IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The Mutant Chronicles

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Adaptations are a good way to cull an established audience from one medium and transplant them into another to generate more revenue and attention for a given work. Just look at the success of The Lord of the Rings, Iron Man and even Twilight. Novels, comic books, even toys have had some success moving from some iteration of the living room to the big screen. Tabletop games, on the other hand, have had a rougher time, and given the disappointment of The Mutant Chronicles, it's not getting easier any time soon. The film stars Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, Sean Pertwee, Anna Watson and John Malkovich.

Courtesy Isle of Man Films
"We've got the Punisher, Hellboy, a ninja whore, an elf princess and Cyrus the Virus. We can't miss!"

The year is 2707. Cataclysmic events on Earth have transformed it into a wasteland, where what resources still exist are fought over by four mega-corporations: Bauhaus, Capital, Imperial and Mishima. An artillery exchange between two of these forces causes the unveiling of an ancient, massive and evil machine that turns the dead and dying into vicious mutants. The horde of the machine's creations spill out onto the world and soon it's apparent that conventional warfare can't stop them. Brother Samuel (Ron Perlman), a senior member of a secret religious order on guard against the emergence of the mutants, assembles a small squad of brave men and women to travel into the heart of the machine and put an end to its evil. In exchange, the volunteers are given visas for family or loved ones to depart the Earth for one of the mega-corporations' colonies on Mars or beyond. To keep a promise made to a battlefield brother, Sergeant Mitch Hunter (Thomas Jane) volunteers for the holy suicide mission, despite the fact he's the polar opposite of Samuel. While the warrior-monk is courteous, penitent and hopeful, the soldier is apostate, sarcastic and brutal. Still, before the end Mitch shows that he's a good man, or at least good enough to be chosen by God.

Courtesy Isle of Man Films
"Right, so my motivation for this scene is 'Finish it so I can go back to pretending to whore myself instead of doing it for real.' Got it."

From my perspective, The Mutant Chronicles had a lot going for it. The aesthetic is an interesting mix of World War I and post-apocalyptic steampunk, and it works in giving the film a feel that is at once unique and familiar. The cast is, by and large, character actors who turn in good performances. The film's opening sequences, with Ron Perlman's always excellent narration followed by the trench warfare scene, seemed to indicate the movie was aiming high and might hit the mark. And there's also the fact that you have Anna Watson and Devon Aoki together in the same flick. It can't go terribly wrong, right?

Courtesy Isle of Man Films
"Devon, I don't know if they're going to go for this."
"Anna, honey, you're a luscious action babe who doesn't talk. Trust me. They'll go for it."

Unfortunately, as the film goes on, the CG gets progressively worse, the writing takes a bit of a nose-dive and every character killed off takes some of the viewer's enthusiasm with them. The ending is somewhat predictable, there's no major character growth or even much character exploration, and the novelty of the aesthetic wears off once the team is in the old city and it becomes another expedition into your standard-issue dark rocky corridors. A lot of this, in my opinion, can be chalked up to bad direction. The director, Simon Hunter, makes the mistake of trying to focus on the spectacle rather than the story. Now, in this case, the story isn't that great either, but it bears mentioning that even movies with huge budgets in comparison to The Mutant Chronicles fall into this insidious trap.

Let me take you on a tangential example. Say you have a couple of script-writers. They write two different scripts, which get made and released in the same year. One is lambasted by critics despite being a commercial success, and the other is lauded by audiences and the majority of critics alike. Logically, this cannot be the fault of the writers alone. Yes, both scripts have some issues and similarities in style that can have critics calling both films "poorly thought-out and kinda stupid." However, the first film in our example is directed by someone who is known - perhaps even infamous - for distracting the audience from the weaknesses in the story with massive explosions and slender, panting actresses. The second is directed by more of an auteur, his visions on both the small and big screen noted for their innovation, strong characterization and level of mystery. The latter focuses on the characters, the situations they are in and works to have the audience invested in what happens to them. The former, on the other hand, goes the "tits and explosions" route. The Mutant Chronicles isn't quite that blatant, but it does fall into the former category.

