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I think we can all agree that, when it comes to guilty-pleasure movies, quality is the first thing that goes out the window. For many women, a guilty pleasure could be overwrought vampire romance movies. For men, a guilty pleasure might include crappy action/sci-fi flicks. Mutant Chronicles is, at best, a guilty pleasure geared towards the male persuasion. It’s just a mishmash of action/sci-fi themes and is no better than Reign of Fire. Although there are female characters, all of the pivotal moments in the film are geared towards making the star, Thomas Jane, look like an utter badass oozing machismo and stubbornness. Unfortunately, Mutant Chronicles is a hot mess that isn’t even that much fun.
Combine some religiously tinged “The One” overtones, Hellboy II’s Golden Army factory, Anaconda’s pacing, and some generic zombie-movie themes, and you’ve got Mutant Chronicles. The film opens with an unnecessary war scene that is unrelated to the rest of the film. Suddenly, in the midst of wartime, creatures with one lobster claw hand and staples in their heads start pouring out of the ground. This outpouring has been foretold for centuries but, for some reason, wasn’t expected. The creatures (mutants) come out of the ground thirsty for killing. A plane descends on the scene and some of the soldiers get to abandon the bunker and, apparently, the war is paused due to the mutant takeover.
The war is really just a plot device to set up the apocalyptic mood of the film. The mutants enter the scene when the cities have already been decimated by war and civilians are escaping to Mars. Enter Ron Perlman, looking scary without his Hellboy makeup, as a high priest who is the only human left with some hope for saving the planet. He must go to John Malkovich to get permission to cobble together a ragtag group of soldiers to face the threat. Luckily, Malkovich isn’t in the film long enough to ruin his career, but it is just long enough for us to lose some respect for him. Malkovich gives Perlman some evacuation passes to barter with and the go-ahead to use them to entice the desired soldiers.
If it weren’t for the abysmal dialogue, it might not be so obvious that this movie is so bad. Once Thomas Jane comes on the scene, the movie starts to tank – not because Jane is himself so awful, but because his character is forever spewing ridiculous dialogue. After Pearlman asks him to have faith, he responds, “They don’t pay me to believe, they pay me to fuck shit up.” He actually repeats this phrase later in the movie. It must be scriptwriter Philip Eisner’s idea of an action-hero catchphrase, but it falls flat alongside other gems such as, “Fuck mankind, fuck the world, fuck you.” The F-word is thrown around like a ping-pong ball, making it obvious that Eisner really has no idea what he is doing and that his career flat-lined after Firestarter 2.
Mutant Chronicles is so violent you might not realize it’s theoretically supposed to have a plot other than “fuck[ing] shit up.” The blood gushes out from humans and mutants alike in fake-looking, bright-red CGI. It’s difficult to tell if this “effect” is supposed to be director Simon Hunter’s idea of stylized violence or if it’s just really cheap CGI. In one of the early scenes a child gets killed in front of its mother. There are beheadings, a few assisted suicides, and so many people and mutants getting chopped in half that it is impossible to keep track. There might not be such a thing as tasteful violence, but if there was this is certainly not it. The violence in Mutant Chronicles starts out mindless and soon becomes numbing.
If you’re a dude and you absolutely adore militancy, Thomas Jane, violence, and sci-fi, there’s a small chance you will secretly love Mutant Chronicles. However, if you do, you should probably keep it to yourself. This movie is really just a mishmash of other sci-fi movies without the uniting structure of a cohesive plot; it’s really just a pile of violence. The dialogue is horrid scraps of action-hero rhetoric strung together with profanity. Even if mindless violence is your thing, the horrible CGI blood effects might just ruin the fun for you. Mutant Chronicles is a big, cheap mess. If you had high hopes for it, as Perlman says when they are about to enter the mutant factory, “Abandon all hope, mother-fuckers.” Trust me, it’s not worth your time or money.
The disc reflects the low budget of the film. There are no deleted scenes or featurettes, just some trailers and a commentary. Watching the trailer just reminded me that, at some point, I myself had high hopes for this film. You don’t see many indie sci-fi flicks, and I was seriously intrigued by this one. Luckily, I didn’t go so far as to pay 10 dollars to see it in theaters.
Although Perlman shows up on the commentary track with Hunter, he certainly doesn’t save it from being absolutely, mind-numbingly boring the whole way through. This is probably the least enthusiastic, most technical commentary I’ve ever heard. Of course, the lack of enthusiasm might have been a pace set by the very English Hunter. Perlman makes numerous mistakes about the content of the film and admits to having only seen the movie three times. It’s obvious that he’s not really that invested. Hunter, on the other hand, is overly invested in what he surely believes is his opus. Based on his commentary, I got the feeling that this movie must be huge in the U.K., because he assumed that the audience would be utterly fascinated by every little detail of the making of it. He kept saying, “people really like this part,” as if he knew that people had been talking about it. It made him sound quite silly and self-obsessed. But enough character bashing. I’m not asking for directors not to be self-absorbed; I’m just asking them to be at least mildly interesting at the same time.
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