The same people who brought us the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies, not to mention one of my favorite films, King Kong, have delivered their latest effort, Mortal Engines. And one would think that the filmmakers’ track record coupled with a cool Steampunk-y aesthetic would make for an amazing movie experience. Unfortunately, it’s more like ‘a-meh-zing.’
Set in a post-apocalyptic future (yes, I know it’s “not Steampunk,” so just cool your comment enthusiasm already), Mortal Engines is a cross between Mad Max and Monty Python’s The Crimson Permanent Assurance (but with very little comedic relief.)
The story involves a giant city on wheels that terrorizes the countryside, plundering the resources of smaller cities on wheels. This is cool to watch, for sure, but if you are looking for some depth to your drama, this isn’t your movie.
Meanwhile, a young Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) is trying to avenge the death of her mother, who was killed by the big, nasty city’s lead historian (yes, one of those evil historians), Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), who is also trying to devise a quantum-bomb of some sort that will make him the king of this overall crappy new world.
To be honest, for me the plot was just a mash-up of tired, old, apathetic apocalypse-tropes and yawn-inducing pseudo-sci-fi. Early on I gave up even trying to follow it or make any sense of it all; which is a shame, because if as much effort had been paid to the story as there was on the special effects, this could have really been something awesome.
Based on the book series by Philip Reeve, the film also stars Robert Sheehan as Tom Natsworthy, Hester’s apocalyptic-adventure partner; South Korea born singer-songwriter, Jihae, as Anna Fang, a badass resistance mercenary; and Stephen Lang as a zombie-cyborg named Shrike, who has it out for Hester for lying to him. The Shrike sequences were hard to bear until the last one, which was, somehow, quite touching.
As mentioned, the visuals and the special effects are incredible and if production design were everything this would be a huge winner; the spectacle of it all is worth seeing just to ‘see it,’ as it were; but the story is mundane, nonsensical and, worst of all, forgettable. Grade: 5.5/10
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