Mortal Engines (2018)

Director: Christian Rivers.
Starring.Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang. USA. 2h 8m.

This majestic story of the fight for freedom in a world where cities hunt each other, has no shortage of outstanding special effects and dazzling action scenes but it lacks in having a matching narrative, something as compelling and hard worked to really make this apocalyptic fantasy enough power to be a fulfilling and compelling movie, however I’m sure that I am not the target audience as I no longer have homework.

Christian Rivers has worked so closely with the writer, Peter Jackson on many of his epic blockbusters but it seems that being in the driving seat took Rivers out of his comfort zone as he struggled to keep this meaty beast under control. So much attention was directed in this film looking so specific but in reflection it’s hard not to see it as a Frankenstein of so many other projects but in reality it just feels like a live action Ghibli story but without much feeling applied to it. Rivers does achieve a consistent theme but that’s about it in terms of accomplishments.

In this unique apocalyptic future, the world has been “destroyed” in a 60 minute war, an event which someone managed to catch on camera.. strange that. Now towns and cities travel around as massive all terrain vehicles, and the biggest and baddest predator city is London, much like the 1800’s when Britannia was out claiming and colonising the globe, under the command of a bold leader in the guise of Magnus Crome (Patrick Malahide), and his obedient servant Thaddeus (Weaving) who has a sinister black beard so gotta be a bad guy right? The movie breaks open as London has spotted a small provincial town, chugging by and decides to swoop in to collect it and it’s bounty in a near deadly chase. Despite the settlements running about on huge tires, it plays like a high sea adventure with harpoons slashing through the air but on board this particular town is a raven haired feisty woman, easily recognised by her red scarf that covers the scars from her past, the young, Hester Shaw (Hilmar) and she has a reason to be within London.

Once captured the people are stripped of their “old tech” and given places to live and jobs to do, kidna hard to work out why they were running in the first place, It seemed a matter of life and death but apparently there’s ample space in London and they get to just live there instead?

There’s a hierarchy with London, an amusement park styled mobile city made up of a concoction and memories of its greatness, old and new buildings are all piled up high, it has the underground, new dockside apartments and a few older relics, a museum that holds rare and precious American relics, i.e. minion sculptures, sometimes when there is a hunt the vibrations of travel makes things shudder around and the crowds go wild as they peer overboard at the show of dominance. Scuttering around the city is a young museum clerk, Tom Natsworthy is an intelligent and stout hearted man, who’s orphan status doesn’t allow him much privilege like access to the tube, but he gets to oversee a particular selection of antiques in the museum.
I was hoping that Mortal Engines would be a big breakthrough for Sheehan as he really showed his worth in the Red Riding Trilogy, not only playing a believable and difficult character but keeping his impressive role really fresh throw-out a number of movies, but in his playful role in this giant, he just comes across as a mere shade of his former glory. But despite being stifled in his acting he came across with more emotion and vibrance than his co-star Hilmar who owned the stern faced tough female part of her role but not much else.

Hester Shaw attempts to assassinate the man who made her an orphan, but she fails and is ejected from London, and through unfortunate events Tom is also ejected with her. The two strike up a strange friendship, Hester has spent most of her life out in the wilderness while Tom is totally out of his depth and has a lot to learn about the world outside of his world. but while Hester attempts to lick her wounds to make another attempt on her arch rivals life, she’s soon the target of a undead Terminator/Frankenstein creature known as Shrike (Lang) a creature she made a fatal promise to but this is the least of their worries as a power struggle within London leads to the victor powering up a devastating and terrible weapon much like the one used in the 60 minute war.

With an impressive start the movie really begins to crumble under the weight of giving their audience too much it has to believe in to really accept the story and it’s characters, it’s definitely a case of going bald or going home, but there’s only so much that you can dazzle an audience with before they realise they are being sold a dud of a story which doesn’t really go anywhere after the first hour. Movies don’t have to be complex but if you’re going to regurgitate a slew of old fables the least you can do is offer something new into the mix.

There’s certainly a wealth of elaborate landscapes and new societies to dig into but with so much of the movie relying on digital effects and green screen and not much weight on the human aspect it just feels like a steampunk music video, lots to see but not really much to make you think. But this isn’t the point of the movie, it’s a highly polished popcorn flick, it’s supposed to wow you with it’s capabilities rather than hitting hard with a Steampunk Star Wars as it was advertised.

Stylish and well designed, despite the strange logic that holds the movie together, there’s something to sit back and switch off to but once you look past the visuals there’s not a lot to scrape together which is a shame as we really need an epic fantasy film which doesn’t seem like another Lord of the Rings copycat, hopefully this is a

Rating 3/10

RHowl’s Moving Castle (2004), Star Wars (1977), Water world (1995)
L – London Films, City Flicks, Steampunk Cinema
5s – Hugo Weaving
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