“Mortal Engines” is Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens writing an adaptation of the first of a book series turned into a massive sprawling special effects frenzy. Unlike Lord of the Rings, however, the thing this movie lacks is story and character.
Jackson is not at the helm here, instead duties are given to Christian Rivers, longtime collaborator of Jackson, and as it turns out, a solid director. U n f o r t u n a t e l y, that causes some problems here. The thing is, Rivers is a super competent and visual director.
It makes sense, given his previous s t o r y b o a rd i n g and visual effect experience. Where the issues really lie are in the story and the characters, which is definitely a biggie. Mortal Engines creates a wonderfully insane and goofy world you actually buy right into.
There is a lot of care and attention and just sheer visual storytelling that makes you settle into a world where London is a city on wheels rolling around the Earth that remains after apocalyptic war. It is difficult to watch this movie for all its silliness and art direction and costume design and set design and special effects and basically every technical and visual basis where this film works…where it all falls down with the screenplay.
I do not fault it too much on the screenwriters. We know this all too well. It’s not just the Academy Awards that sing the praises of their work, but the sheer love and appreciation. Apparently, the books this film is based on are also great. It all feels like the story is just lost in translation.
Too familiar to too bland storylines that have graced our screens in recent years. It’s tough being held up to “Lord of the Rings,” but with this amount of talent behind the film, it’s so surprising and shocking just how much Mortal Engines doesn’t work. It’s confounding how these writers haven’t been able to strike again, forgetting every lesson in storytelling in the adaptation of this book.
Mortal Engines is full of potential, but half of it is squandered. We may never see a sequel, which is a legitimate shame. This world is brilliant, but clearly the world is not. Then again, when you read the synopses of the next few books, you kind of have to feel thankful that this is where these moving cities are cinematically going to grind to a halt.
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