#REVIEW: “MORTAL ENGINES”
Review by Jonathan Godfrey for Mr. Will Wong
The fantastical worlds of Action-Adventure Cinema are often inspired by Young Adult fiction, and Mortal Engines is no different. Based on the books of Philip Reeves, Mortal Engines takes place in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by weapons of mass destruction. Survivors are grouped into different factions: namely, the mysterious “League” who live behind the Shield Wall in the East, and the Traction cities who roam the West as massive metropolises.
The Film begins with the predator city of London chasing the small mining village of Salthook. Atop the latter is Hester Shaw, played by Hera Hilmar. As the spectacle unfolds, the monstrosity that is Traction Era London sets the stage for Hester’s revenge. She has a troubled past, and in her efforts to redeem it, she meets Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan). The two are forced to work together to take down the dastardly Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Valentine is your archetypal movie villain. He wants power at all costs and employs a variety of side-plots and supporting characters to get it. The most interesting of which is Shrike (Stephan Lang). Shrike is a mechanical man who has a connection to Hester Shaw. It’s best not to ruin that here, as this is something the Film will do via its incessant expository dialogue.
That’s right, this Film has a few flaws that may make it difficult for viewers to digest. The first of these is Storytelling. Although the Film makes ample use of foreshadowing and exposition to ensure the audience understands the world and characters within it, it never offers them a reason to care. The second major issue revolves around the characters. None of which are altogether interesting. For example, despite Hester beginning the Film as a driven young woman eager to reap revenge, she quickly falls flat and never comes back. Tom, Thaddeus and the added fodder that fill out the Cast fair no better. Making the Movie a spectacle without a soul.
It’s sad to see as this is a Film fueled by the creative forces that helped Peter Jackson build his resume. Left to their own devices they can’t seem to make a movie that transcends its fantastical setting. So though Mortal Engines follows the format of its literary origins, it doesn’t make for a memorable movie. Though it would be nice if there were a noteworthy performance or individual artistic act of merit to be mentioned, it’s sad to say there are none. Not even the score by the talented Junkie XL or the illustrious efforts of Weta Digital rise above the muck and mire that Mortal Engines finds itself stuck in. So in a season packed with noteworthy releases, this is one best viewed once it’s available on Netflix.
Universal Pictures Canada release MORTAL ENGINES Friday, December 14, 2018.