Kaylee BrewsterMovie Review
One-and-a-half out of four
“Mortal Engines” has too many broken down parts to be a well-working machine.
In a post-apocalyptic world, civilization has been torn apart and cities have become giant mobile vehicles.
The biggest cities prey on smaller cities. London is one of the most powerful. It is led, in part, by Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), who wants London to be the biggest and baddest of them all (cue maniacal laughter).
However, his plans are disrupted when Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) attempts to kill him for murdering her mom. Her assassination attempt is interrupted by Tom (Robert Sheehan), who clearly doesn’t know how bad Valentine is. He soon finds out when Valentine pushes him off London.
The next hour and a half are spent with Hester and Tom surviving in the “Outlands” (which appears to be some ambiguous wasteland area) while trying to figure out Valentine’s plan and stop it in order to save the world, for obvious reasons. If Hester can get a side order of revenge along the way, all the better for her.
From the minute the movie begins, audiences are thrust into a brave new world. Some things are halfway explained, others aren’t explained at all. Words and phrases that get thrown around with little or no explanation include “anti-tractioners” (something about Lazarus and robots, land cities with walls) and “southies.” The script leaves viewers to sink or swim, and the audience mostly sinks in a sea of unclear information.
The plot also moves so quickly that characters get lost in the shuffle. In a well-told story, there’s a connection between the plot and the characters, how their choices affect the story. That isn’t the case here. There’s no clear sense of who the main players are and why they do what they do. New characters show up with a five-minute flashback about why they’re significant, then 20 minutes later they’re gone.
The one thing “Mortal Engines” has going for it is the special effects. The moving cities look cool, like a steampunk version of Hayao Miyazaki’s Japanese animated film “Howl’s Moving Castle.” For the most part, the cities look like real places. Characters run and jump through the cities’ engines and wheels. The film uses a combination of sets and computer animation so audiences can see a city’s almost life-like movements.
But dazzling special effects can’t save a film. It’s too bad because, if you scraped off the mess, there might be a compelling story with complex characters under there. Instead “Mortal Engines” ends up being junk for the scrapyard.