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Movie Review: Mortal Engines


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The film, based on the first installment of Philip Reeve’s fantasy quartet, is set in a dystopian world several centuries in the future. A “Sixty Minute War” had turned turned the planet into a wasteland. Giant “predator cities” roam around, like huge dinosaurs, gulping down smaller towns and villages, extracting what’s good and assigning the captured citizens to low-level menial jobs, a term referred to as “Municipal Darwinism” in the film. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) works at the Museum of London, specializing in the technology of “the ancients”. Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), is a scientist who has a huge interest in collecting 21st century relics, especially computer junk. Thaddeus’ daughter Katherine (Leila George), though belonging to a higher class, has a spot spot for the working classes and shares her father’s fascination with the past. A masked young woman Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) attempts to assassinate Thaddeus and Tom saves him and gives chase. He almost catches her but she jumps in the garbage chute and escapes and Thaddeus pushes out Tom as well. The duo team up in order to survive and start falling for each other in the process. Meanwhile, Katherine, with the help of Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery), learns that her father is in the process of assembling a mega weapon gleaned from the ancient technology and use it to conqueror the cities of East, which have chosen to settle down instead of being in traction and have built a huge wall over the mountains for their protection. Amidst all this is the introduction of a half Zombie, half Terminator like creature called Shrike (Stephen Lang), who had brought up Hester in the hope that she’ll one day allow him to turn her into a robotic version of herself. Also thrown in this mix is Anna Fang (Jihae) a pilot and leader of the Anti-Traction League, a resistance group banding against the tyranny of moving cities.


Instead of following one story arc, it takes up several, and that proves to be the film's undoing in the long run. Also, the makers have presupposed that the viewers are familiar with the original source material. Hence, characters like Shrike are introduced almost without preamble. A crazed Frankenstein like creature who wants to create his own bride -- this strand by itself deserves its own film. The way this very interesting character is used here is a disservice to it. Also, after a while, the film starts to resemble the Star Wars narrative -- an evil empire hell bent on subverting others to its will, a secret weapon which can destroy whole cities, a resistance made up of rogue pilots, young heroes willing to lay down their lives for the cause -- you start thinking George Lucas has maybe commissioned producer Peter Jackson to make a Steampunk version of his films.


The first twenty minutes, where you see London chasing a small mining town and later when you see Tom running after Hester in the bowels of the moving city, dodging all sort of contraptions, are the most exhilarating portions of the film. Sadly, that sort of energy isn't maintained throughout. Director Christian Rivers, who worked as the special effects incharge for Jackson all these years, gets the CGI right. The Steampunk elements are imaginatively created and you feel a kind of joy seeing a huge city on wheels, cannibalising everything that stands in its way. But he has not been able to provide an emotional core to the film. The disjointed screenplay, written by his mentor Jackson along with  Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens is partially to be blamed for that. The performances by the ensemble cast are earnest enough but seem to flounder at times due to a lack of coherence.


All-in-all, Mortal Engines remains a good one-time watch at best and doesn't quite reach the lofty heights it aims for...


via filmfares https://ift.tt/2KZBITR

The film, based on the first installment of Philip Reeve’s fantasy quartet, is set in a dystopian world several centuries in the future. A “Sixty Minute War” had turned turned the planet into a wasteland. Giant “predator cities” roam around, like huge dinosaurs, gulping down smaller towns and villages, extracting what’s good and assigning the captured citizens to low-level menial jobs, a term referred to as “Municipal Darwinism” in the film. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) works at the Museum of London, specializing in the technology of “the ancients”. Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), is a scientist who has a huge interest in collecting 21st century relics, especially computer junk. Thaddeus’ daughter Katherine (Leila George), though belonging to a higher class, has a spot spot for the working classes and shares her father’s fascination with the past. A masked young woman Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) attempts to assassinate Thaddeus and Tom saves him and gives chase. He almost catches her but she jumps in the garbage chute and escapes and Thaddeus pushes out Tom as well. The duo team up in order to survive and start falling for each other in the process. Meanwhile, Katherine, with the help of Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery), learns that her father is in the process of assembling a mega weapon gleaned from the ancient technology and use it to conqueror the cities of East, which have chosen to settle down instead of being in traction and have built a huge wall over the mountains for their protection. Amidst all this is the introduction of a half Zombie, half Terminator like creature called Shrike (Stephen Lang), who had brought up Hester in the hope that she’ll one day allow him to turn her into a robotic version of herself. Also thrown in this mix is Anna Fang (Jihae) a pilot and leader of the Anti-Traction League, a resistance group banding against the tyranny of moving cities.


Instead of following one story arc, it takes up several, and that proves to be the film's undoing in the long run. Also, the makers have presupposed that the viewers are familiar with the original source material. Hence, characters like Shrike are introduced almost without preamble. A crazed Frankenstein like creature who wants to create his own bride -- this strand by itself deserves its own film. The way this very interesting character is used here is a disservice to it. Also, after a while, the film starts to resemble the Star Wars narrative -- an evil empire hell bent on subverting others to its will, a secret weapon which can destroy whole cities, a resistance made up of rogue pilots, young heroes willing to lay down their lives for the cause -- you start thinking George Lucas has maybe commissioned producer Peter Jackson to make a Steampunk version of his films.


The first twenty minutes, where you see London chasing a small mining town and later when you see Tom running after Hester in the bowels of the moving city, dodging all sort of contraptions, are the most exhilarating portions of the film. Sadly, that sort of energy isn't maintained throughout. Director Christian Rivers, who worked as the special effects incharge for Jackson all these years, gets the CGI right. The Steampunk elements are imaginatively created and you feel a kind of joy seeing a huge city on wheels, cannibalising everything that stands in its way. But he has not been able to provide an emotional core to the film. The disjointed screenplay, written by his mentor Jackson along with  Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens is partially to be blamed for that. The performances by the ensemble cast are earnest enough but seem to flounder at times due to a lack of coherence.


All-in-all, Mortal Engines remains a good one-time watch at best and doesn't quite reach the lofty heights it aims for...

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