Sunday, December 9, 2018

Review of MORTAL ENGINES: Steampunk Spectacle

December 9, 2018

In the distant post-apocalyptic future, the city of London was already housed in moving gigantic machines that roamed the arid wasteland outside. Admired by many, Thaddeus Valentine of the Guild of Historians was the most powerful man in London. However, one day, Hester Shaw, a girl with a disfiguring scar on her face, tried to assassinate Valentine, but this attempt was thwarted by young apprentice historian, Tom Natsworthy. The adventures of Hester and Tom had just begun.

The most remarkable aspects of this Christian Rivers film (produced by Peter Jackson) are its visuals. Everything was grand to behold -- the vivid colors and cinematography, the spectacular computer-generated effects, futuristic period costumes, ornate production design. For these visuals alone, I thought this film was already worth watching on the big screen. The sound mixing and the editing work were also excellent on the technical front, and this was clearly evident from the very first action sequence. 

However, beyond the visuals, the other aspects of this movie were rather disappointing. The plot themes have already been done before in many other futuristic sci-fi films before. In Act 2, I got a lot of "Mad Max Fury Road" vibes with the scenes of dystopian anarchy and poverty. In Act 3, it was "Star Wars" all the way, complete with analogies to the Death Star, X-Wing fighter jets, and the Millennium Falcon. Even the characters have parallels in "Star Wars" saga to the point that I practically expected a paternal revelation in one key scene.

There was only one actor known to me in the cast, Hugo Weaving, who played the megalomaniac Thaddeus Valentine, which he was . The rest of the cast were promising newcomers. Playing the lead role of Hester is Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, who had a strong screen presence despite her marred face. Playing the naive Tom is Irish actor Robert Sheehan, who had that boy-next-door, unlikely hero charm about him. 

Katherine, who discovered many new things about her father Thaddeus following the attack on his life, was played by Leila George. Bevis Pod, Tom's friend who was an apprentice engineer, was played by Ronan Rafferty. Standing out among the good guys is the fearless and skillful resistance leader Anna Fang, played by Korean actress Jihei, who certainly cut a dashing action figure playing this character. 

Overall, despite the predictable limitations of the story, this film was still worth watching because of its fascinating concept of the future, describing a rough and tumble world where giant cities on wheels literally devour smaller ones. There was actually one character Shrike (played by Stephen Lang), an undead soldier reanimated by machine parts, which was a very interesting and unique element in the story. 

The original 2001 book "Mortal Engines" by Philip Reeve had three sequels. To be honest, I would not mind seeing a sequel to this film to see what lay ahead for Hester and Tom, and the world where they lived. 6/10. 

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