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Mortal Engines review: Epic visual imagery but tedious screenplay

‘Mortal Engines’ released in India a week before the US, and that’s certainly one reason to catch up with this dystopian adventure movie.

Based on Philip Reeve’s young adult fiction series by the same name, the film is set in the post-apocalyptic future. Thousand years from now, large cities of the world are mobile and on the look out to feed on smaller towns as their resource to survive. London is a city on wheels that devours anything that comes in its way and the stunning opening sequence reflects this hunger for survival under the determined supervision of its leader Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Also signalling his quest for world domination!

Mortal Engines movie stills
Mortal Engines movie stills

The movie has been produced by Academy award-winning Peter Jackson, and much like his ‘The Lords of the Rings’ and ‘Hobbit’ trilogy, this one too lives up to the visual excellence of his earlier offerings. Director Christian Rivers hold on visual effects (he was the visual effects supervisor for Jackson in his previous projects) however isn’t matched with an equally compelling screenplay.
As the story unravels through the stream of engrossing visuals of locomotive cityscapes, we meet Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), a young girl out to avenge her mother’s death. She is joined by a London outcast, Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), who eventually becomes her ally in her plan to kill Thaddeus Valentine.

Mortal Engines movie stills
Mortal Engines movie stills

They also find a strong support in Anna Fang (Jihae), an old friend of Shaw’s mother, and one who is committed to helping her reach her goal. But in the midst of all this, Shaw also has to deal with the wrath of Shirke, with whom she has a history and some unfinished business. And of course, there is an play of romance between her and Natsworth.

Mortal Engines movie stills
Mortal Engines movie stills

There is no denying that the climax, with thrilling sequences of action and spellbinding visual effects, enthralls. Mayhem, destruction, electrifying lights, floating cities and more take over to give a larger than life cinematic experience. However, there is much too happening. The storyline is weak, which in turn has translated into an overstuffed screenplay. The proceedings begin to drag and get convoluted as the run time of over two hours kicks in. Even though Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan and Hugo Weaving hold their own effectively, and the interesting entrance sequence of the Korean pop star Jihae is noteworthy, the best part about ‘Mortal Engines’ is really its visual effects.

Cast – Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae 
Director – Christian Rivers 
Screenplay – Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philip Boyens 
Visual Effects – Ken mcGaugh, Kevin Smith, Luke Millar, Dennis Yoo
Release Date (India) – 7th December 2018 
Rating – 3/5 

Sreeparna Sengupta

Sreeparna Sengupta has been the director and producer of shows on movies and entertainment for the last 14 years, for some of the biggest media houses including Zoom and Times Now. She has been reviewing movies for a living for the last two years while working as a freelance writer / editor and content developer.

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