In a distant future, competing corporations have divided the Earth, turning it into a non-stop war-field of nationalistic, Orwellian proportions. Battles rage across the globe, and during one particularly brutal frontline assault, an ancient, dormant race of mindless killer mutants is unknowingly unleashed from a prison deep within the planet’s bowels. They make quick mincemeat of mankind, but not before a ragtag fighting force led by a holy man (Hellboy’s Ron Perlman) and a military hard-ass (Thomas Jane) descend into the underworld to destroy the evil machinations that drive the mutants.
Sounds awesome, right? Don’t be fooled. Mutant Chronicles is a film blessed with a premise but little else. The umpteenth entry in a roleplaying franchise that has spawned video games, comic books and more, the film plays as such — a messy cash-in that unsuccessfully tries to translate gaming thrills to the big screen. Green-screen technology is used to immerse the actors in the action, monsters and bloodshed, but the players are lost in the chaos. A clunky script doesn’t help. Stiff dialogue and uneven pacing sink Perlman and an oddly out-of-place John Malkovich, who appears in an extended cameo. These usually commanding actors can’t resist the downward pull, jettisoning their talents for line readings or, conversely, over-the-top cliché theatrics. The film does possess one saving grace, however: The strangely archaic, steampunk-influenced art direction is often inspired, proving that an interesting premise lies beneath the muck but far too deep for survival. Grade: D