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Mutant Chronicles
Reviewed by Matthew Bey, © 2009

Format: Movie
By:   Simon Hunter
Genre:   science fiction
Review Date:   April 25, 2009
Audience Rating:   R
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

In theory, green-screen technology should unlock all budgetary constraints on a filmmaker's creativity. http://www.mutantchroniclesthemovie.com/ demonstrates how this freedom is not at all a good thing. This flick virtually explodes with creativity, when it should have settled for one or two things that made sense. Instead there's a silly mish-mash of concepts, all of which come across as cheap and ill-considered.

The opening exposition sequence explains this bizarre green-screen world, and it's about eighteen minutes long. Seriously, every time I thought it was coming to an end, it just added a new and increasingly unlikely conceit. I'll summarize, so if you decide to rent this on DVD you can fast-forward to the doughboy-on-mutant action.

Apparently it's a far-future world that happens to look exactly like the first World War, but with Warhammer-sized guns and coal-powered hovercraft (there's that silly mish-mash of production designs I was talking about). Oh, and there's an ancient alien mutant-making machine that had been sealed by a bunch of vikings or something. But don't worry, it's got nothing to do with the warring corporations that control the world.

Once we get down to the actual working parts of the movie, it's mainly people shooting mutants. It might be helpful to think of the mutants as zombie-aliens with claw-things for hands. There's a rag-tag suicide team of commandos fighting their way into the heart of the mutant machine, but for all intents and purposes they are just role-playing characters going on a campaign that could be any old campaign at all.

Mutant Chronicles is the end link in a nearly three-decade chain of mutant-related role-playing games and their spinoff series. This is why the movie looks like ninety minutes of clip scenes from a computer game you don't remember playing. It's just part of Hollywood's current trend of producing movies based on increasingly dated and often-times obscure geek product (consider my recent reviews of Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li, and Max Payne).

A number of recognizable actors condescend to do this movie, presumably because they could walk into the green-screen room and finish their part in twenty minutes. Thomas Jane stars as the poor-man's Christopher Lambert, which is to say he is Christopher Lambert for all intents and purposes.

Ron Perlman continues his Rutger Hauer-esque slide into crappy genre flicks, and Devon Aoki plays against type as a hot chick with a gun (instead of a hot chick with a knife).

But seriously, what the hell is up with John Malkovich? He makes a brief appearance, in a part that seems to reprise his role as Galbatorix in Eragon, and he virtually oozes boredom. It's as if Malkovich has no idea that he's a good actor.

If you put it all together, all the awkward greenscreening, the muddled production design, and the desultory acting, you can still say that Mutant Chronicles delivers on the mutant action. And heck, what's a mutant if it isn't a traumatically disfigured zombie with upgraded body-weapons? Surely, that's gotta count for something.

Matthew Bey, when you get right down to it, is a pre-death fast zombie with slightly elevated mental abilities and better breath.

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