That's a shame, really. There are good things about the film, and while I did feel it was overstaying its welcome towards the end, I didn't consider having watched it a complete and utter waste of time. If nothing else, it's reinforced my opinion that the good things about a film, be they actors, the script or the overall concept, can be let down when they're put in the hands of someone inexperienced or incompetent. I'll elaborate more on these points in tomorrow's post, but for now, I will say this. If you like any of the listed actors, or want to see a dark future where capitalism is shown to be pretty damn evil, or if you like the idea of steam-powered flying machines, queue up The Mutant Chronicles in Netflix. On the other hand, if you've played the tabletop game, you might want to skip this. You might find things to like about it, but on the other hand, you might be like those fans who went to Stark Trek this summer and declared it RUINED FOREVER.

Josh Loomis can't always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it's unclear if this week's film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain... IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

Ha! Not bad. At least it sounded better than the Dungeons and Dragons movie. Do we really need to talk about that one? Good review.

Great review. The only real problem I had with it was that I didn't feel like it was clear enough that it was based of a tabletop game. Maybe give a little exposition on what it was before it became a movie.

Other than that, really, really good review.

Great, I really liked the bit of about directors. Nice Job.

Alas. When will we have a good movie based off of a game?

lodo_bear:
Alas. When will we have a good movie based off of a game?

I think we've already had a couple to be honest. Never a great movie, but a few good ones. Allowing of course for the same type of liberties they have to take with comic characters and such (with decades of backround and such behind them).

While opinions are going to vary, I think "Resident Evil" falls into the catagory of "good movies" since it warrented TWO sequels which means that people came back for more twice. Albiet the last one left a bit to be desired conceptually.

The FIRST "Mortal Kombat" movie was also pretty good, although the second one was a nightmare.

"Tomb Raider" (again the first one) was also decent, and again did well enough to get a sequel made.

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I'll also go so far as to say that I think a lot of "bad" video game movies are actually pretty good to a certain crowd. I think Uwe Boll for example more or less deserves the title of being a "cult" director when I really think about it. For example I recently put a link down to his "House Of The Dead" when it was being shown for free on Fear.net. That's a movie I've seen three times already because it's so bad it's actually pretty cool. There are a lot of movies like that (for me) and it actually sticks in my mind. The same can be said about a lot of other things he's done. But then again consider I've also probably seen more Troma movies than is healthy, and watched Rhonda Sheer's "Up All Night" almost religiously for a while. :P

Of course we've got things like "Super Mario Brothers" which can't be considered entertaning in any context, but if you really think about it consider how many things stick in your mind as being fairly amusing from some of the bad video game cinema.

Therumancer:

lodo_bear:
Alas. When will we have a good movie based off of a game?

I think we've already had a couple to be honest. Never a great movie, but a few good ones. Allowing of course for the same type of liberties they have to take with comic characters and such (with decades of backround and such behind them).

While opinions are going to vary, I think "Resident Evil" falls into the catagory of "good movies" since it warrented TWO sequels which means that people came back for more twice. Albiet the last one left a bit to be desired conceptually.

The FIRST "Mortal Kombat" movie was also pretty good, although the second one was a nightmare.

"Tomb Raider" (again the first one) was also decent, and again did well enough to get a sequel made.

Interesting counterpoint. My first reaction was to disagree, but I realized that since I didn't define what I considered to be "good", I have no grounds to legitimately argue.

So what does make a good movie, and in particular a good adaptation of a video game?

Personally, I am partial to thoughtful flicks, even when I want an action movie. Take, for example, Pixar's Up.

Not everything can be as smart as Up, but I wish more movies would try. I know that the Rule of Cool is important, but so many films openly sacrifice their own brains to follow that rule (two words regarding G.I. Joe: sinking ice). That is my central issue with most video-game movies.

