Follow That Town [Review: Mortal Engines]

Score: 3 out of 5 stars
All movies reviewed on the Sci-Fi Gene blog are given a score of 3 out of 5 stars




A small Bavarian mining village is minding its' own business when suddenly a predator city appears on the horizon. The town packs up its' houses, shops and streets and makes a dash for it but it's too small to outrun the caterpillar tracks of London, and its' fate is sealed. However as the village is pillaged and torn apart to feed the furnaces of London, amongst the villagers being "welcomed" into London's immigration system, there is a certain young lady with a desperate agenda.

Mortal Engines is a Peter Jackson-directed movie based on the Philip Reeve novel for children, young adults and old adults, set in a post-apocalyptic Earth a thousand years into the future, where cities have been uprooted and mobilized on wheels, legs or tracks, and where "municipal Darwinism" rules - the bigger cities prey on the smaller ones, and it seems London has become the biggest of all. The challenge for this film is to bring to life this very eccentric vision of city-sized vehicles driving furiously across a desolate landscape, without losing the humanity and the stories of the characters brought together by the clash of cities.

Does it succeed? Mostly. The traction city of London is an awesome creation, topped with St. Pauls Cathedral and its' gardens, its' overpopulated levels packed with houses and office blocks and connected by a transit system that combines the Tube, the red double-decker buses and the London Eye, and the entire structure driven on massive engines topped with Trafalgar Square lions. London kicks ass, and its' colourful citizens cheering in bloodthirsty fashion from their terraces as the City gives chase to its' next victim are just the icing on the cake. Meanwhile I can't describe in detail the other cities visited without the cast as that would be major spoilerage, but they are imaginative and full of character.

The central characters of Mortal Engines are mostly played by unknowns - at least in the Western Sphere. The singer Jihae, playing the rebel leader Anna Fang, is of course well known and loved in South Korea but hasn't broken the West yet - hopefully we will see or hear more of her. The unfamiliarity means that the cast are in competition with the cities to steal the limelight, and the cities put up a good fight. However I felt the lead players, Robert Sheehan and Hera Hilmarsdottir, gave super performances, and the most familiar face amongst the cast, Hugo Weaving, is a good choice for a villain who actually gets to do some genuinely villainous things *innocent face*.

Genuinely villainous. This is an extremely violent movie for a 12-certificate release. It is a war film of sorts. There is a lot of death, destruction and injury, whether in human-on-human firefights or in the collateral damage when cities clash or fall. Blood guts and gore are sparing - most deaths are clean, off-screen or implied, Doctor Who style, and sometimes this can be confusing.

For a movie based on such an original concept, it has to be said that Mortal Engines is derivative in some ways, and this comes down more to the way the movie has been styled than the original novel. London and particularly the Londoners are highly reminiscent of the Hunger Games' Capitol, and many aspects of the movie echo Star Wars, from paternity revelations to the assault by small flying machines on the Doomsday device. The novel itself, while original in many ways, also has its' precedents, such as the Christopher Priest novel Inverted World which also features a travelling city.

Overall I felt despite the derivative elements, Mortal Engines was a decent, enjoyable movie that well deserves its' highly accurate and meaningful rating of 3 stars out of 5.


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