Magnolia Pictures // 2009 // 101 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // August 4th, 2009
The 28th century. The darkest age has yet to come.
Behold! The most violent movie ever based on a board game...that is until we finally get that R-rated Battleship movie.
It's the future and huge multinational corporations are engaged in constant warfare over Earth's dwindling resources. After one particularly brutal battle, a rift is opened on the surface of the Earth and vicious, bloodthirsty mutants stream out, killing, smirking, and generally being aggressively unpleasant. As the planet evacuates, a few soldiers stay behind to help a monk (Ron Perlman, Hellboy) descend deep underground and destroy "the machine" that's responsible for churning out these murderous douchebags. This crack squad of mercenaries is led by Hunter (Thomas Jane, The Punisher) and there's a good chance most of them will die by mutant-stabbing before the end credits roll.
This one sort of snuck up on me. I recall catching a few trailers here and there and being intrigued by its unique look and its visual effects-heavy presentation. Plus, you know, guns and stuff. A little more digging revealed this was based on a board game, though a cursory look at the film shows there are a lot more influences at work. Mutant Chronicles is a smorgasbord of genre films -- Aliens, Night of the Living Dead, Predator, The Dirty Dozen, Saving Private Ryan -- jammed into a food processor and run on high for a couple of weeks. Then add a pinch of Bombast, two cups of Wanton Bloodshed, and a pint of Sneering Bad-Assery and, Blammo!, you've got yourself a movie.
It's loud, gratuitously violent, and derivative, but Mutant Chronicles will scratch that scifi-horror-action itch. Besides being an absolute joy to watch, the simplicity of the plot -- don't let the wanna-be complex mythology about destinies, magic machines, and warring corporations fool you, this is about a squad of hardasses fighting weirdos and blowing stuff up -- and the willingness of director Simon Hunter to drown his flick with massive amounts of hyper-stylized violence keeps this machine rolling along.
From the big, bloody World War I-like opening and post-apocalyptic mutant shenanigans, to a large airship set-piece and the big finale in the guts of Mutant HQ, Mutant Chronicles rarely lets up, stopping only to spit out some exposition that doesn't really go anywhere. All I need to know is that there's some diabolical machine underground pumping out deformed murderers who are in desperate need of slaying and, thankfully, once the requisite plot unveiling transpires (delivered in part by a John Malkovich cameo), events focus on the execution of this mandate. The action is brutal, goopy, and satisfying. It grows somewhat repetitive, towards the end, and the big face-off with our heroes against unbeatable odds is rushed, but it ends well with a nice battle set in the heart of the machine, an impressive CGI creation. Sign up for all that, and there's fun to be had -- just don't think too hard about the story.
Here is a prime example of a film being made for high-def. Mutant Chronicles is about as effects-driven as 300, and there is plenty to feast your eyes upon: the war-torn landscapes, the fights, the airship, the mutant machine. It all looks fantastic on Blu-ray, with only the stylized-to-the-point-of-cartoony blood effects suffering from the enhanced resolution. The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio matches up nicely with the visuals, blasting out a clean, active mix that uses the discrete channels to full effect. Extras: commentary from Simon Hunter and Ron Perlman, an excellent making-of documentary, deleted scenes, visual effects featurettes and comparisons, a promotional short film, the making-of the promotional short film, storyboards, Comic Con Q&A panel, interviews with cast aand crew, an HDNet look at the film, and webisodes. All in all, a very nice offering.
It won't be a life-changing experience but, going in with reasonable expectations, you'll have a grand time with Mutant Chronicles. Go for the Blu-ray.
Not Guilty. Now onto the big question: Mutants versus Narnians, who wins?
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Short Film