Anyone who knows me knows I love movies. Especially Comedies. And Action movies. And of course, the apex of film making; the best of both worlds: the Action/Comedy.

So… is it shocking that I really didn’t enjoy The Road or Mutant Chronicles? Probably not. But I wanted to like both of them.

The Road & Mutant Chronicles Posters

Let’s look at their similarities:

  • Post-Apocalyptic Worlds – I can get behind this. The themes of man vs. nature and man vs. man that generally come out of these types of movies are timeless. Very few things can compete with a man overcoming his own fears and inadequacies in the face of extinction.
  • Overwhelming Odds – A world full of cannibals looking for their next meal and a world full of mutants that I guess are just looking to make other mutants… because… that’s what mutants do I suppose. (Oh, did I mention they have creepy mutant arm/blade things?)
  • Academy Award-Winning/Nominated Supporting Actors – Robert Duvall, John Malkovich and Charlize Theron were in these movies. How can you go wrong with these people?
  • A Strong-Chinned Protagonist – Though Viggo Mortensen and Thomas Jane are very different actors, they both have that rugged, “man’s man” quality about them. You might have a drink with them, you might share a laugh with them, but they’ll definitely kick your ass if you get out of line.

Both movies left me with a lot of unanswered questions. And while I don’t need a pretty pink bow tied around every plot point… I’d like to know what the heck’s going on, why it’s happening, and at least have some kind of idea of where it all ends up. That’s not asking too much for the price of a rental, is it?

In The Road, Viggo plays a father desperately trying to get his son to a warmer climate– why? Well, the world’s experienced a cataclysm and– What kind of cataclysm? Well… crap. You caught me. I have no idea what the “event” was, but it looks and feels like nuclear winter. Perpetual gray skies, no animals, no crops (hence the cannibals)… for all intents and purposes, it’s a dying world. But they never explain exactly what happened. Other than the fact that it’s really annoying, I guess it doesn’t matter. Nuclear bomb, solar storm, avian flu… the point is, the world’s being FedEx’d to hell and this father and son duo are traveling express freight.

I think the two are traveling south for more than just a sunnier locale though. I think it gives them something to do and a hope to cling to. His wife, played by the luminous Charlize Theron, doesn’t want to live another day in this barren world. She’s ready to call it quits, but Viggo’s not having it. They have a fight. She wins (women always do). But they compromise. She won’t kill their son, just herself. When she goes wandering off into the night to meet her imminent death, Viggo takes the boy and starts making his way down the road. Where’s he going? Heck, I doubt he knows. He says to the sea, but I think it’s more like “anywhere but here.” Every day of walking is another day alive.

Along the way he tries to teach his son about the new ways of the world, but the boy, maybe 10 years old, is still innocent and naive. When they encounter an old blind man (the inestimable Robert Duvall), Viggo wants nothing to do with him, but the boy, having only ever met a handful of people in his short life, is intrigued. They share a short night, exchanging stories and a hot meal (there’s a great moment here where Duvall tells a tale of how his own son died), then they’re on their separate ways again.

I think it’s the boy’s naivete that might actually be the most interesting part of the movie. Viggo is teaching his son to be hard. Maybe more harsh than this new world they find themselves in. And when everyone’s trying to kill you (or in this case, eat you), I’m sure I’d be right there with Viggo. “Stay away or suffer the consequences” would probably be my mantra, too. I’d LIKE to say it wouldn’t be. That I’d be just as kind and gentle as the boy here, but knowing myself, and seeing it in Viggo, I (sadly) think I’d shoot first and ask questions later (I’m not proud, just honest).

Maybe that’s why I found the end so unsatisfying. I needed Viggo to learn, just like me, that the boy had it right: it’s not enough to just live, to just exist as a human in a dying world, if it means losing your humanity.

But he doesn’t. No. He dies of some unexplained illness when they finally reach the beach.

Okay, while unsatisfying, it was still powerful. I was thinking to myself, “What the hell is the kid gonna do now? He’s all alone. NOW it’s going to get interesting… I wonder if they’re going to jump forward in time or something and show us what kind of a man he’s becom–”

–and that’s when, like little orphan Annie dreamed about, a man and a woman suddenly arrive on the scene and tell the boy they’re adopting him.

…um, what?

SERIOUSLY?! That’s it? Within a few minutes, the dad’s dead and the boy’s got a new family (complete with a girl about his age and an effing dog no less!!)? LAME.

No one learned anything. No one achieved anything. It all felt too… contrived. I mean, I don’t need to see Viggo’s character live to be a hundred, but damn it, let him make the DECISION to let these strangers take his son if he’s dying. It shows trust. Hope. A change in his character? Something. Don’t just let the poor bastard die on the beach wondering if his kid’s gonna survive another day.

Complete and utter disappointment.

Which is a perfect segue to our next movie: Mutant Chronicles — where almost every character dies or changes into—surprise—mutants! (…then they die.)

Because I’ve rambled on about The Road, which is to be sure, a better movie, I’ll try to keep this short, clear and concise:

3rd graders could’ve written a better movie than Mutant Chronicles (Hell, I think maybe 3rd graders DID write this movie).

Here’s the plot: “Far in the future, the Earth is dying. Warring armies accidentally uncover some type of machine buried deep underground that turns people into mutants. This in turn makes those mutants want to turn other people into mutants. (Huh?) A rag-tag group of mercenaries sets out with a mysterious device to stop the muties and the machine before the Earth is overrun with (dare I say it again) mutants.”

Thomas Jane… how far you’ve fallen since… well… crap, what movie of yours did I like you in? Doesn’t matter. I thought this movie might be a fun, guilty pleasure. Something like—”Hahaha… I laughed so hard at this movie, I have to tell my friends”—BUT NO! Instead it was more like—”WHY?! Whyyy?!” as I tore my eyeballs out and ran from the room, crying.

It’s not that there aren’t good elements, or great moments in this movie… wait… there aren’t. Nevermind.

Okay, I’ll relent, if these last, few, details interest you, by all means, please watch this movie:

  • Steampunk (Yay! Cool! Airships powered by steam– Wait, steam-powered airships blown out of the sky by non-steam-powered planes flown by… mutants? Um…)
  • Ron Perlman & John Malkovich (Two guys—along with Christopher Walken—that you can just watch, just WATCH, and even if they have no dialogue they can still deliver a one-of-a-kind performance– Wait, Malkovich is only on screen for, like, 10 minutes and he phones in his performance? Okay, well, surely Ron Perlman will– No? Totally unconvincing? Really? Huh.)
  • The humans survive/happy ending! (Sweet! The humans leave Earth and head to Mars to colonize and repopula– Wait, the humans get off planet, but the device that the rag-tag mercenaries thought would DESTROY the mutant-making-machine, actually ACTIVATED the muties spaceship and sent it off… towards… Mars??! I just… I– AAAAARGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH)

That’s it. I’m done.

I’ll give The Road & The Mutant Chronicles an F+.

The plus is for this review. Which I actually enjoyed writing more than I did seeing the movies.

Disagree with me? Have an opinion? Sound off here and stay on the run!

(And whenever possible, dodge crappy movies…)

— Joe Holt