Film Reviews

Movie Review: Mortal Engines (2019)

  • Directed by: Christian Rivers
  • Starring: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raferty, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, and Stephen Lang
  • Rating: 6/10

You would expect a movie that begins with an idea as out there as predatory cities on wheels would take more time to establish its exposition and background. Unfortunately, Mortal Engines was done a disservice by being condensed into a two-hour run time with writers uninterested in conveying anything more than a typical revenge story.

Even worse, our heroine, Hester Shaw, loses many significant moments to the male lead in the film. For some reason, their journeys are conflated and intersected in ways they shouldn’t.

Side-note: Robert Sheehan does make a charming leading man. I didn’t get the hype before this movie, and now I’m totally on board.

Mortal Engines has the makings of a new epic. The Victorian-era, steampunk aesthetic is intriguing. But the movie doesn’t do enough with its eccentric concepts to hook a new audience. Mortal Engines was always going to be a hard sell due to being a lesser-known property with such a bizarre premise. The writers get lost early on in their history, trying to establish far too little and far too much simultaneously.

It’s a beautiful film to look at, the production costs were astronomical, and Jackson does deliver a spectacle. It’s such a shame we don’t get to spend more time understanding the eccentricities of Philip Reeves’s world.

Even the action sequences are tepid and uninspired. The movie excels at creating stunning vistas and incredible machine designs, (I’d love to see the concept art), but falls flat almost everywhere else.

I was most disappointed the fighting sequences, even the climactic ones, felt so dull. Even the fight between Anna Fang and Valentine did little to inspire awe. You would anticipate something grander, given the film’s immense scale and size.

That said, I still had a great deal of fun watching Mortal Engines. I am surprised it received such low audience scores. I guess the concept was too out there for general moviegoers.

I wonder if, in a few years, this might be a film revisited with a cult following. The world-building is so compelling. It makes you forgive the lazy writing, at least a little.

I do give the film credit for enticing me to pick up the first book in Philip Reeves series!

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