Friday, December 14, 2018

Mortal Engines - Review

Never accuse the film industry of giving up on a concept before they try every available avenue. The dystopian young adult novel adaptations have come a mile a minute since the success of The Hunger Games, with each more similar to the last. Mortal Engines is no different, utilizing every cliché in existence for a film that cannot muster an ounce of anything interesting.

Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), emerges as the only one who can stop London — now a giant, predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.

A textbook case of style over substance, Mortal Engines at least offers some visually interesting production design and visual effects. The imagination required for crafting cities on wheels is immense and the filmmakers, for the most, make something that is a treat for the eyes if nothing else. The elements surrounding the fairly great CGI work is where the film encounters the bulk of its issues.

The dystopian future setting is becoming so clichéd and overdone, that it’s hard to not drift into territory covered in other films or novels. While Mortal Engines may fall into these very familiar tropes and familiar situations, its biggest crime is being utterly boring from start to finish. From time to time, an action scene will break out to jolt the audience back to attention, but it soon returns to the dull dialogue and oodles of meaningless exposition. 

Without any characters that grab the audience’s attention either, it’s hard to call Mortal Engines the snooze fest that it is. Perhaps the only character in the film that has the potential to be interesting is short changed into a killing machine when their story seems far more fascinating than the one playing out on screen. The interactions between any of the characters feel rushed and fake, as if the adaptation never took a clear direction and the overall product suffered as a result. 

Mortal Engines boasts some impressive visuals but ultimately feels hollow. A CGI epic that falls short on the epic, becoming a drab and dull endeavor that feels like a relic from the height of the dystopian novel turned film days that have slowly died out. None of the elements feel like a disaster, but the sum of them still don’t amount to much outside of a below average use of two hours of your time. This potential franchise of stories about a future with limited resources and roaming cities just can’t get any traction, stalling out before it even gets started. 

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