Mortal Engines Movie Review: Peter Jackson's Fantasy Film Has Breathtaking Visuals Lost in a Humdrum Plot
Mortal Engines Movie Review

Isn't Hollywood tired of doing movie adaptations of young adult books? Till now, we have had the movie versions of The Hunger Games, Divergent series, Ender's Game, The Maze Runner and so on. Perhaps it might be only The Hunger Games that stuck out in being the more memorable of the lot, purely because of the casting of Jennifer Lawrence. So when Mortal Engines was announced, again based on a best-seller in the YA fiction, I am sure many frustrated sighs had been let out. But then, Peter freaking Jackson of Lord of the Rings fame came on board as a producer with a screenplay credit. Our interest was back on board this Mortal Engines, directed by debutant Christian Rivers. So how well-oiled is the engine of this film? Well, the paint job looks good but the mileage is lacking! Peter Jackson's Mortal Engines To Release In India on December 7; Will Clash With Sushant Singh Rajput-Sara Ali Khan's Kedarnath.

Set in a bleak dystopian future (sigh!), many cities are decimated by some quantum energy attacks (I could totally imagine Scott Lang rolling his eyes). The remaining, surviving cities have put wheels under them and now hunt other cities for fuel and energy, literally. The biggest predator of them all is London (come on, time to make Brexit jokes), ruled by a ruthless but principled Mayor (Patrick Malahide) and his right-hand man Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), who is the Head of the Guild of Historians.

In London, also lives Tom (Robert Sheehan), an apprentice for a museum, who is interested in the artefacts of the present era that is now extinct in their timeline. After London captures a small town, Thaddeus survives an assassination attempt from a mysterious girl, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), thanks to Tom. However, while chasing Hester, Tom finds out that she has a dark past that has a connection to Thaddeus. Thaddeus tries to kill Tom when he finds out that the latter knows his secret.

Tom survives and is now out on the mainlands along with Hester. Both of them now form a reluctant partnership, trudging through various dangers in the wastelands, as they stop Thaddeus from his world-annihilating plans.

Mortal Engines curiously begins with the globe in the logo of Universal Pictures getting decimated. We then jump right into the action with a well-directed chase scene between a large city, London, and a smaller one. Just like how a predator hunts down its alert but helpless prey, London gets hold of the other city catching it by ropes and we are left breathless by the end of this.

Sadly, here's where all the novelty of the film also ends. Hereon, Mortal Engines delves into a very dull, and a lackadaisical plot involving a street-smart heroine with a vendetta of her own and a villain with megalomaniacal tendencies. Mortal Engines is heavily inspired by other movies of its ilk, from Elysium, The Hunger Games, Cloud Atlas, etc.  I haven't read the book, but I heard from those who have seen the early screening that the movie is true to the source. If so, why didn't any reader point out that the journey of the leads is a mish-mash four Star Wars movies - A New Hope, The Force Awakens, Rogue One and SoloPedro Pascal Likely to Feature in Star Wars TV Series.

Even The Terminator is thrown in to spice things up with a subplot involving Hester and her former guardian, an angry cyborg-human mashup Strike (voiced by Stephen Lang) who wants to killer hero now. While inspired, it is this subplot that gives Mortal Engines its rarest moment of emotional heft.

Both the leads, performed amiably by Sheehan and a self-assured Hera Hilmar, feel fleshed out because of the time we spend with them. I cannot say the same about the other important characters who end up more as fillers or death-counts. Hugo Weaving, who is good in any movie, is stuck in a paper-thin villain-ish role, that never allows the character to define his motivations. There is also a thread involving his sympathetic daughter Katherine (Leila George) and an engineer Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery) that feels very unnecessary to the film. We also have a badass rebel leader Anna Fang (Jihae), who arrives at convenient moments to save the leads, and has some cool action moves, but the movie never lets us get past through her tough exterior to make her someone to root for. Not to mention, many of them saddled with some lame dialogues.

"If I am a dinosaur, then what are you?" "The meteor!" Ahem!

And yet, like last week's 2.0, I would want you to give Mortal Engines a chance by watching the film on the big screen purely for its visual appeal. Mortal Engines features some really gorgeous frames (cinematography by Simon Raby) and terrific special effects, that make it stand out from the rest of the ilk. Right from the first chase scene to final battle, there are some very spectacular shots that nearly manage to wake you from the plot-induced stupor. Even after that very predictable climax, I couldn't just get over the final scene involving a plane flying into a striking landscape. The background score (Junkie XL) is apropos in the tone of the film.

Watch the Trailer of Mortal Engines here -


- The leads' performances

- The breath-taking visuals

- Some of the action bits


- A dull, uninspired premise

- Undeveloped subplots and supporting characters

- Not a memorable outing!

Final Thoughts

Mortal Engines is one of those films that purely deserved to be watched on the big screen just for the visual appeal. However, the movie is set back by a trite premise and lack of entertainment appeal.

Rating:2.5out of 5