21st Dec2018

‘Mortal Engines’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheenan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang, Colin Salmon, Mark Mitchinson, Regé-Jean Page, Menik Gooneratne, Frankie Adams, Leifur Sigurdarson | Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens | Directed by Christian Rivers


If Mortal Engines succeeds at anything it’s officially ending any chance of the original blockbuster existing in cinema from this point forward. Although the writing has been on the wall for a significant amount of time now, the Peter Jackson produced vehicle ultimately cements the death of a much-needed ideal in cinema.

Mortal Engines isn’t horrendous, nor is it quote-unquote “bad”, it’s just a calamitous bore from start to finish. Opening in such an effulgent and prolific manner undoubtedly engaging the full concentration of its audience with a tremendous scale and scope of outstanding visuals, but never from that moment forward can it successfully surpass such a sequence and chases its own tale throughout. As stated above, the visuals are undoubtedly the highlight of a picture, yet, even then it often bleeds into a huge blur of machines and fire. Not necessarily the most visually concise and claritive of special effects utilised, but the magnitude of the world is truly extraordinary efficiently observed via on the nose political subtext, of which writers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have stated to be purely coincidental in the social commentary relevant in the times we live in. Of which I find hard to believe and a coincidence I think not.

The characters and narrative are in dire need of charisma and sufficient exploration of storytelling. Lead actress Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw fails throughout the running time to put forward a convincing and emotionally feisty performance, of what’s evident on the page but ultimately develops into an overly melodramatic arc on the screen that simmers but never burns bright. It’s safe to say that Robert Sheenan just doesn’t have the talent or emotional capacity as a leading actor. Even as a supporting player in the blockbuster his days are numbered with another dull and overly charismatic performance that screams that he wants to be liked and appreciated for his ability, more so than putting forth an efficiently compelling role, of which his character Tom Natsworthy is certainly not.

The screenplay from Jackson and Walsh is ever so slack and inconsequential – an incredible disappointment from the team that has adapted such tremendous work as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises, respectively, as well as The Lovely Bones, all adapted from critically applauded novels. Mortal Engines should be no different – with such a bold and audacious concept that succumbs to a screenplay that surprisingly drags its feet all throughout the running time and adds utterly redundant story arcs and threads that come up blank; all of which are totally neglected thirty minutes before the climax, often just forgotten about and put aside for vivid moments of explosions! The film also offers various, and countless, instances of purely terrible character bits that land in a flat and sadly cringe-worthy fashion.

Mortal Engines is in cinemas now.


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