REVIEW: “Mortal Engines”

Universal Pictures


Photo created by Genevieve Guenther.

Jonathan Montague, Staff Writer

From the score this movie has on Rotten Tomatoes, one might think that “Mortal Engines” has very few legs to stand on. In the latest installment of the “YA Lit Adaptation” genre, Peter Jackson gives the reins to his longtime visual effects associate, Christian Rivers, who is making his directorial debut. Personally, I think this movie has a lot more to stand on than just the visuals.

The film opens a thousand years in the future after a war unlike any before has ravaged the surface of the earth. To survive, the great cities of the world have mobilized, becoming giant roving machines that travel the world in search of whatever resources are left. Hester Shaw has snuck onto the greatest of these behemoths, London, in order to assassinate her mother’s murderer, Thaddeus Valentine. Foiled by a young historian named Tom, and now stuck with him in the wasteland, her quest for revenge turns into a quest to stop Valentine from wreaking havoc on what is left of the world.

The plot of this movie is simple and streamlined with only two real subplots. However, it is far from boring, and every plot is paced well. The world that the story takes place in is fascinating, even if it is framed similarly to adventure stories before it. There was one thing that happened that I felt could have been taken further even into a sequel, but the way they end it is still poignant.

Still, the movie holds your attention with its memorable characters. Hester is a very capable protagonist, and Tom brings a certain charm to complement our heroine’s more abrasive nature. They clearly learn from each other and are both active in the narrative. Valentine is also an interesting antagonist because unlike most “politician” villains, he genuinely cares about the city he oversees and the people in it.

The actors all turn in great performances and clearly had a blast playing these characters. Special mentions go to Hugo Weaving as Valentine and South-Korean singer Jihae as Fang, who made her Hollywood debut in this film. The weakest-by-default performance would probably be Hera Hilmar as Hester, but that is not saying much when no one does a bad job by any means.

As you would expect from a visual effects artist, this film looks absolutely stunning. From the costumes to the backgrounds to the visual effects, everything looks positively gorgeous. Furthermore, the score is beautifully crafted and used effectively, knowing the precise moment to swell and when to remain understated.

“Mortal Engines” is an amazingly fun adventure movie that I believe deserves a great deal of more credit and revenue. I would love to see this become a franchise and further expand the lore and universe. And the author, Phillip Reeves, actually agrees with me, having enjoyed the film immensely while acknowledging the differences from his original novel. I highly recommend this to everyone who looks for a fun ride from start to finish.