'Mutant Chronicles' Review


Sort of a big, comfy quilt composed of flicks like Starship Troopers, The Dirty Dozen, and the highly undervalued Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, Simon Hunter's Mutant Chronicles has lots of stuff "wrong with it," and I'm sure the less amused critics will enjoy poking holes in its muddled narrative, a few overripe performances, some sketchy special effects, and its occasionally wacky dialog -- but it's these components (combined, of course, with some actual assets) that allow the flick to come on like a familiar buddy you haven't seen in a year or two. It's an unapologetically broad (but not silly) mixture of science fiction, horror, and high-mayhem action adventure whatnot, and if you're willing to judge a B-movie on its own terms, then I suspect you might just enjoy your two hours with 'The Chronicles'.

The plot, the characters, and even the basic presentation feel like materials found in a remake, a sequel, or a literary adaptation, but nope -- Mutant Chronicles is actually an original screenplay by Philip Eisner, who penned Event Horizon a few years back and still seems quite content to dole out sci-fi stuff with a harder edge.

It's the 23rd century and the last of Earth's remaining humans plan to mount an offensive against the horrible mutant bastards who live far beneath the ground. It's a full-bore "rogue's gallery" action flick, and fans of the genre fare will be pleased to note that while the characters aren't all that unique, the cast is pretty colorful indeed. Thomas Jane has no problem playing a hard-boiled futuristic ass-kicker, and throughout his quest he'll deal with folks as varied as Sean Pertwee, Ron Perlman, Benno Furmann, Devon Aoki, and John Malkovich. (That's not just a fun cast for a sci-fi / action / horror flick; it's a United Nations committee!)

The whole of the tale is framed much like a '40s-era wartime potboiler. One grizzled vet must gather a powerful team in order to save the day come wartime, and of course there are all sorts of diversions involving revenge, betrayal, sacrificial heroism, and just enough religious mumbo-jumbo to give the action scenes a breather. Where the film surpasses expectation is in the area of visual niftiness. Apparently shot "green-screen" style (much like Sky Captain), but wedged together with all sorts of amusingly incongruous components, Mutant Chronicles feels old-school and high-tech at the same time. Plus, this Hunter guy has a strong knack for twisting, tipping, and twirling his camera all around his action scenes -- so while some of what you're watching is broad or silly or more than a little familiar, it's also pretty slick, energetic, and fun to look at.

Focusing solely on the horror angle, Mutant Chronicles doesn't offer the most creative mutants you've ever seen, but they're more than ferocious enough, and they seem to take great pride in their carnage. The baddies resemble little more than freaky bums with claw-like arms -- but they're very intent on the complete destruction of humanity, which gives the movie ample opportunity to wade in scare-style sequences, just enough creative gore to keep you happy, and plenty of enthusiastic action scenes. All of which is another way of saying "Sure, go ahead and borrow from five or six other sources, but at least do it with a little energy and your own sense of style." You'll never hear me calling Mutant Chronicles a great, brilliant or (especially) unique little genre flick -- but you'll also never hear me say I didn't like it.

(Mutant Chronicles opens later this month, but you can see it NOW through all sorts of streaming methods. I, for example, caught it on my Xbox 360, but I've also seen it listed on my Comcast box as a Watch Now option. Pretty sure it was less than ten bucks!)