Studio: TVA Films
Starring: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, Sean Pertwee, Benno Furmann, and John Malkovich
Directed By: Simon Hunter
Running Time: 111 minutes
Ratings: Canada – 18A, US – R, UK – 18
In the distant future, 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.
Mutant Chronicles begins by offering a heavy dose of potential as the voiceover introduction in conjunction with the corporate war action set the foundation for an incredible thematically layered piece of entertainment. Sadly, it does not live up to its self-founded potential once a planetary evacuation is ordered. Strangely, this may have deterred from an exceptional film viewing experience, but it certainly did not ruin the experience.
The film itself makes obvious its roots in low budget filmmaking. It quickly becomes evident that ninety-five percent of the screen image is digitally constructed around soundstage footage. Although obvious, it is quite well blended. It gives the entire production a slight video game oriented atmosphere. In much the same vain, the visual effects of weapon fire, explosions, and heavy machinery all have an interesting pictoric quality about them that remind me of the beautiful artistic efforts found in Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow.
The list of performances and scripted moments that leave much to be desired seems to never end with this production. As mentioned above, the film shows plenty of promise early on. With several key narrations which are well written and have relevant subject matter, the film starts off with a bang. It sets us up for a charged exploration of the corporate aggression surrounding the acclamation of the almighty dollar at any cost. And the narration of said verses is spot on. Also, the short lived involvement of John Malkovich as an ailing and aging corporate tycoon offers plenty of performance intrigue for the audience to wallow in. His character clearly shows an element of fatigue with the state of his company and its involvement with current planetary affairs. Sadly, his appearance is far too short lived. Once he bows out of the plot, the thread unravels. From that point onward dialogue often resorts to profanity and/or quick one-line statements to complete the requirement of having characters speak in modern film projects. And the actors leave that dialogue exactly where it was written… On the page. Likewise, the story treads water and leads the viewer down the exact path that they expect. It’s like driving through the prairies. The horizon can be seen far in the distance, the highway is straight as an arrow, and the scenery is as eventful as you would expect it to be. Yet, taking your eyes off of the road is not an option.
The production value of this film really gets a boost from the work of director Simon Hunter. His use of the camera in setting up angles and action sequences with visual effects in mind is quite remarkable. There are a large quantity of plot advancing moments that result from exceptional visual coordination. Simon Hunter obviously knew how to capture what was needed to finalize his vision in every frame. In conjunction with the visual effects and direction, production design becomes the drop-in of the entire presentation. With an “on the verge of post-apocalyptic” setting, the production design offers plenty to keep the eyes regaling. Perhaps it’s a perfect marriage of low budget quality production design and strong direction with shallow dialogue and stock performances that keep the film from becoming a disastrous victim of the B-movie phenomenon.
Mutant Chronicles won’t become anybody’s “go to” Sci-Fantasy film, but it will certainly be a title that unexpectedly creeps into the mind of any genre fan when looking for a popcorn film night.
Crave Factor – 6
No extras included in the Canadian Blu-ray release of Mutant Chronicles.
Crave Factor – N/A
1.85:1 Widescreen / AVC
Mutant Chronicles was filmed much in the same manner that 300 was filmed. Mostly captured on a soundstage with plenty of green screen, the image quality obviously suffers a bit for the sake of a seamless incorporation of composition shots. Therefore, the image itself does have a number of flaws inherent within it. Therefore, I do not believe that any of these are due to the transfer itself, but instead are the results of making the film less graphically campy.
First, it must be said that the use of colour in the film is gorgeous. Most of the production has a sepia colour scheme with browns and greys taking prowess throughout; almost as though the golden hue of a setting sun squeaking through ashy clouds is ever present. Several scenes really create a beautiful image with sweaty brows and golden lighting. This also allows for the slash and spray to stand out as red blood pops on the screen, even in motion. The detail of the image is quite impressive given the nature of the softness added to blend visual effects with practical footage. But, detail certainly isn’t perfect as the blacks really keep the image from establishing any clear depth. The lack of black separation not only hinders the depth of the image, it also creates some minor artifacting in dark scenes where sharp on-screen light sources are visible. For a low budget Sci-Fantasy production, this transfer isn’t the best available, but it certainly isn’t the worst.
Crave Factor – 7
5.1 Dolby Digital TrueHD (English & French)
Dolby continues to disappoint with this heavily unbalanced presentation. The range of detail included on this transfer seems more highly compressed than usual. Trebles a lacking in pomp and the bass is lacking in circumstance. Neither the high end nor the low end of the track ever get to a reasonable point on the audio spectrum to make sound effects anywhere near realistic. The entire audio presentation feels flat and muted by comparison with other Sci-Fantasy productions. Another strike against this transfer is the volume balance between music, effects, and dialogue. There seems to be a three tier volume scheme in place with the track. First level is the dialogue. Dialogue is clear and highly understandable… until any sound effects come into play. Sounds effects make the viewer have to strain to grasp what the performers are saying during heavy action sequences. That is level two. The third volume level makes an appearance with the inclusion of orchestral music, which always begins a grudge match with the sound effects. I am glad to say however, that this whole scenario is never bad enough to have the viewer diving for the remote in order to compensate for the differences mentioned above. So, the good news on this one is that the track sounds great when there is only dialogue, only sound effects, or only music. Any combination of the three makes for an audible disaster.
P.S. At 46:27 in the presentation there is a decisive hiccup in the rear right speaker. It sounds a bit as though a wire connection has momentarily regained contact.
Crave Factor – 3
This release contains no disc menu.
The pop-up playback menu consists of options being placed along the bottom of the screen. The positive aspect to this menu is that the icon designs are rather nice and very fitting to the production design of the film itself. The negative is that they have no fluidity incorporated into them. Sub-menus appear and disappear abruptly, lessening the Blu-ray experience just a little bit.
Crave Factor – 6
Mutant Chronicles definitely has something to offer viewers despite all of its shortcomings. And, anytime a film is at least within the realm of being worthy to watch, there is always no doubt in my mind that Blu-ray is the format in which to watch it. Regardless of its weak blacks and unbalanced TrueHD track, the Blu-ray presentations is still going to offer the best possible experience available. However, with the complete lack of extras and the afore mentioned flaws, it now becomes a question of whether the Blu-ray is worthy of becoming a fixture within the annals of ones budding collection. And, the verdict is… nay. If anything, this reviewer recommends the Mutant Chronicles Blu-ray strictly as a “turn off my brain” film night rental.