Therumancer:
I'll also go so far as to say that I think a lot of "bad" video game movies are actually pretty good to a certain crowd. I think Uwe Boll for example more or less deserves the title of being a "cult" director when I really think about it. For example I recently put a link down to his "House Of The Dead" when it was being shown for free on Fear.net. That's a movie I've seen three times already because it's so bad it's actually pretty cool. There are a lot of movies like that (for me) and it actually sticks in my mind. The same can be said about a lot of other things he's done. But then again consider I've also probably seen more Troma movies than is healthy, and watched Rhonda Sheer's "Up All Night" almost religiously for a while. :P

I count Godzilla 2000 among my top three favorite films of all time, so I can see where you're coming from here. Still, I long for a video-game movie that's good because it's smart, not because it's dumb.

Therumancer:
Of course we've got things like "Super Mario Brothers" which can't be considered entertaning in any context, but if you really think about it consider how many things stick in your mind as being fairly amusing from some of the bad video game cinema.

Heh. Super Mario Brothers is a shining example of how not to do it, for almost any given "it".

Getting back to my central point, The Mutant Chronicles sounds like it went for the dumb route, emphasizing spectacle and titillation (pun intended). There's a lot more to any given game than just that, and so I repeat my wish for a game-based movie that will respect the story that games have to tell, not to mention critical thinking.

lodo_bear:

Getting back to my central point, The Mutant Chronicles sounds like it went for the dumb route, emphasizing spectacle and titillation (pun intended). There's a lot more to any given game than just that, and so I repeat my wish for a game-based movie that will respect the story that games have to tell, not to mention critical thinking.

It certainly came off that way. In fact it had a lot in common with Doom, though I'd venture to say The Mutant Chronicles had a better realized story (such as it was) and more interesting characters who deserved more screen-time and exploration than they got.

BlueInkAlchemist:

lodo_bear:

Getting back to my central point, The Mutant Chronicles sounds like it went for the dumb route, emphasizing spectacle and titillation (pun intended). There's a lot more to any given game than just that, and so I repeat my wish for a game-based movie that will respect the story that games have to tell, not to mention critical thinking.

It certainly came off that way. In fact it had a lot in common with Doom, though I'd venture to say The Mutant Chronicles had a better realized story (such as it was) and more interesting characters who deserved more screen-time and exploration than they got.

Well Mutant Chronicles is an interesting universe, right up there with "Warhammer 40k" and suffers from the similar disadvantage that there is no way you could really condense all of that depth into the movie. In general both "universes" amount to dudes with fancy weapons blowing away bad things, and that's what it all boils down to. All of the exposition exists in text behind the actual games themselves which are all about the spectacle.

In the end shooting a mutant, or tearing someone in half with a chainsword, or whatever isn't all that deep, and that is what it all comes down to. Unless your going to do a movie with some Chapter librarian or scientist-historian rambling on for a 2 hour preamble to try and summarize hundreds if not thousands of pages of backstory to justify another 2 hours of straightforward sci-fi action movie fare... it just can't be done. Not many would sit through that either I'd imagine.

At any rate, I've had a thing for Devon Aoki for a while and think she's rather hot (disturbing nerdboy drool) so eventually I'll probably wind up seeing this for her at some point. Generally speaking I'm sort of surprised nobody has picked her up for more prominant roles/sex symbol duty yet. Possibly because shse's still too busy modeling (as I remember hearing she was like Kate Moss' apprentice). Most of her roles like in Sin City, or War, have been relatively bit parts.

Therumancer:
At any rate, I've had a thing for Devon Aoki for a while and think she's rather hot (disturbing nerdboy drool) so eventually I'll probably wind up seeing this for her at some point. Generally speaking I'm sort of surprised nobody has picked her up for more prominant roles/sex symbol duty yet. Possibly because shse's still too busy modeling (as I remember hearing she was like Kate Moss' apprentice). Most of her roles like in Sin City, or War, have been relatively bit parts.

You and me both. I think Anna Watson did well too, given what she had to work with and was, essentially, in Devon's role from Sin City.

 

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