What do you think of when you think of California?
Now that I've lived here one whole week, I'm the expert, so I'll tell you.
Sun, except when there's not, which is kind of often. Homes the size of really big homes. Grocery stores that charge a king's ransom for food, yet happily sell you store-brand vodka for $10 per handle.
And despite neighborly evidence to the contrary, I'm sticking to my stereotype that it's a land with the looks of a laughing blonde and the soul of a turnip. Then again, maybe I still just have a perspective-hangover from watching 2008's The Mutant Chronicles.
During the last Ice Age, men sealed away a space-borne machine that turns humans into ghastly mutants. Thousands of years later, an artillery exchange releases the machine, flooding the planet with homicidal monsters. Mankind is doomed -- unless monk Ron Perlman and his hand-picked soldiers can destroy the machine forever.
The Mutant Chronicles is set in a sort of alternate, geared-out World War I where four corporations fight for control of the world. For all it actually makes use of that setting, it might as well take place in the alley where you go to "adjust your attitude" every morning.
Don't get me wrong, it looks good. Very good, if you can trust the laptop monitor where I've been reduced to watching even my non-illicit materials. The Mutant Chronicles looks like the StarCraft-style video game based on if Philip K. Dick wrote a steampunk 1984 and included a pan-racial soldier squad. Appearance-wise, it's as derivative yet cool as all that suggests.
But it's empty scenery. Corporate sergeant Thomas Jane might as well be fighting in the U.S. Army. Perlman is just a Catholic priest who also believes in pasty, blade-handed freaks. Writer Philip Eisner does nothing to expand his world or his characters, introducing them with a sentence or two and leaving it at that. One dude's chief personality trait is he swears a lot. Now that's some [expletive deleted] good writing!
As for why aliens(?) dropped a mutant-making machine on prehistoric Earth? Can't tell you any more than I can tell you how this movie roped in name actors like Perlman, Jane and John Malkovich. I can tell you why swords hurt the mutants worse than repeated gunshot wounds: because they thought it would look sweet.
That does little to alleviate the crime of cramming an hour's worth of characters and back story into the first 30 minutes. The Mutant Chronicles probably could never have been a good movie. But with a different script, it might have been a pretty fine B-movie.
* Contact Ed Robertson at email@example.com.