'Mortal Engines' movie review: A visually stunning sci-fi film, let down by its mediocre story

Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk dystopian world.

Published: 08th December 2018 01:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 08th December 2018 01:20 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

Film: Mortal Engines

Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo

Director: Christian RiversWeavimg

Rating: 3/5

It looks like Hollywood is never going to run out of options when it comes to adapting novels to the big screen. The latest book to get a promotion to the theatres is Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines. On the lines of Dredd and the Mad Max series, Mortal Engines is also set in a post-apocalyptic steampunk dystopian world, and as the narration, which begins on an impressive note explains, the cities are mounted on wheels and motorised, and the only way for their citizens to survive is for the cities to prey on one another for resources.

Instead of taking the wheel, Peter Jackson, the director of fantasy films such as the Lord of the Rings series and its spin-off the Hobbit series, has stuck to production and screenplay, leaving Christian Rivers, who has worked on the visual effects of Jackson’s films, to make his directorial debut with this film. While the visual effects are hence nothing short of spectacular, the same can’t be said about the characters, the presentation and the world-building. 

Not letting go of its colonial past, London, the biggest ‘traction’ city in this world, starts off by capturing a small Bavarian city that it encounters on its way towards the East. What follows are the trials and tribulations of three pivotal characters — the villainous Head of the Guild of Historians, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), a low-class apprentice historian, Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), and the fugitive assassin, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) — in a two-hour long mash-up of multiple sub-plots. 

Despite Tom being the most likeable character, the plot doesn’t leave much for Sheehan to do, who ends up underutilised. As a resident of London who has never been out of the city, when he finally gets on the ground for the first time in his life, the film fails to make a deal out of it. Himar’s Hester has a far more interesting plot with her mysterious background, which includes a decent backstory sans the dreary father-sentiment angle. 

The film’s best moments include its subtle take on ‘old-tech’ such as iPhones and Minion figures gracing the shelves of the London museum. While we’re at it, the city of London in Mortal Engines has everything from the famous red telephone booth, the underground trains with the ‘please mind the gap’ announcements and even St Paul’s Cathedral. There are even funny references to how Twinkies have managed to stay fresh for hundreds of years. The VFX is lifelike and despite showing something as humongous as a moving city, the attention to details is brilliant. But the film relies too much on its story and visuals.  

A la Hunger Games and the Divergent series, people are divided by class but that’s something the film doesn’t really get into. That would’ve made for a far more interesting plot. What we get instead is a regular revenge story that moves the wheels of a larger incident, along with an unhealthy dose of a scuffle-turns-to-romance track, a Terminator-like father-figure and many scenes that remind us of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. The rest of the characters, like the ones played by Leila George and Ronan Raftery, are used as mere fillers. On the whole, with a predictable ending and rushed screenplay, Mortal Engines lacks an interesting plot to fuel itself to the finish line victoriously.

Stay up to date on all the latest Entertainment Review news with The New Indian Express App. Download now
(Get the news that matters from New Indian Express on WhatsApp. Click this link and hit 'Click to Subscribe'. Follow the instructions after that.)

Comments

Disclaimer : We respect your thoughts and views! But we need to be judicious while moderating your comments. All the comments will be moderated by the newindianexpress.com editorial. Abstain from posting comments that are obscene, defamatory or inflammatory, and do not indulge in personal attacks. Try to avoid outside hyperlinks inside the comment. Help us delete comments that do not follow these guidelines.

The views expressed in comments published on newindianexpress.com are those of the comment writers alone. They do not represent the views or opinions of newindianexpress.com or its staff, nor do they represent the views or opinions of The New Indian Express Group, or any entity of, or affiliated with, The New Indian Express Group. newindianexpress.com reserves the right to take any or all comments down at any time.

flipboard facebook twitter whatsapp