DIRECTOR: christian rivers (debut)
STARRING: Hera Hilmar, robert sheeman, Leila George D'Onofrio, and hugo weaving
REVIEWERs: lyall carter and hadassah devis
Hundreds of years after civilisation was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw, emerges as the only one who can stop London — now a giant, predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy, an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang, a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.
When it was announced that the team behind The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, and King Kong's next film would be an adaption of Phillip Reeve's Mortal Engines, people, including both of us, got excited. The concept art and the teaser trailer followed and it looked like the film makers had lain a really intriguing world with fascinating characters before us to explore. We couldn't have been more wrong.
After a world wide cataclysmic event, civilisation as we know it has been destroyed with big cities now propelled on giant wheels and they set about devouring smaller cities. Hester Shaw, a young woman from one such city, attempts to kill Thaddeus Valentine, an extremely powerful man, for the death of her mother. She fails and is thrown off the city of London with Tom, an outsider. Together they must return to London to stop Valentine and his horrific plan.
Where do we start? Well unfortunately there is very little about Mortal Engines that is even remotely enjoyable. We really REALLY wanted to enjoy it. But unfortunately the characters are all cliched one dimensional creations that you don't really get to know or even really like. Perhaps its because the film is set at such a break neck speed that we don't stop to actually get to know anyone? Not too sure. What makes it even worst is that you don't really warm to or care about the protagonist Hester Shaw. She's actually a bit annoying.
The production design, even though its extremely detailed, feels like its just a mish mash of ideas chucked together. What differentiates London from the anti traction city of Shan Guo? We should be able to tell by the architecture, the costumes, and every small detail that fills each world. For example in Star Wars you don't have to be told that you're on Tatooine or Dagobah - you can tell that you're on a different world because it looks completely different. But we can't in Mortal Engines - theres just no apparent difference between any of the cultures we're presented with.
Sure there are huge spectacular set pieces that are packed to the rafters with action, but you have to care and be invested in the characters to be completely engaged in that action. And even though the CGI is spectacular at times its quite abundantly clear that they are in front of a green screen.
Its a real pity because we think that theres a really good Mortal Engines film in there somewhere but unfortunately all the components don't gel together as they should.
You really REALLY want to like it but unfortunately all of the components don't quite gel together as they should.