Mutant Chronicles

Year: 2008
Production Co: Edward R Pressman Film
Director: Simon Hunter
Writer: Philip Eisner
Cast: Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman, Devon Aoki, Sean Pertwee, John Malkovich

There's no accounting for how some movies are received. Sometimes a distributor will buy a film from the producer, decide they don't have the money to market it (or that they money they put into marketing it probably won't be returned) and cut their losses, dumping it in the minimum number of theatres needed to satisfy a contract and forgetting about it.

That's the only possible explanation for why Mutant Chronicles flopped so utterly in the US and showed up in Australia with no fanfare whatsoever on DVD despite being based on a successful video game and starring several big names.

It's the far future and the Earth is mired in a war for resources fought constantly between a handful of 1984-style megacorporations that control everything. But the fighting destabilises a huge disc somewhere in the desert, and when it opens, mutant creatures with spears for arms crawl out, attacking people on a global scale and prompting a mass exodus of humanity to outer-space colonies.

A religious order's kept the secret of the coming mutant outbreak for centuries, and Brother Samuel (Perlman) knows very well the prophecy says one of them must remain on Earth to assemble a cadre of holy warriors to defeat the mutant menace.

So he stays behind, putting together a team of killer-by-numbers heroes of every stripe to lead into battle, and for a movie of this genre they're surprisingly fleshed out.

Is the movie brilliant? Absolutely not, but it has some great flourishes of action, visuals, characterisation and mood and it doesn't pull punches when it comes to language, bloodshed or violence.

Newbie feature director Simon Hunter uses a tiny budget ($22m) to great effect with lots of Lord of the Rings-inspired miniatures made to look expansive and massive thanks to the camera wheeling and flying through them.

From the First World War trench battle style of the introductory coda to the extreme sci-fi of the rusty alien stronghold in the climax, he knows he's making a silly popcorn movie, and he uses his camera and special effects to bolster it rather than use the script to wink knowingly at the audience.

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