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  Mortal Engines Let's Offroad!
Year: 2018
Director: Christian Rivers
Stars: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang, Colin Salmon, Mark Mitchinson, Regé-Jean Page, Menik Gooneratne, Frankie Adams, Leifur Sigurdarson, Kahn West, Andrew Lees, Sophie Cox
Genre: Action, Science Fiction, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: In the future, centuries after a global war used the highest technology to create the largest possible destruction, the world is very different as the descendants of the survivors live in huge machines that can travel vast distances. The capital city of Great Britain is now an enormous metropolis on huge wheels that roams the landscape of a changed Europe, "ingesting" other, smaller towns to use for their resources and growing ever bigger in the process. Inside, Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) has a lowly job looking after artefacts from the civilisation that came before, including its remaining, advanced weaponry. But someone wishes to stop London in its (literal) tracks...

Mortal Engines began life as one of those young adult novel series, as many a failed franchise did, and sad to say despite the high hopes of producer and co-screenwriter Peter Jackson, this one failed as well, flopping in cinemas when faced with the might of more powerful brand names at the box office. As often with these affairs, what attracts a wide collection of readers does not always translate to a blockbuster-sized audience, either because outside of that readership no one else will have the faintest idea what this was about, or because those who were aware did not appreciate what the megabucks treatment did to their precious literature, leading to much indignation.

Therefore Mortal Engines faltered when it tried to amass the usual target for the young adult market, The Hunger Games followers basically, and sequels were not forthcoming which could have adapted the other books in the series. Go one better than that and they would have enjoyed Harry Potter levels of adulation, but that certainly was not going to happen, no matter that what this actually patterned itself after was the daddy of all franchises, Star Wars, complete with light sabre – sorry, swordfights, poor parenting from the lead villain, a superweapon that had to be destroyed, and a final attack heavily reminiscent of The Dam Busters, another property Jackson had acquired.

Maybe this represented a dry run for the much-vaunted remake of that which Jackson had long been preparing, in which case he could have picked a better production to test out his effects, which here were extensive, as you might expect. Indeed, so packed with those CGI wonders were they that nobody appeared to have noticed that what succeeded on the page can be rather less impressive on the silver screen, which can be unforgiving when it comes to high concepts, and the notion of London, complete with Union Flag plastered prominently on its front wall, eating up its European neighbours, even in a world where the continents had shifted dramatically, was hard to take seriously when this was arriving at a point when Britain was enduring massive turmoil politically, and not looking too strong.

Therefore you may be able to afford yourself a hollow laugh at the film's politics, possibly a conscious endeavour at making a point about the social and global landscape of diplomacy, or simply a bit of a silly idea made all the sillier by its emphasis on presenting this with painful, unironic sincerity. The spectacle was assuredly present, if you liked watching films that look like expensive video games, and the cast, largely made up of unknowns or at least not very famous faces, were game enough, but no matter how eccentric its trappings were, at its core Mortal Engines was a very derivative effort, in its big screen incarnation at least, and pitching to an audience that is not supposed to be alert to the overall daftness was a shade patronising, not that anyone here let on they were pandering. You could say they had definitely built a concept that had its own well-thought out rules and communities, but really those were borrowed from other places, leaving yet another ultra-expensive underachiever that didn't click with its target audience, and there were too many of those as it was. Music by Junkie XL.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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