I’m planning to visit London someday (hopefully soon), but not on a vehicle. To put it bluntly, “Mortal Engines” has cars with buildings on them, so consider it like “Mad Max.” That looks and sounds inventive, and I was impressed by it. Director Christian Rivers and screenplay writer/producer Peter Jackson have both drawn out a visually stunning look, but that’s it. Nothing else in the movie works.
Based on the novels by Phillip Reeve, the story takes place in post-apocalyptic London, the moving city, where we meet two young characters: Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan). Tom is a would-be aviator and historian, while Hester is an assassin, who attempts to kill the head historian Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) for murdering her mother (Caren Pistorius).
She escapes from the city, while Valentine pushes Tom away. He needs to get back to London, and she brings him along, but most of their dialogue is tired old “Stop Whining” and “Shut Up.” It usually starts off with the tough girl and weak guy cliche, and I loathe that. At least, it stops at the end of the movie’s first half.
They both end up joining a resistance group led by a pilot named Anna Fang (Jihae). Just in time, because Valentine is planning something big, and his daughter (Leila George) finds out from an engineer (Ronan Raftery) about her father’s true colors.
Out of everything else in “Mortal Engines,” the best come from its production design and visuals. Obviously CGI effects and props were used to bring the building vehicles to life. I can barely tell which is which at this point. Even the planes look fascinating.
The “everything else” I’m pertaining to are the characters, story, tone, and cliches. Again, I hated the chemistry between Hilmar and Sheehan, because of how typical they both get with their personalities and dialogue. The villain is here and there; and there’s a solider, reanimated with machine parts and green eyes, called Shrike (Stephen Lang), who once protected Hester. He looks cool, but ends up being lackluster.
The story barely makes any sense, but I was able to get about 2/3 of it. The villain wants complete control, and the girl lost her mother to him. Standard stuff, and yet, they were the only things I got out of it. And best of all, the dialogue is all muffled and lame, depending on how the characters use their words.
And as for the tone: it’s just so boring. Not even the chase scenes could wake me up. Rivers has been a visual effects supervisor for Jackson’s films, but as a first-time director, he only seems to care about the fantasy and ambition.