Mortal Engines

Co-written and produced by legendary filmmaker Peter Jackson who is best known for directing the massively popular and acclaimed Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film series, Mortal Engines is a visually arresting and creative blockbuster movie that follows in the long line of post-apocalyptic films based on young adult fiction, but, ultimately, the weak script filled with plot holes and devoid of truly compelling characters is a recipe for a massive flop. Based on the Mortal Engines novel quartet written by Philip Reeve beginning in 2001, the plot revolves around the young revolutionary Hester Shaw, played by Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, who lives in a post-apocalyptic world in which most of humanity lives on massive mobile cities that rove the so-called Great Hunting Ground and must take over smaller settlements on wheels in order for the larger communities such as London to survive. The visuals very much reminded me of the Mad Max movies in which elaborate machines built from a hodgepodge of antiquated technology move across desolate and immense landscapes. The protagonist Hester is on a revenge mission to kill one of London’s leaders named Thaddeus Valentine, played by the only recognizable actor Hugo Weaving, who was responsible for her mother’s death years ago. At the same time, she sympathizes with the opposition Anti-Traction League whose people live on static settlements behind the Shield Wall in what used to be Asia. Rather stereotypically in movies in this genre, the young heroine must fight off evil forces who pose an existential threat to the good guys. The secretly malevolent Valentine whose own daughter Katherine does not really know his intentions is in search of Old-Tech weapons that can wipe out the Anti-Tractionists living beyond the previously impenetrable Shield Wall. Eventually, Hester along with an apprentice historian from London named Tom, played by Irish actor Robert Sheehan, team up with a revolutionary leader named Anna Fang, played by South Korean musician and actress Jihae, who pilots a fantastical aircraft. There are several other subplots involving formulaic romances and unusual guardians that, rather than adding to the story, bogs down the already messy storyline. Overall, it is a rather large disappointment for a Peter Jackson-produced fantasy movie that relies too heavily on elaborate CGI, which are rather spectacular and unique even for the genre, and whose creative imagery and premise is not done any justice by the overall poor quality of the story and acting.

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