As a response to Avouleance Aaq’s review, Balazs Kokenyesy delivers his take on the new Mortal Engines film.
Mortal Engines, adapted from Philip Reeve’s book of the same name, is directed by Christian Rivers, in his directorial debut. In an Apocalyptic future where cities are moving engines ‘eating’ each other for survival, a young girl named Hester (Hera Hilmar) vows revenge on Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) for the murder of her mother. This results in a long journey of fights, discoveries and even a small romance.
Mortal Engines is overall a mixed bag; there is lot of good with the bad. Firstly, it’s a brilliant visual experience. There are some eye-popping shots in this film and the CGI is top notch. While the film sometimes feels likes an animated film, due to its over-reliance on CGI, it’s certainly beautiful to watch. The visuals, however feels derivative sometimes from Peter Jackson’s, Lord of the Rings trilogy. The ‘mortal engines’ themselves are also creatively designed.
Despite its exciting design, the film struggles in its directing and editing. Rivers clearly emulates Peter Jackson’s style, but River’s excessive camera movement and erratic editing style distracts from the overall narrative of some scenes. Along with the direction, the narrative is similarly all over the place. The movie has a very rapid pace as it feels like it’s trying to tell an entire trilogy’s worth of story in two hours. Because of this, the movie feels overstuffed and long, but also rushed and underdeveloped. If the storytelling was little slowed down, then the film would have had more space to develop and become its own. The film’s disappointing lack of depth in its characters and uneven storytelling, results in the movie having very little narrative heft. Despite this, Rivers certainly shows talent as a director, especially on the visual front, and I can see a future for him if the characters and storytelling improve in his next projects.
The acting is fine, but the characterisation is poor. The two leads played by Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan are decent, but for the most part their characters weren’t as strong and their source material. Hugo Weaving is a disappointment, as he appears indifferent to this picture and his poor character certainly didn’t help. There are supporting performances by Jihae and Stephen Lang, who were really entertaining, and the latter even kind of compelling. The other characters, however, are either flat or just not memorable, despite the actors’ efforts. There are also numerous arcs attempted throughout the film between the different characters but, aside from one involving Hilmar’s and Lang’s characters, nothing really pays off in a satisfying way.
Mortal Engines has a decent cast, stunning visuals and a unique world, but all of these are not done justice due to its clumsy, uneven narrative and lack of depth.