Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines

(2018)

Adaptation of Philip Reeve's sci-fi novel series, co-produced and co-written by Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Stars Robert Sheehan and Hera Hilmar.... More

Set in a world many thousands of years in the future. Earth’s cities now roam the globe on huge wheels, devouring each other in a struggle for ever-diminishing resources. On one of these massive Traction Cities, Tom Natsworthy (Sheehan) has an unexpected encounter with a mysterious young woman from the Outlands who will change the course of his life forever.Hide

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Flicks Review

Set in a futuristic world where massive cities on wheels swallow small cities on wheels, Philip Reeve's four-book Mortal Engines series basically screamed: "Film me!" Who better to hear that roar than the powerhouse production team who made the gargantuan Lord of the Rings a cinematic reality? Making his directorial feature debut, Peter Jackson's long-time colleague Christian Rivers has constructed a beautiful, burly, bustling blockbuster that visually magnifies a crazy concept.... More

The story centres on Hester (Hera Hilmar), a rugged outsider looking for vengeance but who ends up side-by-side with bumbling historian Tom (Robert Sheehan) instead. Their relationship plays out generally as expected, though there isn't quite enough bond-building to fully capitalise on it and the dialogue occasionally begs for more comedic punch—especially given their polar-opposite personalities. 

Hester makes for a likeable lead, however, starting off as a basic badass before the tragic flashback narrative explains how she became this way. She and Tom know how much deception hurts, so it's truly endearing to see their mutual trust grow during the two-hour runtime.

Hugo Weaving gives a typically gravitational performance as Thaddeus Valentine, a man with genuine care in his heart but armed with a ruthless assertion to get his agenda completed. As charismatic as he is, however, he's out-swaggered by Jihae in a breakthrough performance as the rebellious Anna Fang. She's as suave as her James Dean haircut suggests, but punctures through that persona with effortless empathy for Hester, especially when the young lead starts looking beyond her singular quest for revenge.

Let's not kid ourselves, though. It's the incredibly rendered world and crazy central concept that make Mortal Engines run. The scale of the London vehicle alone flips the mind, engulfing the screen with a gluttony of sweeping camera moves and massive interior sets that give an astonishing visual impression of an impossible piece of architecture. Even the communities that exist underground, in the ocean, or amongst the clouds are gorgeously realised. One fight scene, in particular, makes great creative use of its unique space.

It all makes for an enjoyably bonkers illustration of greed, colonialism, nationalism, cultural absorption, and the human values needed to prevent this fantastical future from simply being... ya know... the future.Hide


The Peoples' Reviews

Average ratings from 9 ratings, 4 reviews
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Mortal Engines is a different kind of movie, one that brings you closer to the truth.

Everyone says don’t believe the hype except of course if the hype is for something to fail. The movie Mortal Engines will be a cult classic – guaranteed.

The only question is did you experience it on the big screen when you had the chance?

The critics tell us that there is just too much competition for Mortal Engines to succeed.

Can you even compare a big concept movie to a comic book movie... More depicting an underwater army of muscle bound fish men riding giant seahorses and sharks?

If not for the CGI most movies on offer these days are just children’s cartoons marketed cynically to adults.

Another criticism levelled at Mortal Engines is that the source material for the movie is just too old and therefore out-of-date. The first book ‘Mortal Engines’ was penned in 2001, with the last in the series ‘A Darkling Plain’ published in March 2006, over ten years ago.

To put things in perspective, Superman first appeared in comic book form in 1938, Batman in 39, Aquaman in 41. The first Star Wars Movie ‘A New Hope’ was released in May, 1977 – over 41 years ago. Transformers first aired as an animated kids programme in 1984 – that is 34 years ago. There isn’t much playing on the big screens anymore that isn’t a reboot/rehash of an idea that was first conjured up almost half a century ago, so stop telling me that due to the books being a paltry ten years old they are now irrelevant – that is absolute crap.

The main criticism levelled at the movie is the story itself. How can the narrative structure be at fault when it is the only big budget offering based on a book, a highly acclaimed one at that. If the narrative packed anymore punch it would have knocked me out. As for utilising more Hollywood star power, haven’t we seen enough fantasy and sci-fi roles given to Tom Cruise (no offense Tom).

