- Simon Hunter
- Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, John Malkovich
- 93 min.
- Release Date
Based on the role-playing game that spawned a slew of collectible cards, cheap novels, videogames, comic books, and other such memorabilia, Mutant Chronicles boasts impressive names on the marquee but suffers from the hapless direction of hack Simon Hunter. The result is impressively bad and should probably go on your “worst movies ever” list if you have one, and if you don’t, make one and put this stinker at the top somewhere between Battlefield: Earth and In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale.
Taking place in an impossible, nonsensical future, the film begins about seven hundred years from now when the world is run by five corporations resorting to grimy trench warfare to fight their battles. Soldiers are decked out in WWI garb and carry massive cannons, and they ride on flying shuttles powered by coal. During a bloody battle, the warring parties accidentally uncover The Machine, a device sent by an alien race, which regenerates damaged corpses into raging mutants. From The Machine comes an onslaught of angry monsters, their wounds patched with metal sutures, their right arms extended by a bony spear-like claw. The movie never addresses why the aliens want to change humans into mutants, but the old reserve that all aliens are evil simply because they are aliens probably serves as a valid answer.
Anyway, more silliness about this future arises when priest Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman) implores his leader Constantine (John Malkovich) to allow him to fulfill the “chronicle,” an ancient text that says twenty soldiers will save the world from the mutant horde. Armed with big guns and ancient swords, a group of roughnecks led by Dirty Harry wannabe Major Hunter (Thomas Jane) head into cities of stone that look archaic and abandoned, suggesting architects in this future have embraced medieval ruins as a stylistic choice. The group goes underground to destroy The Machine, all the while putting up with point-counterpoint arguments between Samuel and Hunter about their religious convictions or lack thereof.
And so, the film’s pathetic-looking bloody violence is countermanded by the pointless references to spirituality. Even the film’s posters exhibit the tagline “Have Faith.” But little more is said as to religion’s significance within the plot beyond Pearlman’s priest telling Jane’s rugged killer to “have faith.” Meanwhile, Jane replies in his forced crotchety grumble, “I’m not paid to believe, I’m paid to fuck shit up.” Major Hunter gets by uttering such crusty dialogue and propelling ridiculous displays of bloodshed: Take the scene where he shoots a stalactite off a cave ceiling just right so it penetrates a mutant’s head. Similar demonstrations of manliness are laughably bad, and if the filmmakers aren’t embarrassed, they should be.
Produced under no-name studios with a shoestring budget, the film’s special effects are rendered by way of green screen technology, a choice made by Hunter to capture the scope of the script for low cost. Backgrounds, foregrounds, and everything in-between—it’s all computer animated. The same approach was employed for 300 and Sin City, except with better results. Consider the rain and snow, which fall in diagonal sheets without the slightest variation, suggesting depth, like a constant layer of distortion between the viewer and the events onscreen. Or there’s the blood, a red so bright it’s almost luminescent. And every locale creates that awkward highlight around the actors (the only real objects in the frame) you only see with the cheapest of Hollywood effects. That the FX department couldn’t and didn’t resolve the phoniness of this imagery speaks to the lack of talent behind the scenes.
Containing all the necessary elements of a Sci-Fi Channel Original, it’s a wonder this film was ever made. And after production was complete, it’s a wonder that Hunter kept his name on as director. Mutant Chronicles is the sort of trash that would make Uwe Boll proud to call himself a filmmaker, while it makes the rest of us want to give up on movies altogether. Jane, Malkovich, and Perlman should have saved themselves the embarrassment, taken a loss, combined their fees for the film to hire some goons to break into the studio for the footage and burn it, and then make-believe it was all just a bad dream. That’s how I’m getting by—pretending it never happened. Like a horrible, stupid, irredeemable dream.