Home Staff Curt Cook Mortal Engines Movie Review.

Mortal Engines Movie Review.

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Mortal Engines is Peter Jackson and crew’s rebound after the widely criticized Hobbit Trilogy. At the Directors helm, Oscar-winning animation and special effects guru Christian Rivers; with Peter Jackson credited as co-writer and producer. The inexperienced Christian Rivers accelerates Mortal Engines in cinematic awe with its jaw dropping special effects and art design but falls short of telling an actual compelling emotional story. 

The film is adapted from book 1 of the critically acclaimed Mortal Engines 4 part series, of the same name, written by Phillip Reeve. The movie takes us through a post apocalyptic earth following the “60 minute war”, set 1000 years our future.  Humanity persevered through the destruction and have rebuilt societies aboard massive mobile cities on wheels that consume each other for survival. This steampunk designed tale follows Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) in her quest for revenge of the murder of her mother. The murderer Hester seeks is none other than Head Historian of London, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Hester has an early run in with Thaddeus in the film,  but is thwarted by apprentice historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan). Tom is eventually betrayed by Thaddeus after Tom’s daring attempt at capturing Hester, before she slips out of his grasp and out of the cities disposal chute. Tom follows the same fate almost immediately after Hester’s fall and they both get left behind by London as it trudges forward through the baron wasteland. Hester begrudgingly allows Tom to tag along on her journey out of pity for his lack of survival experience outside the safety of the cities protection. The story evolves from there and new and exciting landscapes and characters are introduced, but the story revolves around these 3 main characters for the most part. 

The film crumbles with it’s terrible pacing and jumps back and forth between present and past events with lazy writing and confusing subplots. The movie moves too fast and as a viewer I had a hard time caring about any character on screen. The pacing didn’t allow any emotion to be expressed or felt. The movie kept cutting story for bigger more grandiose action sequences and failed to focus on dialogue and character development. I believe it was Christian Rivers lack of film directing experience that allowed this film to hide it’s wonderful story behind giant CG steam powered behemoths. This kind of movie should have had an experienced director at the helm that would have taken the time to flesh out the characters and the emotion of this cool story, and let the special FX take the backseat to add supplemental value, instead of the other way around. 

Hilmar, Weaving, and Sheehan had compelling performances with the content that they were given, but the execution on behalf of the writers and production crew were sloppy and disingenuous. There were several moments I was taken out of focus of the story due to poor ADR recording and mismatched lip movement. Plenty of eye-rolls due to cheesy or lazy dialogue that seemed all too forced at big important moments. 

Now, criticism aside, the film does display a beautiful world of Steampunk fashion and technology that hasn’t been seen since the likes of Steampunk favorites like Van Helsing, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Atlantis : A Lost Empire. It is probably the most beautiful depiction of the Steampunk sub-genre I’ve seen on film. The special effects and battle sequences are fun and had me at the edge of my seat many times throughout the film. This film could have been great if they spent as much time on the script as they did on the art direction. Dialogue, character development and pacing were the real reason this movie fell short. If they hope to continue the Mortal Engines saga, I hope they fix these key elements or else they’ll be doing this wonderful story a huge disservice. 

Mortal Engines
DIRECTOR: Christian Rivers
STUDIO: Universal Pictures
GENRE: Fantasy, Sci-Fi
MPAA: PG-13
RELEASE DATE: December 14 2018
AUTHOR: Curt Cook