To have some fresh new faces on screen was as refreshing as the movie itself. We see Tom Natsworthy develop as a character from an abiding Traction city-dweller to a more hardened and resilient freedom fighter. We also witness the transformation of Hester Shaw’s character from hardened outcast in pursuit of revenge to someone who learns to trust again, to love. We see the endgame in our technological pursuit to surpass nature in the robotised cadaver called Shrike.

What is the movie about?
The real question is how far do you want to go? If we could literally see what our combined actions looked like as a species then it would look like something akin to Mortal Engines. Yes, it is that kind of movie.
Even the name ‘Mortal Engines’ signifies that nothing we create lasts forever. If the whole concept of mobile predator cities seems outlandish then remember it was intentionally meant to be so. The mobile cities are a powerful metaphor for the ridiculousness of our human engineered systems and how far we will go to protect them. This movie poses some of the most profound questions of our age.

Such as how far will we go as a species in the fight for limited resources?

How far will we go to sustain the unsustainable?

If you want more there is also the 60-minute war between China and America that almost ended all human life. The development of powerful weapons capable of not only taking out entire cities, but entire continents. The metaphors in this film are visceral. You don’t just understand the concepts but feel them.

Watch something new, I dare you.

If such a big concept movie can be dismissed so quickly then it sends a chilling message to every future filmmaker, writer and artist hoping to pitch an exciting new idea.

It tells us that Hollywood is now closed for business, and that the bean counters who effectively deal with risk management have won.

But what have they won?

When we stare out across a cultural wasteland populated only by remakes of movie remakes, we will realise that this monopoly on ideas cannot last, that it is as unsustainable as the predator cities themselves, hunting down the last scraps of civilisation.

When every comic book series has been adapted for the silver screen, will they then let some new ideas through? And will the public brought up on a steady diet of regurgitated ideas, and repurposed cultural icons be able to even recognise a brand new concept when finally exposed to it?

The opening narration to the movie is one of the best ever. This harsh and crackling voice leads us straight into the most breath taking CGI action sequences ever created, all accompanied by a heart pounding score composed by Tom Holkenborg (aka Junkie XL) who also created the soundtrack to Mad Max Fury Road. In this amazing CGI world, which pushed Weta Digital’s computers to the limit, we have some great acting by Robert Sheehan and Hera Hilmarsdottir, a fantastic Icelandic actress.

What more could you ask for?

If creating a perfect film is not enough in this modern environment then what hope is there for the rest of us creators?

If this movie doesn’t succeed then the age of big concept movies is dead. There I have said it.

Mortal Engines - the truth is out there. Go and see it for yourselves.Hide


Do that and you may enjoy it. Overall its ok. Its like watching the Matrix, mixed with the terminator with a pinch of MadMax, Labyrinth, Lord of the rings and a bunch of ps4 games. Could have been two movies - would have made more sense that way. If you like to burn suspicious substances to adjust your reality then you may only fall asleep half way through.


This film made me glad I skipped reading the book on which it is based upon.


BY PercyM superstar

It has (some) visual elements to it, but not enough fuel in its narration and characters to keep it moving.


Showing 4 of 4 reviews. See all reviews

The Press Reviews

  • ...imaginative fun and escapist adventure. Full Review

  • In all its effortful steampunkiness, Mortal Engines isn't a film which is particularly exciting or funny, and the idea of the "traction city" is a stylistic and visual design tic that you just have to take or leave. Full Review

  • Certainly lavish and expensive looking but never thoroughly locks in to capture the imagination or sweep you off to a new world where you particularly want to spend time. Full Review

  • The movie devolves from promising to unwieldy, then baffling, then exhausting, then finally unintentionally hysterical. Full Review

  • Sticking with the anatomical analogy, the screenplay has had a lot to digest yet it's succeeded, laying the basis for a rousing tale in which action, character and a dazzling production design strike a perfect balance. Full Review

  • It might not do anything narratively you won't see coming, but it does it all with such pace, style and commitment to making every frame a thing of wonder, I couldn't help but admire and respect it. Full Review

  • While for me, Mortal Engines wasn't quite firing on all cylinders, there's no question it's a big screen ride worth taking, especially given the original source material. Full Review

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