“The Chronicles foretell of the release of the enemy, the ruin of the world, the final days of our age. But, they also prophesy the survival of Man. That Nakhdan the Deliverer, shall walk reborn among us, and deliver us from destruction.
“It is in the service of that prophecy that we are now irrevocably bound.”
Following an introductory sequence that establishes the nature of the film’s threat (an apparently alien machine which first landed here at the end of the Ice Age), we are quickly thrust into the middle of Simon Hunter’s Mutant Chronicles:
The year, 2707; the earth is ruled by four corporations—Capitol, Bauhaus, Mishima, and Imperial—massive entities who wage an endless war over what little natural resources are left on the planet.
But something is about to awaken that ancient, extraterrestrial machine, and only in the face of this all-consuming threat, will mankind unite, in a desperate bid to save the planet, and the entire human race.
The set piece that kicks off Mutant Chronicles—a border skirmish between Capitol and Bauhaus—effectively mires the audience, along with the suffering soldiers, in the brutal conflict that holds the world in a death grip.
Utilizing a grungy steampunk milieu for this particular future, Hunter (working off a script by Philip Eisner, who also wrote Paul W.S. Anderson’s Event Horizon) presents this section of the global conflict as World War I trench warfare revisited.
The explosions, the screams, the lethal gas, it’s all here, depicting war in a horribly intimate and visceral light.
There is nothing of today’s video game warfare here, with smart weapons launched remotely from locations insulated and far removed from the battlefield. Instead, this is the brutal combat of the early 20th century, where the blood, the sweat, and the dirt, are all too real.
But this mayhem pales in comparison to the bloodshed which ensues once the alien machine is set in motion, and implacable, inhuman hordes are loosed upon the already ravaged world.
Enter the squad of military personnel—which includes The Mist’s Thomas Jane, Sin City’s Devon Aoki, and Speed Racer’s Benno Fürmann—and the suicide mission that is quickly cobbled together by Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman), who represents the Order of Nakhdan, and is guided by the writings in the sacred Chronicles, an ancient tome protected by the silent Guardian, Severian (Perlman’s co-star in Hellboy II: The Golden Army, Anna Walton).
It’s in the hands of this tiny band that the final hope of the human race lies.
What is perhaps the most commendable trait of Mutant Chronicles is, it’s the sort of film that valiantly works around its budgetary limitations.
What we have here is an ambitious genre production that dares to tell a sweeping, wartorn tale of faith in the face of adversity, on a far humbler budget than your average Hollywood tentpole.
There’s quite a lot of green screen, CGI, and other assorted effects work here that, yes, look rather dodgy, but they’re in service to a narrative that boasts subtext, however fleeting, which is more than can be said for any number of big budget Hollywood monstrosities.
At its core, Mutant Chronicles is about how faith can thrive in even the most bitter and desperate circumstances, and that all will turn out right in the end, though perhaps not the way we may anticipate.
Given another pass at the script, a more dynamic action coordinator, and a Hollywood-sized budget, Mutant Chronicles could have stood a chance of turning out to be a genre classic.
As it is, despite its flaws and shortcomings, it’s still nonetheless an interesting, imaginative, and worthwhile watch.
Parting shot: It’s too bad that we see too little of Sean Pertwee and Shauna Macdonald, and John Malkovich’s role here is all but a blip on the film’s running time.
Parting shot 2: The film is loosely based on the Mutant Chronicles RPG originally published in 1993.
(Images courtesy of omelete.com.br [Mutant Chronicles OS and film images] and aintitcool.com [Mutant Chronicles quad].)