Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Christian Rivers|
|Based on||Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
|Music by||Junkie XL|
|Edited by||Jonno Woodford-Robinson|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
|Box office||$22.5 million|
Mortal Engines is a 2018 post-apocalyptic adventure film directed by Christian Rivers and with a screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve, and starring Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, and Stephen Lang. An American-New Zealand co-production, the film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where entire cities have been mounted on wheels and motorised, and prey on one another.
Jackson purchased the rights to the book in 2009, but the film languished for several years before being officially announced in 2016. Jackson picked Rivers, who won an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for his work on Jackson’s King Kong, to make his directorial debut with the project, and also brought on several members of his production teams from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit film series. Filming took place from April to July 2017 in New Zealand.
Mortal Engines had its world premiere on November 27, 2018 in London, was theatrically released in Australia and New Zealand on December 6, 2018 and in the United States on December 14, 2018. The film received mixed reviews from critics, who praised the visual effects but criticized the direction and “lack of personality”
Following a cataclysmic conflict known as the Sixty Minute War, the remnants of humanity regroup and form mobile “predator” cities. Under a philosophy known as “Municipal Darwinism”, larger cities hunt and absorb smaller settlements in the “Great Hunting Ground”, which includes Great Britain and Continental Europe. In opposition, settlements of the “Anti-Traction League” have developed an alternative civilization consisting of “static settlements” (traditional, non-mobile cities) in Asia led by Shan Guo (formerly China), protected by the “Shield Wall”. Relics of modern technology such as toasters, computers, and iPhones are valued as “Old-Tech.”
The city of London captures a small mining town called Salzhaken, absorbing its population and resources, under orders of Lord Mayor Magnus Crome. A masked woman among the Salzhakens is Hester Shaw, who seeks to assassinate Thaddeus Valentine, Head of the Guild of Historians. Tom Natsworthy, a teenage Apprentice Historian, is sent to London’s “Gut” to collect Old-Tech for London’s Museum, accompanied by Valentine’s good-natured daughter Katherine. Hester attempts to kill Valentine but Tom intervenes, pursuing Hester to a waste chute. Hester escapes, but not before telling him that Valentine murdered her mother and scarred her face. When Tom informs Valentine of this, he pushes Tom down the chute.
Tom and Hester are forced to work together to traverse the Great Hunting Ground, finding refuge in a town called Scuttlebug, but the owners lock them in a cell and intend to sell them as slaves. Hester confides that Valentine killed her archaeologist mother Pandora after stealing a piece of Old-Tech she found in a dig in the Dead Continent of America, whilst young Hester escaped with a necklace her mother gave her. Meanwhile, Valentine frees Shrike, a reanimated cyborg known as a “Stalker”, from an offshore prison to hunt down and kill Hester. At the slave market of Rustwater, Tom and Hester are rescued by Anti-Traction League agent Anna Fang. During the chaos, Tom and Hester are pursued by Shrike, whom Hester reveals she knows. Hester explains that Shrike had found and raised her, and Hester promised to allow him to turn her into a Stalker like himself, but she left after discovering that London was in the Great Hunting Ground. On London, Katherine grows estranged from her father, especially after learning from the Apprentice Engineer Bevis Pod that Valentine pushed Tom down the chute, and learns that Valentine’s energy project in the re-purposed St Paul’s Cathedral is more than it seems.
Hester and Tom travel on Anna’s airship the Jenny Haniver to the airborne city Airhaven, meeting with other members of the Anti-Traction League. Tom figures out what Pandora discovered is MEDUSA, a superweapon that can destroy cities in an instant. Shrike catches up with them and Airhaven is destroyed in the ensuing fire. Following a fierce skirmish, Shrike is mortally wounded, realizing that Hester is in love with Tom. Before perishing, he makes peace with Hester and frees her of her promise. Hester, Tom, and Anna then travel to the Shield Wall with the surviving Anti-Tractionists. On London, Valentine kills Crome in a coup and drums up support from Londoners by vowing to destroy the Shield Wall with MEDUSA and lead them to a new Hunting Ground in Asia. Anna convinces Governor Kwan to launch the Anti-Tractionist fleet against London, but MEDUSA destroys the fleet and blasts a hole through the Shield Wall. Hester discovers that her mother’s necklace hides a “crash drive” with a kill switch for MEDUSA. Hester, Tom, Anna, and the remaining Anti-Tractionists lead a raid against London, braving the city’s anti-aircraft defences.
Having never read the book, I went into this movie not knowing what to expect at all. I was urprised that such an outlandish premise had garnered so much attention, but the immediacy the main characters created, made it all fall nicely into place, as the backdrop world for a basic, yet extrememly exciting thrillride. The effects and imagery were spot on and I have to say, I recomend this for the whole family for a night out. 4.5 stars and easily worth the price of a premium ticket.