So I just finished riding out an earthquake measuring 5.4 on the Richter Scale and it got me to thinking – what if mutants with sharply bladed bone-arms came swarming out of the ground and tried to cut my god damn head off? Well lucky for me, I had just seen The Mutant Chronicles and I knew the answer – find Thomas Jane and let him kick the shit out of them. Hell yeah.
On Saturday evening of the San Diego Comic Con International at 10pm, there was a special screening of this steam-punk game inspired flick with stars Thomas Jane, Devon Aoki, and Ron Perlman in attendance, alongside director Simon Hunter and producer Edward Pressman. Now, 10pm on a Saturday at the Con, pretty much everyone is starting to feel worn down and tired, but that didn’t stop myself and hundreds of others from filing into the room to catch the first glimpse at this new edit.
It’s important to note that this isn’t a full review – the film was not finished. According to Jane, they’re going to shave some time off of it and go through and tighten up the special effects shots. The movie doesn’t feel long by any stretch, though I think it could be tightened up a bit in a few scenes in the first 30 minutes. The effects in the movie, I’ll agree, do need some work as well. The CGI in a few areas could be cleaned up and refined. This doesn’t seem to be a big deal to me though for a few reasons – number one, the effects weren’t totally horrible to begin with; I’ve seen effects in far worse shape go to print (Ultraviolet, I’m talking to you) and secondly, there isn’t a lot of CGI. Computers helped put the scenes together in some places it seemed and there are a few things handled in CGI (some blood, explosions, etc) but a lot of the effects were done practically. There are a lot of matte paintings, which I absolutely love, and miniatures, which are awesome.
The art of the matte painting seems to be falling by the wayside, but if you watch the original Star Wars movies and John Carpenter’s The Thing you’ll see that a modern audience can be both wowed and fooled by matte paintings. Miniatures have a look all their own and when they’re done right, they’re fun and cool, even when you’re aware that they’re miniatures.
What’s really unique about The Mutant Chronicles is the look that comes together out of the effects choices and the production design. This is probably the first live action film in awhile to really take the idea of steam-punk and just go all out with it. We get steam-powered spaceships and the weapons let out bursts of steam when they fire, or at least a lot of smoke, and the world, despite being 2707, fights as if it were 1917. Gigantic artillery canons are used and the rifles, though looking wildly outdated, pack massive punches with fully automatic fire and explosive rounds. The different factions go at each other from trenches and still have to go ‘over the top’ and take the fight to the enemy.
The world in Chronicles has lost much of its natural resources and the land has been divided up amongst four constantly warring factions that are headed by corporations: the Bauhaus, the Mishima, the Capitol and the Imperial. The two that we get to see fight each other are the Bauhaus, who resemble World War II Germans in look and style and the Capitol, who are modeled off of the Allied forces of World War I. Thomas Jane stars as Mitch Hunter, a disillusioned soldier of the Capitol who is recruited by Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman) of The Brotherhood, to lead a small team against the Mutants. The real badness all starts when, in the middle of a pitched battle between Capitol and Bauhaus, a massive artillery shell unearths and unlocks a tomb that long ago captured “The Machine,” the device responsible for the creation of the mutants. The Brotherhood exists solely to safeguard The Mutant Chronicles, a telling of how the Machine came to Earth and what was needed to defeat it. Samuel joins Hunter on his quest to destroy the machine and stop the mutant army, which grows exponentially by converting the dead and wounded to their side. Fairly quickly, much of the Earth is overrun by the Mutant horde and those that can afford it flee to the safety of a Martian Colony, leaving the poor behind to suffer.
So that is a lot of back story to digest, but what you’re probably wanting to know is – does the movie have promise? The answer is yes, it does. It’s not for everyone and might end up being a “love it or hate it” flick because of the style they go for, but there is definitely an audience out there for this. The crowd I saw it with was pretty vocal – when heads got slashed and faces got stabbed there were cheers and screams. A lot of ass gets kicked, and a lot of people die. The opening battle sequence is awesome. It starts out as an artillery barrage, then steam-powered armored units advance, then its man against man and soon, man against mutant. There are lots of fireballs and bodies plopping down everywhere. Its a really cool steampunk version of World War I. The look of the movie really needs to be seen to be understood. It channels a little bit of the Sin City look, with the sets being created by artists but may have more in common with something like Metropolis in terms of the scale of the mattes being used and how characters interact with their surroundings. Make no mistake, you can tell that these things aren’t physically there but, because the movie embraces that style, it’s not distracting (to me, at least) and I thought it was cool and helped establish the film.
In summation, this is a pretty unique flick that packs in a lot of ass whooping. It’s a guilty pleasure type film, mixing old school effects, a dystopic world, mutants, guns, and sort of a B-Movie Horror styled plot, but done up a notch. The flick also takes some very unexpected chances at various parts of the storyline, which caught me off guard, but they were welcomed moves. The film is currently looking for distribution and some companies are interested, at least two big ones according to producer Edward Pressman. If the film tightens up in places and goes in and fixes certain CGI effects (some explosions and blood splatters need some work), it could really end up being a fun and unique monster bashing party. Also, Jane’s Hunter gives a line that is worthy of a T-Shirt: I’m not paid to believe, I’m paid to fuck shit up.
I’ll be paying attention to find you all a set release date and get a look at the finished film as soon as I can. When the time comes and you want a bloody and unique style of filming, The Mutant Chronicles might just be your cup of tea. The fans I saw it with had a good time (several of them were even dressed in steam punk attire) and queued up to ask questions of the stars afterward, who stuck around to indulge the fans. Stay tuned for more updates, but in the mean time take a look at the trailer to get a glimpse of the films visual style and the awesome gruffness that is Tom Jane and Ron Perlman co-starring in a film.
Stay tuned all this week as we bring you coverage from Comic-Con International. Not only will we be roaming the floor in search of love, but we will have the latest news Live from Hall H, great interviews with some of Hollywood’s hottest stars and random convention shenanigans, courtesy of our Comic-Con Attack Squad! To keep tabs on all of the happenings, just head over to our Comic-Con 2008 Homepage.