Dystopian young adult novels have been translated onto the big screen with varying levels of success. But sometimes, not even Peter Jackson’s credit as a producer can save a film. Mortal Engines, based on Phillip Reeve's novel hit theatres pretty recently and things aren’t looking that well for the blockbuster.
The story takes place many years after (yes you guessed it), an apocalyptic event destroyed civilization, mankind has developed cities that run on wheels. Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), an orphaned bandit hunts Valentine (Hugo Weaving), the captain of London for the death of her mother. The film portrays London as a predatory city on wheels that ‘ingests’ smaller cities. This might seem fitting in a way as a caricature of London post-Brexit – not sure if anyone else found that funny. Hester is joined in her quest for revenge by historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) and Anna Fang (Jihae). The characters aren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked but the performances were quite spot on and Hugo Weaving seamlessly transforms into the role of the natural villain that he was born to play.
The film boasts some very good CGI and amazing visual composition. It certainly is a film where there is more style over substance and director Christian Reeves does a flawless job making sure those elements are in the right places. It is no surprise, given his previous experience as a storyboard/vfx guy on the Middle Earth film series and personally I would even categorize this as a visual masterpiece. This however is also where most young adult screen adaptations fail to score with the critics who harshly devour all reviews and scrap any sequel potential.
What I would take away from a film such as this is its ability to entertain an audience – which ultimately is one prime focus for any movie. The production design provides visually stunning set pieces, most of which I believe were showcased in the trailer. Now if the marketing for such films could be revamped in a way that the audience and critics both know what to expect, these films could possibly churn out sequels but then again lies the concern of milking a franchise that lacks good writing. Personally, I believe the key would be to focus more on story first and visuals after.
Mortal Engines is a fun film, if one can turn off the critic inside them and enjoy the film for the popcorn ride that it is.
Courtesy of Akash SK