Unless you’re big into the sci-fi community or follow the main actors in this film’s careers’ closely, there’s a strong chance you’ve never heard of Mutant Chronicles. Despite being headlined by such talent as Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, and John Malkovich this film was released in a total of two theaters in April and raked in under $7000 total. It fared much better overseas, but one would think a film that was able to round up this much talent would have had a better go at promoting itself. The film finally arrives on DVD and Blu-ray, however, in a packed release that is brimming with bonus features for what is sure to become a cult sci-fi film down the road.
In the year 2707, war rages between earth’s four giant corporations as they battle over the planet’s dwindling resources. In an era marked by warfare and social regression, the earth is on the verge of ruin, destruction is everywhere; battles explode on every ravaged continent. Amidst heavy combat, an errant shell shatters an ancient buried seal releasing a horrific mutant army from its eternal prison deep within the earth. As the mutant scourge threatens human extinction, a single squad of soldiers descends into the earth to fulfill the ages-old prophesy of the MUTANT CHRONICLES and save mankind.
While I’ve no qualms calling this film out for the steaming pile that it really is, I have to admit that I was at least won over a bit by what it attempted. In a desolate and mutant filled future we’re given striking visuals that are as off-putting as they are engaging and the acting is so horrendous that you can’t help but love it. So how is a film filled with so much wrong that it should be good still so…well, bad? I don’t really know; it’s got cult status written all over it, but at the same time it feels like a film that would saddle up next to a Starship Troopers direct-to-video outing. I wanted to like this, simply because I enjoy Ron Perlman’s other works so much, but there was just so much in this film that annoyed me that I couldn’t get behind it.
Before I tear into this film further, I should note there were some things that I did like. I loved the World War II era style clothing and battle situations. Going retro in the future is always something that’s been a cool visual piece and I’m glad that the film was at least able to give me that much. In fact, horrible blending of CGI and live action aside, the film is very atmospheric and moody. If this were a video game, I would probably wrap myself up in it and never leave as the visuals are on par with what we get from cut scenes in video games nowadays. That’s not a total knock (after all this is the paragraph where I compliment the film, remember?), as for what it’s worth the CGI would be absolutely brilliant if it weren’t trying to blend with live action elements, with lots of detail and vast cityscapes and battle views. I also want to commend the film on the gore; it’s probably the most brutal looking dismemberments and bodily piercings that you’ve seen this side of a Tarantino flick and I can only imagine how much corn syrup and red dye they peeled through on this one. As one final compliment to the film, the visual end of things really is a simultaneously mixed bag of crap of awesome. There are elements that look like something out of Sin City, with highlighted colors against drab backgrounds and other neat little visual cues and whatnot sprinkled throughout. If nothing else, it’s clear a lot of effort went into the visual side of things, even if it didn’t work out quite as planned.
But even if the film had some astronomical budget, it’d still feel like an abandoned Riddick sequel. With such a robust cast, I guess I expected more but no one really seems to want to be involved with this film in the least. Jane is withdrawn most of the time, Perlman feels out of place as a priest, and you can basically see the pain in Malkovich’s eyes as he speeds through his scenes with little care, clearly just wanting to get the hell out of dodge. Again, it’s a shame the actors show so little care for where they are, as I think with a little more support from them this whole mutant idea could be sold a whole lot more. I could’ve put up with the visuals that looked like a low-budget Sky Captain and the shaky looking makeup if the actors even gave a damn, but…it’s clear they all kind of regretted signing up for this one.
And then there’s the plot itself which is pretty much made-for-SyFy-channel caliber, with groan worthy plot developments and dialogue that makes you want to punch a baby. It’s just not a film that can be enjoyed by…well, anyone, really. Even fans of the genre will take issue with a whole laundry list of things wrong with the film, although you really can’t be too mad at the film. It’s a ridiculous concept on the outset anyway, so even the fact that this film got made with such star power behind it is a commendation in of itself.
Overall Mutant Chronicles is…well, a horrible film. It’s not even enjoyable in a way that bad sci-fi films sometimes are, simply because there’s too much in this film that could’ve truly turned out good. It becomes more aggravating than anything, because with a bit more time and money there’s no telling how unique of a film this could’ve been. Instead it’ll be relegated to censored SyFy airings (and there is plenty to censor – this film earned every bit of its R rating). Sadly even the unique visual style isn’t enough to warrant a rental, so you can just add this to the Skip pile.
How do you market a film that’s panned by critics (the few that saw it, that is) and generally just all-around disliked by everyone who saw it? Well…you release a Blu-ray that is packed with hours of bonus features, that’s how! Yup, if you disliked this film and wanted to check out what the “sorry excuse” for extras on this was…well, you’ll be blown away. And maybe be forced to appreciate the film a bit more as a result. The film itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with cover art reminiscent of a Drew Struzan painting, but…obviously less cool. Disc art mimics the cover and the menu setup for the film is really quite nice…more points towards the visual presentation of it all, I suppose.
The film arrives in the form of a VC-1 encoded 1080p 1.85:1 aspect ratio and it looks as you’d expect for a modern film. I will say the CGI here looks especially bad in 1080p, with an overly brilliant shiny sheen cast over the majority of it. What is grimed up still looks incredibly fake, but…again, budget. At the same time the cheesy visuals also look great…it’s a strange feeling to have when watching a film, but any issues I had with the visual presentation didn’t come from the video transfer. Nor did they come from the films DTS-HD Mater Audio 5.1 mix, which thudded and tossed its way around the room with the opening battle sequence as well as later firefights and fisticuffs. It’s a great sounding film to be sure and the Blu-ray definitely offers up plenty to write about, but…the film still sucks. Sorry.
Extras? Well here you go. Hold onto your butts:
Commentary by Director Simon Hunter and Ron Perlman
The Making Of (1:47:34, SD)
Deleted Scenes (7:50, SD)
Green Screen and Storyboard Comparisons (13:59, SD)
Promotional Teaser Short Film (7:15, SD) with Commentary by Director Simon Hunter
Making of Promotional Teaser (3:27, SD)
Interviews with Cast and Crew (25:38, SD)
HDNet: A Look At (4:42, 1080i)
Storyboards, Concept Art
Visual Effects (2:48, SD)
Comic Con Panel Q&A (11:37, SD)
Webisodes (18:09, SD)
Trailer (2:06, 1080p)
Yup. Not only is there a full length commentary but a nearly two-hour making-of. In addition to that there are copious other little extras scattered here and there such as the Comic Con Panel Q&A (which has Thomas Jane looking a lot more interested there than he did in the film) and cast and crew interviews. It’s an exhaustive set of extras and it did make me appreciate the film a bit more…but…again. It’s just a bad film.
I can appreciate what everyone did to make this come to light and if this were some kind of fan made, non-profit, internet video I’m sure it’d be more impressive. But even as I give it more credit than the latest DTV of some hackneyed sci-fi special, it’s really not any better than that. Which is a true shame. In the end this Blu-ray may be worth a Rental; between the copious extras and solid A/V presentation, there’s a bit more to distract you than just the mediocre film.
Mutant Chronicles is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.