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Review: Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines
5 10

PLOT: In a post-apocalyptic future, the remnants of civilization are divided into two camps: Tractionists, who roam the wasteland in giant mobile cities eating up smaller cities, and Anti-Tractionists – who seek to rebuild civilization by settling on land. Head of the Tractionists is Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), who survives an assassination attempt by the scarred Hester (Hera Hilmar), an attack witnessed by historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), who gets thrown together with Hester in a flight from Valentine’s minions.

REVIEW: What makes a company sink over a hundred million dollars into a sprawling fantasy epic with no stars, that’s based on a property with only minor name recognition, and blatantly steals from the MAD MAX series (specifically FURY ROAD) and STAR WARS? Peter Jackson I presume, with this being the latest effort from his WingNut Films, one which he also produced and co-wrote (with regular collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens).

If Universal was hoping this would be a new franchise, they need to think again, as despite some arresting eye candy, this is as generic a sci-fi/steampunk thriller as they come, made all the worse by a silly premise and so much-world building that it feels like a ten episode season of a TV show cut-down to two hours.

If ever there was evidence that fantasy, when not based on an established property, is better off being done long-form on TV, this is it. Too much happens too quickly. Characters come in and out of the film at random, only to perish a few scenes later in moments that are supposed to be impactful but aren’t. Others seems to exist only to provide exposition, such as a clunky subplot featuring the baddie’s daughter (Leila George) and an engineer (Ronan Raftery) who do nothing but explain things or catch us up on the complicated history of the film’s post-apocalyptic universe. It’s the kind of movie that if you pop out for a minute to go to the bathroom, you’ll be utterly lost by the time you’re back in your seat.

One of the biggest problems this film has is the fact that the characters are so generic. They’re based on familiar archetypes, and unlikely to cause an audience to identify with them in enough of a way that they’ll want to see a franchise built around them. No one is bad, per se, but a few more recognizable actors peppered-in would have helped this stand-out from the pack a little more.

Of them all, heroine Hera Hilmar stands out the most, with her flaming red hair and the distinct scar she’s given – although she’s far too attractive to justify all the characters reacting with disgust when then see the scar. It actually makes her look kinda cool – and I have I hard time believing it would make anyone shun her. Robert Sheehan is fine but two-dimensional as the romantic lead, and co-star Jihae, as the anti-heroine Anna Fang, is clearly meant to be a breakout star, but the performance is a tad stilted to really connect – although that’s not her failing as an actress, but rather a symptom of the material. As the baddie, Weaving is saddled with a ridiculous wig, while Stephen Lang, at least, manages to inject a little heart as Shrike, a kind of zombie robot with a grudge against our heroine.

I’d wager the only reason to see MORTAL ENGINES is if you’re a fantasy addict, but there are a lot of better options out there for your holiday viewing. The eye candy is pretty, but the premise of mobile cities is so silly that the premise falls apart before the movie can even begin – although I’ll give it this – it has an excellent score by Junkie XL. So maybe buy the score – but skip the film. It’s not worth the trip.

Source: JoBlo.com

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