Simon Hunter, director of the SF action film Mutant Chronicles, told SCI FI Wire that he expects the film to be extremely divisive. Viewers can see for themselves now that the film is available through Ultra Video on Demand, or watch for its debut in theaters on April 24.
"It's got a very extreme look, which will be loved and hated," Hunter said in an exclusive phone interview last week. "It's that kind of feel to it. I think generally people won't come out with a bland reaction on this film. It's a slightly love-or-hate affair."
The film is set in 2707, where several nuclear wars have depleted the Earth's resources. Corporations fight wars, and a machine inside the earth creates mutants. Thomas Jane plays Mitch Hunter, a soldier who may be the "Deliverer" prophesied to destroy the mutant source.
Hunter worked in visual effects for commercials and short films in the United Kingdom. Mutant Chronicles began as a seven-minute short and is his first feature. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of our interview.
What would you like us to know about Mutant Chronicles?
Hunter: If you want to go and see an hour and a half of a fun movie—a mission movie where a group of soldiers go on a mission to the center of the earth to destroy a machine that's making mutants and that's taking over the world—[and if] you want quite hard-core action and a few laughs on the way but fairly intense, then that might be the movie for you. It's a very stylized movie. We went for a strong steampunk kind of aesthetic. It's very retro, even though we've set it in the future. The spaceships are steam-powered and things like that, coal-powered. If that's the kind of thing where you think, "Oh, dear, I don't like the sound of that," then don't go. But if you like it, it sounds good, head along and see what you think.
Are there political parallels to the story?
Hunter: A little bit. We wanted just a hint about what the world would be like if it was run by corporations as opposed to countries and what that would mean for everyone fighting for corporations. We open up kind of in the trenches in a kind of slightly World War I kind of feel to the whole film, but actually just trying to get across to them how the mundane brutality of war would so grind you down if you were just fighting for a corporation, something you didn't believe in, organizations that were just interested in commerce rather than your country. We tried to hint at that. It's not that movie, really. It's really a Saturday-night entertainment movie.
But there's social commentary in the way that most sci-fi is allegorical.
Hunter: Yes, it is, very much so. We try and deal with that. We do mention that, but, again, I didn't want to get too bogged down in the corporations part of the story. I thought, for this type of movie, you want to get going.
How do you come up with visual effects we've never seen before, in an age of The Matrix and 300?
Hunter: Well, it's a kind of look that you haven't seen before. What I certainly wouldn't claim is that it's cutting-edge visual effects that you haven't seen before, which is the standard line that everybody says on the summer movie, tentpole movies. That isn't this movie at all. It's stuff you haven't seen before because of the style that we went for. We went for a very, very retro, steam-powered feel, where everything's chimneys and smokestacks and metal and very organic and very earthy. Nothing is electronic or silvery. We used loads and loads of miniatures, matte paintings. We really went for a very impressionistic kind of style. As an independent movie, you're not going to go for that beautiful high-end kind of feel to it. We couldn't do that, so I went for a much more early '30s impressionistic cinema kind of feel, where it was a bit more Metropolis, less fantastic.
It'll be nice to see old-school miniatures again.
Hunter: Miniatures are always good. Even if you have a miniature that looks like a miniature, still you're inclined to like it, I think. Whereas if you have something created with 3-D from scratch, and it isn't quite so good, then you're inclined not to like it. ...
How did you come up with the look of the mutants?
Hunter: The mutants themselves, again, I didn't want to go with big 3-D [CGI] mutants. Again, that was a different movie that was not this movie. If you can't do that, then what can you do that will look cool and play to the strengths of being an independent movie? So I went for basically prosthetically altered human beings. The idea was soldiers who were killed in the battlefield would have a war wound, and they'd be dragged down into this machine, and they'd be fixed up again. They'd be kind of stapled back together by this big machine, injected with this fluid and re-animated. They effectively would come back to life as these mutant zombies. It was more interesting and slightly more disturbing to go for a human form.