Rating2.5 / 5
Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving
7 December 2018
Mortal Engines is a great concept plagued by a clunky script and an underdeveloped storyline. Thankfully, the intricate attention to detail in the visual and special effects saves the film from being a complete disaster.
Mortal Engines follows Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), a young and mysterious girl living in a post-apocalyptic world where towns operate on wheels and try to protect their precious resources from other, bigger cities. When Hester fails to assassinate the man who killed her mother, she ends up on the run with the naïve Tom (Robert Sheehan), and together they try to figure out how to survive and save what little is left of the world.
The concept for Mortal Engines is daring and interesting. The idea of cities being shrunk down and transportable on wheels is crazy, as is the CGI to make this world possible. First time feature director Christian Rivers has a history of working in visual and special effects, and the impeccable detail that has gone into this film’s fx is a testament to this.
Unfortunately, the same attention wasn’t given to the story or the characterisation of Hester and Tom, and this is where the film falters. The film jumps around quite a lot and characters just keep sweeping in and out without much clarity given as to why they’re important to the story. The film tries its best to show how this new Earth operates, but it feels like too much is crammed in without giving each part the proper time it needs.
Hester Shaw is a mess of a character and her story is told in jumble. At the beginning, she’s an orphan who’s mother is mercilessly killed, then it turns out she was raised by a robot like creature who once was human, but chose to rid itself of feelings. This is all relived very quickly and randomly by Hester and then she goes back to being silent again. A hint of a romance develops between Tom and Hester, but it’s never fully explored, seeming more like a forced side note that tries to keep within fantasy film tropes.
Mortal Engines ultimately suffers from a poor script and an inexperienced storyteller in Rivers. The technical side of the film is brilliant and saves it from being a complete flop.
Image © Universal Pictures 2018