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Rick McGrath [Film Festival 10.23.08] post apocalyptic movie review scifi steampunk



Year: 2008
Release date: Unknown
Director: Simon Hunter
Writers: Philip Eisner
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Dr. Nathan
Rating: 5 out of 10

Dr Nathan is unsure about steampunk extravaganzas like Mutant Chronicles – there is a certain stylistic joy imbedded in the fetishization of non-digital machinery, but ultimately you have to be very careful not to let the sets and props take over from the story, or you end up with the equipment as the movie’s stars, and the actors merely attendants with oil cans, or, in this case: god, guns and swords.

Mutant Chronicles does a good job of balancing the props and people so one doesn’t dominate, but unfortunately the people side is somewhat hampered by a less-than-stellar script and a proclivity to endless preaching about how god is love and love is life, and how these rotten mutants aren’t even life, but unlife, yadda yadda, and if we don’t kick their deformed butts then this is it for humanity as we know it.


Well, so much for suspense.

The plot is actually pretty cool, even if it has more holes in it than the Albert Hall and more derivatives than the Chicago options exchange. The year is 2707 or something like that, and the earth has been divided into four Orwellian states, run by corporations, and they’re constantly fighting over the earth’s dwindling supply of raw materials. During the opening battle a shell inadvertently opens up a big spiral hole in the ground where, centuries earlier, all the people of earth had fought these alien-made mutants, defeated them, and safely buried their mutant-making machine. Until now.

Free at last, the mutants are loose and ready to rampage. And they do. In desperation the corporations bury their profit/loss statements and join forces to battle these non-consumers. They’re losing bigtime and it’s looking like game over when it’s revealed a secret society was formed when the original mutants were whacked, and this group of vaguely-catholic monks is still around and has a last-ditch plan to wipe out the unalive before they kill everybody on Earth and then move on to wipe out our (gasp) space colonies.

Led by Brother Samuel (bravely played by Ron Perlman), our heroes form a sort of cross between the Dirty Dozen and the Fellowship of the Ring and embark on a suicide mission to destroy the alien machine. They’re helped by Brother Samuel’s nifty 700-year-old book of What’s Going On, a handy guide to mutant-killing that contains maps, instructions, illustrations, hints and tips – everything but a centerfold – and, of course, our merry band of saviors is only too politically correct, with women, Asians, a token black and various European types, all bogged down with guns, swords, knives, pistols and hand grenades – the usual array of death-dealing paraphernalia. I kept asking myself: how come there’s not a steam-powered tactical nuclear device around when you really need it?

Do they win? Silly question, but just in case you really want to see this movie fresh, I’ll not spoil the ending… suffice to say most of the action you want to see is crammed into the final 30 minutes, anyway.

Insofar as the acting goes, it’s generally of the wooden variety – not because the actors are bad, but because the script is... awful. MC was penned by Philip Eisner (he also wrote Event Horizon), and ya gotta wonder if he ever got past the MC board game and into the comic book. OK, he must have, because this ultra-serious flick has too many inadvertently comic moments – especially concerning The Book, which is dragged around through all the final mayhem to the point where our hero is still trying to read bits of it at the point of denouement! The audience howled.

The dialogue is mostly banal, a trait common with stories that rely on symbolic heroes, and pretty well all you can hope for is that it’s so bad it’s good. I’ll leave that up to you, but I can say right now the zaniest dialogue you’ll ever hear comes from Major Mitch Hunter (our dashing hero, played by Thomas Jane), who spouts thigh-slapping inanities even Captain Kirk wouldn’t utter.

OK, I’ve trashed the plot and writing – what’s great about this flick? As with Repo! The Genetic Opera, the sets, props and costumes are numerous and sophisticated. Only a few scenes seem to have been shot small, and the rest get their kick from computer graphics and animation – some great, some laughably bad. The greenscreen background shots all suffer from, or are enhanced by, the odd overall lighting that occurs when you combine fake and real footage. They try to compensate with sepia tones, but everything still has a smoggy sunset look to it. It’s actually not bad.

The opening sequence – a World War I trench warfare scene in which the mutants are inadvertently released – is one of the best in the film, except the background noise is so loud it’s hard to make out what they’re saying. Nevermind. With cool guns, a steampunk spaceship (I have no idea how it flies), endless rain, explosions and the rise of the mutants, it’s all hot & heavy action. And we get to see a computer trick they pull off throughout the entire flick: when someone is killed, the blood splatter is not only a thick, 3-D liquid, but a glowing liquid. Very good.

What about the mutants? Gee, I wish they were scarier. OK, they’re not the friendly freaks from Futurama, but aside from a few carelessly-stitched head wounds the only mutation they reveal is a long, horn-like extension to their right arms. That, and the strength to drive this flipperlike protrusion through steel, bone, rock – you get the picture. They’re also tough to kill, which sets up a lot of Starship Trooper situations where everyone blasts away at them, but they still manage to get close enough to stab you. How they eat, work, dress, etc. is never shown. I don’t want to know.

The alien mutant-making machine is great – our hero gets caught on it, but escapes before the buzzsaw equivalent gets him, and the tension-fraught but still sorta silly ending is open enough to suggest a sequel, should this version make enough dough in the dvd market. I’m predicting it probably won’t, but I’m just a little country psychiatrist unaware of how the forces of cultdom might treat this futuristic retread of Frodo and the Orcs.

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Anonymous (9 years ago) Reply

If you're not looking for every film you watch to be a poetic experience, or change your life you'll probably get a kick out of Mutant Chronicles. It would benefit from some more FX work and some sound editing but overall I thought it had an awesome look and some decent action.

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andy (9 years ago) Reply

This has got to be the worst movie of 2008. I sincerely regret having seen it - it's just a colossal waste of talent. The story is laughable, the special effects suck and the acting is subpar. You have been warned!

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Jackson (8 years ago) Reply

"This has got to be the worst movie of 2008. I sincerely regret having seen it - it's just a colossal waste of talent. The story is laughable, the special effects suck and the acting is subpar. You have been warned!"


You said man. Worst movie of 2008

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projectcyclops (8 years ago) Reply

Dare I watch this tonight?

Great review anyway, liked the Yellow Submarine reference.

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Anonymous (8 years ago) Reply

I seen the film a couple of times now and I really like the atmosphere. I like the throwback to how movies were made during the 80s and I think it's a neat little movie. Some very good actions scenes in it too. The DVD here has a good docmentary on it on how they did the fx and everything. I liked it a lot.

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max (8 years ago) Reply

great fucking movie loved it. watch it now or i eat you

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Gumby666 (7 years ago) Reply

I loved this movie, yeah, it's improbable, but so what? Good action, self-less heroes in the stoic old-fashion way heroes often were. This is pulp fiction, something I know about. And where else will you find Ron Perlman as a priest? "B" movie fun. I put it up there in the same catagory as Dog Soldiers as unpretenious entertainment.


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