A mysterious young woman named Hester Shaw joins forces with Anna Fang, a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head, and Tom Natsworthy, an outcast from London, to lead a rebellion against a giant predator city on wheels.
Produced and written by Peter Jackson, ‘Mortal Engines’ is a science fiction movie set in a post-apocalyptic future where entire cities are essentially mounted on wheels and travel around consuming smaller cities and towns. It’s based on a series of novels by Philip Reeve and this premise is brought to life well by director Christian Rivers, even if it was difficult to get the sheer scale of the motorised cities across from a visual perspective. The film is undoubtedly flawed with numerous plot holes and a steampunk premise that’s pretty hokey, but I really liked it in spite of that and I thought it was well paced and entertaining throughout.
The future this film is set in is a mostly barren landscape where most of the earth’s natural resources have been used up, requiring cities to roam the globe hunting for the resources required to survive. There’s a metaphor in here somewhere about consumption, and the underlying commentary of the film explores social and political elements wrapped around essentially an adventure story. The story is primarily set in London, the biggest of the motorised cities and we open with a scene that shows ‘London’ chase down and swallow up a small mining town. It’s a thrilling sequence which introduces us to the world before we start to get into the main plot, centering on Thaddeus Valentine (a villainous Hugo Weaving), a senior politician who is involved in a mysterious energy project, and a group of rebels who are attempting to stop him. Our main viewpoint is through Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), and after a shaky start they become a reasonably compelling double act to follow. I did feel that some of the character arcs were rushed (one of the downsides of adapting a large novel), particularly the character of Shrike (Stephen Lang) who was interesting enough that I wish we’d spent more time with him.
The film is just over 2 hours long and it flew by for me, and I thought there was enough charm to the film to overcome its many flaws, and I enjoyed ‘Mortal Engines’ a lot more than I thought I would.
Directed By: Christian Rivers
Starring: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide and Stephen Lang