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Review: ‘Mortal Engines’ is running on fumes

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Review: ‘Mortal Engines’ is running on fumes

Movie poster of Mortal Engines.

Movie poster of Mortal Engines.


Movie poster of Mortal Engines.



Movie poster of Mortal Engines.

Sam Lucio

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Originally a book of the same name written by Philip Reeve, famed “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson produced this movie and his longtime storyboard artist, Christian Rivers made his directorial debut.

I went into this movie knowing almost nothing about what this movie was and what the fictional world was like. After seeing the first trailer in December 2017, I was very intrigued. The trailer was vague and ominous only showing what I would later find out is the main character on a small mobile town being chased by a larger mobile city.

The movie follows the story of Hester Shaw, played by Hera Hilmar, as she is seeking revenge against the man who killed her mother. Hester’s town is captured by the main antagonist city, London, and she finds out that the man who her killed her mother is the leader of London, Thaddeus Valentine, played by Hugo Weaving. Hester stumbles across a young London historian, Tom Natsworthy, played by Robert Sheehan, and through a series of events leave London and are stranded and travel the barren wasteland together.

After seeing the movie, however, I am still left with a lot of unanswered questions. The movie dumps a lot of really interesting lore that they never really explore throughout the 2 hour and 8 minute run time.

That is probably the biggest problem with the movie, the story. The story felt rushed, overly simplified and I could tell that it was an adaptation of a book because of how many details were left out or that were glossed over.

A great example of this is a secondary villain, which chases Hester throughout most of the movie. The villain is presented as having a very important influence over Hester’s upbringing, but the delivery of that subplot has so little weight that I felt like it was completely useless.

At the end of the movie, once the main plot came to a conclusion, I said to myself, “okay, so what?” That could be said for most of the movie, as I felt like the plot had little to no meaning. The movie is a typical one where the good guys defeat the bad guys with little in between.

Despite this, however, the visual effects are simply outstanding. I felt like the visual effects were the main attraction of the movie and were truly something to marvel at.

The mobile cities are magnificent and intimidating in the way they are presented. You can really get a feel of how massive they are compared to everything else, as evidenced by the main characters walking in the treadmarks left behind which looks like small mountains in comparison.

Asides from land vehicles, they are soaring cities above the clouds occupied by airships and large structures heaving through the oceans on spider-like legs as well as untouched utopia-esque cities hidden behind a massive wall to protect themselves from roaming cities such as London.

The world presented in “Mortal Engines” is the true attraction and in my opinion, worth the price of a ticket.

I left “Mortal Engines” wanting more. “Mortal Engines” is not a bad movie but it had so much potential with the way the world is crafted and the story might leave a bad taste in most people’s mouths. Peter Jackson had said prior to “Mortal Engine’s” release that this was supposed to be his next major franchise. But, with only around $73 million grossed worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, and a projected loss of around $125 million, according to Variety, it is nearly impossible that we will get to revisit the world of “Mortal Engines.”

Rating: 7 out of 10

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About the Writer
Sam Lucio, Reviews Editor

Sam is a journalist with a passion for storytelling, and is a Mass Communication Junior. He currently serve as the Reviews Editor. He has also been Social...


2 Responses to “Review: ‘Mortal Engines’ is running on fumes”

  1. Daniel on January 21st, 2019 1:35 am

    Mortal Engines: Rise – The World of the Traction Cities.

    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 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.

  2. Anonymous on January 21st, 2019 7:41 am

    It is clear that the Mortal Engines movie is already a botched opportunity and a total mess. A decade from now, we’ll probably see Mortal Engines be rebooted on TV, because of television’s ability to tackle complex stories.

    Deborah Forte is working on the yet-to-be-aired His Dark Materials TV adaptation for the BBC and HBO, to be aired, maybe concurrent with the Rapture or the nuclear apocalypse? As in the case of its first official look?

    We won’t ever get to play a game based on the Mortal Engines universe. The only Mortal Engines game in existence is limited to just only space-combat simulators, like the one being powered by the revamped FreeSpace 2 game engine. That one not only serves as an actual, but stealth sequel, but also in the FreeSpace universe. In that game, I am sure it’s going to be End of Line for not just the surviving characters from that film, but also the entire world of Mortal Engines.

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Review: ‘Mortal Engines’ is running on fumes