May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: Mortal Engines

Steampunk cities prowl the devastated landscape in this adaptation of the YA novel.

The trailer for the movie version of Mortal Engines was awfully impressive, especially as it came out with the implication Peter Jackson had directed it.  It was based on a book I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to read the book before the movie came out.  Well, the book was…fine.  And then it came out that Jackson was only the producer.  And Watson thought the movie itself was…fine.

Well, I came that far.  I might as well see the movie.

It’s about a thousand years after something called the “Sixty Minute War” when advanced weapons left the Earth something of a ruin.  At some point, many world cities became mobile and began to hunt each other for the scarce resources left over.  One particularly potent city, London, has access to something thanks to the work of the city’s greatest hero Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving).  But Valentine has some secrets of his own that come to the forefront in the form of a scarred young woman named Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar).  When an assassination attempt by Hester goes wrong thanks to the intervention of a young orphaned historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), both find themselves kicked to the ground.  Both want to return to London.  Tom lives there, and Hester wants to see Shaw die there.  Will they achieve their personal goals?

I thought Philip Reeve’s book was decent but nothing particularly special.  The movie is likewise decent but nothing special.  The movie does mostly follow the book’s plot, though it does make a couple things that could be narrative improvements like shifting the more heroic role from bland Tom to driven Hester, Valentine becomes the top villain instead of a subordinate to another character, and Hester’s facial scars are nowhere near as bad as Reeve described them as book-Hester is missing an eye and much of her nose.  Most of these changes work better on film.  Additionally, the production design of the movie is fantastic.  This is a world that looks both familiar and alien at the same time, and the various mobile cities are all cool to look at.  And there is one particularly effective death scene.

But ultimately this is a movie with a lot of bland people in it.  There are the occasional flash of onscreen charisma, but the two leads have zero chemistry, As such, the movie mostly feels a bit flat.  There’s nothing particularly wrong with it.  It’s decent enough.  But it was really hard to care about any of the heroic characters, none of whom would look out of place in a CW drama.  It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t a must-see either.  7 out of 10 post-apocalyptic product placement shots.