as you read this, i am, with any luck, in a movie theater watching guy ritchie’s sherlock holmes. i don’t think that this will be the great cinematic experience of all time, but i do think it will be showy, flashy, and fun. all three of which i am totally in the mood for right now.
but rather than leave the “watch this space!” card up here, i have some thoughts on the mutant chronicles movie. i watched it a few weeks ago on netflix insty and, really, lord love netflix insty. there are so many things i never would have bothered to rent that i’ve seen on there because, hey, it’s there, right? might as well! the most recent example of this is the original clash of the titans so that i can go and see the sam worthington remake next year without feeling guilty.
the basic set-up for the chronicles is that a long time ago a spaceship — or large piece of unknown alien tech — fell to earth (think tommyknockers, here) and the zombie-style aliens inside immediately set about collaring all humans and submitting them to a kind of conversion process to turn them into more zombie-style aliens. pretty basic, right? you can more or less fill in the blanks from here: war to defeat the aliens; brave band of heroes; evil defeated — or at least pushed back into its hole; brave band of heroes retreats to safe point; vows to keep knowledge of terrible evil safe from the world except for those pledged to protect the knowledge and fight the evil should it ever return.
’cause you know it’s gonna return.
and so it does — in the middle of a centuries-later war being fought by the four giant geopolitical blocs into which the nations of the earth have divided. they just happen to be fighting over the site of the ship; some dork sets off a mine powerful enough to blow a hole down to the lock of the ship; and there you have it — you’re knee-deep in zombies once more.
the opening scenes of this movie resemble nothing so much as ben hawkin’s first world war flashbacks from carnivale. i kept expecting to see a circus bear or clancy brown around any corner. this isn’t to say they aren’t effective; they are. someone certainly took the blood/sweat/tears/mud/more blood/more mud lesson from the first world war history seminar to heart because they are swimming in it. literally at one point.
the cast of our second set of brave heroes is headlined by thomas jane, ron perlman, sean pertwee, and, from my point of view, devon aoki since she was the only other person to whom i could immediately put a name. there were several other familiar faces, too, though; worth looking out for. jane and perlman definitely throw the movie over their backs and carry it on several occasions. they carry it well and they carry it with style, but the story runs thin on the ground a couple of times. jane and pertwee have some excellent scenes together, notably their last scene together; ditto jane and perlman.
there’s a whole sacrifice/redemption theme going on which i feel is fairly common in horror movies or genre movies in general and which probably doesn’t bear particularly close examination here. perhaps if blogger agrees to be nice and publish this post, i’ll write something about it later.
the look of chronicles seems kind of steampunk’y to me — there’s a sense throughout the movie that the war between the four blocs has been going on for so long that technology isn’t quite moving backwards, but it is having to be cobbled together quite a bit. there aren’t replacement parts for things; broken machines are having to be welded together; revamped; recreated to make them work. the universe has that kind of world-weary feeling; lots of dust, grit, grime, slightly ragged clothes; chipped dishes; that sort of thing. and, man, this is a movie that loves its world-weary and pissed off heroes; we don’t settle for just one — jane — or two — jane and perlman — but we end up with a whole gang of them.
there are some really winceable moments, particularly in the first half where the “introducing the members of our brave band” tends more towards racial and cultural stereotype than anything else. the mexican character is loud, brash, offensive. the two asians huddle together and look obscure and knowing. the german is controlled, stern, harsh. you get the idea. get past that, though, and the movie really does make it worthwhile.
along with the story elements i wish had been dropped — see above; they really spoke of sloppy screenwriting more than anything else — there are some others i wish had been kept. there’s a suggestion, for example, when one of the mutants is captured and being examined early on, that the conversion process may not be total. someone undergoing conversion may be able to fight it or there may be some residual human left even after the process. sadly, this idea gets dropped pretty early on. it’s a shame because it’s really interesting and might have simplified some of the rather tortured story-telling that has to go on to make the last 25 minutes or so make sense.
in any case, overall i’d give it a 7 or 8 out of 10. i’m not sure why it works, but it does.