Mortal Engines (2018)

Genres - Fantasy, Science Fiction  |   Release Date - Dec 14, 2018 (USA)  |   Run Time - 128 min.  |   Countries - New Zealand , United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Review by Tara Hackbarth

The Lord of the Rings trilogy team has returned for a bleak story set in a dystopian future. After several years of development, Mortal Engines has finally hit the screen with screenwriter Peter Jackson revealing his passion project to unhappy audiences. Based on the 2001 YA novel with the same name by Phillip Reeve, the movie is set in the very distant future following an event called the "Sixty Minute War". The major cities of the planet have now become mobile and roam the post-apocalyptic Earth in search of resources. One of the largest of these is London and is already a huge resource hog, rolling around the plains of Europe and scooping up mining towns, then using them as fuel for its giant furnaces.

Giving a detailed summary of the storyline wouldn't be worth reading as it's one of the depressing and more faulting issues with this movie. Instead, the film focuses on a teen named Hester Shaw who wants revenge on Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), ruler of the traction city of London, for killing her archaeologist mother. Thaddeus has a daughter named Katherine who has befriended a young historian named Tom Natsworthy. Tom and Thaddeus have an encounter in which Thaddeus is stabbed by a young assassin but survives.

Tom and Hester set to find out Thaddeus's plans for the fate of humanity and this takes them close to death several times and leads them to a run-in with an anti-traction resistance led by Anna Fang. The entire film feels overtold and very reminiscent of an episode of Star Wars with the rebel-fighter pilots and resemblances to George Lucas's creation.

As awful as the storyline of Mortal Engines is, it is made up with the film's stunning imagery. With scenes reminiscent of a Mad Max vibe, the world is vividly designed with a steampunk post-apocalyptic landscape. Giant metal beasts tear through this landscape, and each other, leaving behind massive tracks. There are also sea travelling prison towns on crab-like legs, a floating hot air balloon metropolis and impeccable CGI throughout.

Another redeeming quality to an otherwise mundane film is the costume design. From suits made of monochromatic buttons to rich velvet trench coats, this stunning display of futuristic fashions creates intrigue as to who possibly could be designing such garments in this desolate world.

Feminists may also appreciate the independently strong female character leads if they weren't buried by misogynistic male roles for the film's need to create "romantic" melodrama.

Perhaps released amidst too many other great competitors (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mary Poppins Returns, Aquaman) or perhaps just late for its genre; needing to be made in a time of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings fantasy young adult era. Visually impressive enough to be good and worthy of a watch, but the mediocre acting and disappointing plot make it an easy pass.