Set centuries after civilization was destroyed by its own weapons of mass destruction, mankind now lives in huge, roaming cities. These monumental mechanical landmasses prey on smaller towns. Mortal Engines follows a scared and mysterious young woman (Hera Hilmar) who seeks to assassinate the leader (Hugo Weaving) of the largest roaming city, London. After her attempt is foiled she is reluctantly joined by a conveniently knowledgeable historian (Robert Sheehan) and together they go about stopping a powerful weapon from falling into the wrong hands.
Brought to the screen by Peter Jackson of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit fame and with the directorial debut by Christian Rivers, this is an ambitious epic. All of the elements presented should equate to a sprawling fantasy adventure to rival the tales of Middle Earth. Unfortunately the film buckles under its own aspiration, never quite reaching the heights of Jackson’s previous films or its source material. The film opens with a chase that is as visually stunning as any Hobbit adventure and sets the pace for the proceedings; it’s going to be a bumpy ride. While the ride is indeed bumpy, there is simply no point or heart. This is where the film fails mostly, by creating a fantastical futuristic world, but one without complexity or depth. Instead of letting the audience be drawn into the world, we are force fed exposition, upon more exposition which becomes tiresome. The problem with most modern fantasy films lay in the story and its leading actors, this is no exception. The plot has the potential to be more than a run-of-the-mil post-apocalyptic adventure with fast action scenes and stunning visuals, however there was no meaning behind the action and therefore non-existent stakes. Much of the supporting characters are sadly needless and therefore we don’t, nor the story, value them. Robert Sheehan provides a stroke of strength to the cast and is engaging to watch. The same cannot be said of the young females however who lack the same screen magnetism. Hugo Weaving’s velvet voiced talents are not utilised for an actor who is proficient in celluloid villainy.
The film has a handful of attractive and stimulating moments. A small sub-story involving the heroine and the cyborg that raised her is a tender highlight. Great cinematography with gorgeous visuals and an interesting steampunk chic all add to an involving but fundamentally flawed fantasy adventure.
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