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Mutant Chronicles Review – Aliens Slugging Robots Slugging Zombies on the Green Screen

Mutant Chronicles Review – Aliens Slugging Robots Slugging Zombies on the Green Screen” width=”560″/>

Ten minutes into Mutant Chronicles and I was giggling like a schoolgirl. This bold attempt to make an elaborate science fiction epic on a shoestring budget appeared to have packed every conceivable scifi, horror and fantasy story element into one hilariously incomprehensible concoction. Everything’s here: Aliens! Robots! Mutants, of course! A dystopian future! An ancient clan of monks! A sacred book of prophecy! The promise that One will rise to save humanity from annihilation! Mutant Chronicles is your one-stop genre resource. You want it? We got it.

The movie’s closest cousin, at least technologically, is the wonderful Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, which also takes a green-screen-heavy approach to telling a hugely iconic science fiction tale. But Mutant Chronicles fails almost precisely where Sky Captain succeeds. Instead of a bright and colorful blend of live-action and animation, we get something so murky as to be almost unwatchable. And instead of a witty, self-aware play on classic genre archetypes, we get a turgid mess. Yawning quickly replaced giggling.

The year is 2707, and the world is consumed by powerful corporations fighting wars for profit. A fierce battle breaks a seal in the ground, activating an extraterrestrial machine that a group of monk guardians have labored to keep secret for centuries. The machine turns humans into mutants: Zombie-like creatures with a huge stabby appendage who spend their time recruiting more humans by impaling them and dragging them back to the machine to be mutated. There’s one way to destroy the machine, elaborated upon in a book called the Mutant Chronicles, which doubles as sacred prophecy and user’s manual. The task falls to our specially selected team of heroes, including a devout but badass monk (Ron Perlman, believe it or not), an un-devout but equally badass soldier (Thomas Jane), and a sword-wielding nun who has taken a vow of silence — as well as vows of hotness and awesomeness.

If you think this sounds like a bunch of delirious fun, you’re right — or you would be if the movie weren’t such a dull-eyed drag. It hustles from one ludicrous concept to the next, never pausing long enough to indulge in the silliness or develop a story worth caring about. The reason most movies don’t include aliens, zombies, weird mysticism and a lot of swordfighting is that each of those elements — except maybe the swordfighting — takes time to explore and nurture into something compelling. Here, we learn next to nothing about the mutants, the monks, the corporations, or the mysterious machine. We’re told they exist, and then told to move along.

Visually Mutant Chronicles is even more problematic: First, it’s ugly. Shot largely on sets in front of green screens, the movie attempts to create a wide variety of different environments — vast battlefields, underground caves, futuristic flying contraptions — but its reach exceeds its grasp. Everything looks muddy and indistinct.

One must make allowances for the low budget, but lack of funds doesn’t excuse the larger problem, which is that the action scenes are a disaster. There is no sense of geography whatsoever; when things got fast and loud, I got lost. Here’s a rundown of a typical Mutant Chronicles action scene: 1) Shot of dude wielding machine gun pointed at the screen; 2) Shot of slain mutant falling to the ground, entrails splattering; 3) Repeat twelve times. This is barely filmmaking.

Mutant Chronicles is clearly a labor of love. Its enthusiasm is palpable, though also shallow: A twelve-year old’s giddiness over monsters and aliens. The result is a movie only a twelve-year old boy could love — if only it were better-looking, sleeker and scarier.

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