Rewatch, Revisit, Review – Mortal Engines
Let me hop into my thoughts on this movie immediately. I really really wanted to love this movie. The visuals that kick off the movie are amazing. The world that the movie is set in is amazing and I want to explore it more. However, the characters are not that interesting, the story feels like a lot of tropes jammed together without really building the story that you need from it. There probably will be some spoilers, but I’ll try and keep it vague.
This is the far flung future after humanity has blown itself up and screwed up the world. There are mobile houses that people travel around in where they can mine, and make a living. There are also bigger predator cities that chew up these smaller buildings for fuel. We meet our main character, Hester Shaw as the small vehicles that is getting chased down by a predator city. On the city we have Tom who is a researcher who has noticed that things on the city are going missing, things that could be used for a weapon.
In some way the story just sounds too predictable YA Dystopia. And I think that is some of the issue. The story leans into tropes, but leans into them too much, you want the familiar, but you also don’t want it to feel like it hits upon every trope. The movie packs in too many tropes this way and also because it tries to hit on so many things, you end up with a very disjointed story. You get a predictable bad guy with an anticlimactic end. We get a few other deaths that are supposed to feel like they mean something to the audience, but we’re not connected with the characters. It feels rushed, but also feels like it doesn’t have the action that it should. And when it does have action sequences, they aren’t anything all that interesting, and the main character who is fighting is just a poorly done character.
The characters are also an issue in this movie. Hester has an interesting backstory, and I think that Hera Hilmar does a solid job, but she isn’t given much to work with. We really don’t get to see her shine as a character either, and there is some with her look if you think about it doesn’t make a ton of sense. With Tom, played by Robert Sheehan, he’s a pretty flat character, where he was great as Klaus in Umbrella Academy and playing an eccentric character, here he is a pretty thin character. Then you have Anna Fang. Talk about a great looking character but a very disappointing character. Kristen put it this way, she’s kind of supposed to be a Han Solo type character, but they don’t give her great lines to work with, and she does less than anything with them. She looks cool, maybe a little bit out of place, but that could be set-up with some better character development and story development, but that wasn’t there, and Jihae does nothing with it.
Now, not all the characters are bad. Hugo Weaving as the villain is amazing. His motivations aren’t fully developed, nor is his character, but he does a very good job with what he’s given. The real shame with his character is it’s death. It’s a cheap and not impactful death. I think you could argue that the point of it is to keep blood off of the main characters hands, but we already know that really isn’t something she’s worried about. So it feels weak and more like they hoped they could do another movie, but didn’t think that they’d be able to get Hugo Weaving again. Leila George has a smaller role in the film, but her part was interesting and she portrayed it well. I wish that we’d see more of her Katherine Valentine and Ronan Raftery who plays Bevis Pod with her. They were interesting characters that have the distinction of being the secondary characters who are more interesting than the main characters, which is too common is YA.
I’ve bashed this movie pretty hard. I think even with the characters who have some good development or are better acted, they aren’t given what they should have to work with in this film. I do want to knock one more thing, and that’s the weapon that is used in the movie. There are certain angles where that thing feels like a horrible mid 90’s green screen effect, not nearly as cool and polished as the rest of the world. That’s all I’m going to say about it, because I do want to jump into the visuals of the rest of the world which are amazing. The different vehicles all make sense as something that would be in the world. And while the Shanara Chronicles also do the future earth after something has happened, I think that the world of Mortal Engines is a whole lot cooler. The flying ships, the wall, and the general aesthetic of the world are cool, but the predator city is amazing, and the smaller vehicles are all slightly unique and you can see how they fit into the world. There’s are a level of dinginess in the world as well that works really well, and while you do get some Hunger Games vibes in the movie, they don’t lean into it too much.
There’s so much to explore visually and storywise in this world if someone were to do a good job of creating something cool, that it’s a shame this is the movie we got. And the movie did poorly in theaters, so we’re not going to get another one. Maybe fifteen years from now if the books have done well for Mortal Engines, we’ll get another crack at a move which will do better. There’s so much potential of the world that I want to see more of it. I don’t care that it seems to borrow from Shanara Chronicles, Hunger Games, Gurren Lagann, and Howl’s Moving Castle, and a lot more. There’s a chance for it to be unique, and I’d even read the books after having seen the movie in hopes that they are better and that I’ll get the story that I really want.
Overall Grade: C-
Critical Grade: B+ (Visuals), D (Story)
Fan Grade: C
Have you seen Mortal Engines, if so, what are your thoughts on it? Is it a movie you want to see if you haven’t seen it?
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