It’s been quite a while since we’ve gotten a young adult novel film adaptation on the silver screen. Gone are the days of the Hunger Games and Twilight trying to reach the heights of the Harry Potter series, and now we have comic book movies being the primary blockbusters at the box office. With Peter Jackson at the helm, Mortal Engines might seem like a movie that is a little too late, but how does this movie fair in the current climate of movies?
Based on the novels by Philip Reeves, the series takes place 1000 years in the future where regular countries and cities don’t exist anymore. Instead, cities like London, are these giant vehicles with actual buildings on them. These “predator cities” eat up smaller cities on wheels to get their resources. So right off the bat, there’s a lot to take in with the world. Our heroes are Hester Shaw, a mysterious girl who winds up on London, and Tom Natsworthy, a rookie historian who gets tangled in Hester’s quest for revenge. Her target, Thaddeus Valentine, the Steve Jobs-esque figure in London played by Hugo Weaving.
The story posits a lot of lore and terms with little exposition to the audience, with mentions of “The 60-Minute War” or “Municipal Darwinism”, more exposition and flashbacks are used to flesh out the main character and the primary antagonist, with the entire set-up being more of a backdrop for the events to play out. Speaking of the characters, the two main leads are your typical “tough girl with a dark past” and “bumbling comic relief boy” tropes, they serve to move the plot along and their personalities don’t really shine through. Though the same can’t be said for Hugo Weaving’s character, who plays a great villain with a lot of layers and intrigue to him, of course you can’t expect anything less from Hugo Weaving’s acting.
The story is very by-the-numbers as well, very much like A New Hope. There’s the evil bad guy empire, a rebellion, and some sort of super laser weapon. Heck, no spoilers but the ending is a mix of 3 Star Wars endings combined. Can’t really say which one, but the resemblance is just uncanny, skipping homages and just becoming a plain old ripoff.
So is it a good movie? Not really. It can be fun for sure and there are cool moments here and there, but none of them really hold a candle to Peter Jackson’s other works. This definitely falls under the The Hobbit spectrum of Jackson’s work, and not the Lord Of The Rings levels of greatness. It’s definitely CGI-heavy and is too derivative to be enjoyed on its own merit. They had a Minions joke in this film, A MINIONS JOKE. Maybe that’s a good indicator of whether this film is great or not. Oh well.