Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae
Director: Christian Rivers
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), emerges as the only one who can stop London — now a giant, predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.
As soon as you saw the first promotional materials for Mortal Engines, I think everyone knew that if it was anything other than a massive box office and critical bomb it would be a complete miracle. And to the surprise of no one, this movie was just that. Ever since The Hobbit trilogy was released, I have been nervous about any big action projects that Peter Jackson has worked on, and Mortal Engines was no different. Weighed down by uninspired acting, a generic plot, and clunky effects, this movie was dead on arrival and shows us that some adapted screenplays should have stayed on the page.
The film follows Hester Shaw (Hilmar), a fugitive who only wants one thing in her; revenge on Thaddeus Valentine (Weaving) for killing her mother. After her initial attempt fails and Valentine attempts to sacrifice Tom Natsworthy (Sheehan) after he hears the truth from Hester, Hester and Tom team up to stop Valentine from expanding his plans to dominate the world. The thing that makes this movie fail from the start is that everything about this movie seems overproduced and underdeveloped. The film is so focused on trying to create this massive world that it does nothing to create a unique story or characters. Weaving has no business being in a film like this and certainly has no business giving the performance he did. His character is incredibly generic and he is your typical power-hungry dystopian society that offers nothing other than your generic action villain that no one cares about. This is complemented by a story that is equally generic and nonsensical where humanity has nuked itself and everyone lives in mobile cities that can swallow other cities and take their resources. Hester and her grudge against Valentine help mobilize people against him and his home city of London to prevent them from expanding his power any further. As you can probably guess, this plot goes exactly as you expect it to and offers nothing new or original. At 126 minutes, the film is just too painfully generic to warrant a runtime more than two hours, and towards the end I was just begging for the film to end. Add in a twist at the end that ends up pissing you off more than shocking you and the end result is a movie that makes you want to head for the exit as soon as possible. Add on to that all of the action sequences that are borderline unwatchable due to the cinematography and editing and you have a true recipe for disaster from start to finish. The sad part is, beneath all the mediocrity that this film brings to the table, I could see this being a genuinely good movie at some point. The first action sequence of London hunting down a small town is exciting and I wish we got to see more examples of these predator cities and maybe one that was bigger than London chasing it down. Outside of that, the relationship between Hester and Shrike (Stephen Lang), her undead guardian, is incredibly complex and interesting and I wish we had gotten to see it developed further. In a season where only the truly good or unique films stand out and make money, Mortal Engines could have used an injection of originality if it wanted to recuperate some of the money that was spent making it.
Overall, we all knew that Mortal Engines would fail in a spectacular fashion, the only question was how bad would it fail? Nothing about this movie seemed inspired or motivated by anything other than how to make back as much money as possible, and it could not even do that right. Jackson and Rivers need to go back to the drawing board for their next project, because this is certainly far from their best work.
Overall Score: 3/10