The world of YA book titles offer a pretty bleak look at the future of mankind. With every page you turn you are shown the consequences of our current path and a future that doesn’t hold a lot of promise. While it seems so many of them share this view, one thing they don’t share is cities that movie and eat smaller cities, that would just be one story, which goes by the name Mortal Engines. Now if you are anything like me and know nothing about this other than cities eating cities, you are all aboard this train, but some concepts only work on the page.
After the “Sixty Minute War” Earth is not doing so well and most people have taken up refuge on moving cities that scour the surface trying to survive. Just like in nature however there are always the hunter and the hunted, and in this case there are what’s called predator cities that devour smaller cities for energy. The mother of those cities is London, which is led by Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) who seems like a swell guy, but he has some dark plans for the city. One person who knows his evil nature is Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), who saw Thaddeus kill her mother for a mysterious box when she was eight. Now a young woman, Hester has one mission in life and that is to get revenge for her mother’s death, by killing Mr. Valentine. When she finally makes it onto London she gets her chance, but is stopped by a young man named Tom (Robert Sheehan) who after saving Thaddeus’s life finds out that his way of gratitude is to kick him off the city and into a world where survival is not expected. Soon both Hester and Tom learn what Mr. Valentine’s plan is, and with the help a bunch of pilots try and stop him before he wrecks the world all over again.
Taken from a novel of the same name from writer Phillip Reeve, Mortal Engines is in good hands for the big screen, with the team of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, who have a history of turning novels into epic movies. With them behind the wheel, things would seem to be on a solid path, but Reeve is not J.R.R Tolkien by any stretch. Thats a nice way of saying that the story itself is not as strong, but with Jackson comes his effects company Weta and the beauty it brings. Borrowing from the likes of the Steampunk world and a little Star Wars, Mortal Engines is not without its good qualities, but its weak points are what becomes its undoing. Often there seems to be arrows pointing at the direction the film takes, which never gives you any surprises along the way. The other flaw is in the casting as some of the lead characters are just not good enough to make you care about them. Where the film excels is in the look, both the production design and the action scenes are a real treat for your eyes. Mortal Engines never ventures into bad movie territory, but it may slip through the cracks with many other forgettable YA fiction turned film. What you are left is something that feels very middle-of-the-road, that while has moments the rev up quite a bit, just ends up stalling out by the end.