgeous to look at. Heck, it was the stylized steampunk appearance that drew me to the film in the first place. Take a look at some of the screenshots of this flick floating around the net. B-e-a-utiful. The folks who made this movie poured a lot of love into the set design and costuming and sound. A majority of what I saw looked like it was plastered on a green screen, but that's irrelevant because it's just so damned pretty. And you have to hand it to the guys handling the CGI because their work blended in so well with the live action, I didn't notice half the time. When I did notice, it looked like the actors were playing dress-up in a painting, which I didn't have a problem with, either.

Where the movie disappointed me was the story. The premise was great, don't get me wrong. I just thought there was a bit of a pacing issue about midway through, a minor thing that didn't last long mercifully as the action picks up soon after the tinny exposition. And some of the backstory and its relation to the action in the movie irked me.

While set in the future, the movie has a historical feel thanks to the Great War era costumes and trench warfare at the beginning--don't forget the coal-powered airships (I know they didn't have those in WW1). And a long-buried device that changes humans into bloodthirsty mutants has been unearthed thanks to the unending warfare by nations-turned-corporations over scant natural resources. However, there's plenty of coal and gunpowder apparently. The human race managed to fend off these mutants back in the olden days when they had only swords and chain mail, yet technological advancements like automatic machine guns and grenades are no match for the geezly buggers.

So, mankind is screwed, and it's up to His Holiness Ron Perlman to recruit steampunk's answer to the Magnificent Seven in order to sneak into the very large and very accessible device that's underground creating all these mutants. And where did those initial mutants come from after one of the corporation's artillery shells opened the seal? The things been locked up tight for centuries, but within seconds both armies are decimated by hordes of the friggin' things. And where was the gosh darned sign posted to warn everyone not to open the seal to the buried monstrosity that will doom all humanity? We have signs to keep off the grass, but nothing for the most malevolent mechanical abomination in history. Go figure.

Anyway, Ron Perlman--I have already forgotten the names of the characters, so sue me--gets Tom Jane and a gaggle of others to help him on his suicide mission, while the rest of the world either evacuated the planet or sits around waiting to get impaled on the spiky appendages of the mutant army--another thing that bugged me about the movie was how the mutants were mindless, ultra-violent killers, but some could operate complex machinery like airships. In one scene, they're a swarm of rampaging barbarians, trampling over everything that movies. In the next scene, they're meticulous predators who surround and separate their prey before hauling them off to God knows where. What the heck was that about?

And I know it wasn't intentional on the film maker's part, but the only two black guys on the mission ... they die first. How obscenely clich├ęd is that?

Bah, enough bellyaching. The movies not that bad. In fact, if you're in a forgiving mood and are able to switch off your disbelief for nearly two hours, you'll likely enjoy this movie quite a bit. It's true that no one is winning an Oscar with this movie, but if you can sit through Michael Bay's Transformers, then Mutant Chronicles will be a cakewalk.

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