Reviewed by: Alexander Malsan
Dystopian sci-fi stories about the future of Earth / post-apocalyptic world
Catastrophes—earthquakes, volcanoes, and other instabilities
Much technological and scientific knowledge being lost during a world war, causing a virtual halt in scientific progress
Struggle for survival in a post apocalyse world that is running out of resources
Dangers of weapons of mass destruction
Corruption of people in power
The effect of movies such as this one which portray Western civilization and Christianity as being extremely corrupt and violent in comparison to Eastern religion which is pictured as peaeful and harmonious
Wearing a necklace with pagan symbols
Steampunk mindset / prizing old technology
Earthquakes, volcanoes, and other instabilities
Hera Hilmar … Hester Shaw—a disfigured, fugitive assassin with a personal vendetta against Thaddeus
Hugo Weaving … Thaddeus Valentine—Head of the Guild of Historians and the father of Katherine Valentine
Jihae … Anna Fang—a pilot and leader of the Anti-Traction League, a resistance group
Robert Sheehan … Tom Natsworthy—a low-class apprentice historian of London thrown out of the city
Leila George … Katherine Valentine—daughter of Thaddeus Valentine and one of London’s elite
Stephen Lang … Shrike
Frankie Adams … Yasmina
Caren Pistorius … Pandora Shaw
Colin Salmon … Chudleigh Pomeroy
Ronan Raftery … Bevis Pod—an apprentice engineer whom Katherine befriends
Joel Tobeck … Bürgermeister
Patrick Malahide … Magnus Crome—Mayor of London
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|Producer:||WingNut Films [New Zealand]
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“Some scars never heal”
Following the events of a 60-minute war, the destruction made the Earth uninhabitable for humans for quite some time. Even when it did become habitable, many major cities (and even nations) took their landmasses and populations and placed them onto wheels (only a small few taking to the sky or staying on land), preying upon each other (other cities on wheels) in an effort for control (in essence, a survival of the fittest mentality, but more on that later…).
One of those cities is London, led by the Thaddeus Valentine. The people love him; he ensures the survival of London against all the other cities on wheels. He’s inviting to citizens whose cities he has ingested. Who wouldn’t love him, right? Well, there is one person…
Hester Shaw. She’s got it out for Thaddeus. In fact, Thaddeus has a bit of a history with Hester. Thaddeus, as it turns out (and don’t worry, this really isn’t a spoiler), is responsible for the death of Hester’s mother, Pandora. Why? Well that part is a little unclear. So, Hester’s out for blood. And when she gets SO close to taking out Thaddeus after sneaking into London, what happens? She gets thrown off London by Thaddeus with another boy, Tom, a young historian responsible for maintaining and collecting old technology from the time of the Ancients (time before the Sixty Minute War).
*MINOR SPOILER* Through a series of events (which I would divulge here sparingly for the sake of staying as spoiler-free as possible), Hester and Tom learn that Thaddeus is not content with London thriving on wheels. Rather, Thaddeus wants to conquer and control those who live on the land (those who live in the land of Asia). *END MINOR SPOILER*
It’s up to Hester and Tom to find a way back onto London and stop Thaddeus’ conquest plan before it’s too late.
I’m not one for reviewing many young adult dystopian films. In my recollection, a lot that I HAVE seen or reviewed are formulaic in many of their characters, romantic interests, plot points, and yes, setting. Arguably, this can be said of any movie genre (horror included, which I review the most). Hollywood can only come up with so many original ideas. Something is bound to repeat eventually.
And yet, contrary to what critics are saying about “Mortal Engines,” I found it to be unique in many areas and only similar in a few cinematic areas. On the surface, it looks like an average dystopian film: an apocalyptic event has caused civilization to point of devastation in which key characters are presented as the ultimate solution in bringing stability back to society (does anyone else think this sounds like “Maze Runner”?).
On the other hand, though, what “Mortal Engines” does have going for is its ability to bring characters we can actually care about (to a certain degree—there are always some you could care less about). I actually found myself engaged in the story and in the relationships that the characters had with each other. Additionally, I found the special effects and CGI for this film absolutely amazing, with no detail being left out. As critics have mentioned, there are moments where there is too much dialog, but with a series such as “Mortal Engines” (remember, they are condensing a novel into movie form—not an easy undertaking). Sometimes the dialog is necessary, and the action sequences made up for it (though, I admit some were pushing the boundary for a PG-13 rated film, such as the scene in which a character has their head shot off).
One other issue I have with this film is that it touches upon the topic of Municipal Darwinism, the belief that a city cannot function on its own without engulfing other cities. In my eyes, though the term “Municipal Darwinism” is fictional, the concept itself comes dangerously close to the promotion of the theory of survival of the fittest (the belief that only the strongest will thrive while others will eventually fade or cease to exist), which itself is an extension or a form of Social Evolution.
Violence: Very Heavy. There are a couple scenes where we witness people running through cities in panic and fear. We witness giant spears (some almost hitting people) being launched into a city and the city being ingested by London. We witness a man being beaten (we see him receive a bloody nose). Hester and Tom run thrown a city that is being ripped to shreds by London. Hester and Tom are pushed off a tall ledge. A character is stabbed. A female character is killed. We witness, in a flashback, a house being burned and hear someone being shot inside. We witness Hester receiving the mark on her face. In a brief, but somewhat graphic moment, we watch a male character’s head blown completely off and see his dismembered body fall. There are a couple scenes involving guns and knives. Characters are killed, and people are seen crashing into cities during an extended fight sequence (one crashes into a city through means of a kamikaze or planned suicide). Lastly, a character is crushed to death by a city.
Profanity/Vulgarity: Moderately Heavy. H*ll (5), d*mn, bl*ddy (2), b*stard. God and the Lord’s name is also taken in vain 4 times. Someone mentions, in an effort to stop Thaddeus, they are “late for church.” There is also a conversation regarding how to survive through means by drinking your own urine.
Sex: Moderate. When Tom and Hester fall down a hill, Tom lands on top of Hester to which she replies, “too close.” A reference is made to masturbation (“self-pollination”)by an auctioneer of slaves, when he puts Hester on display.
Nudity: There are some females with cleavage bearing outfits.
Other: A character chasing after Hester, Shrike, has an incredibly frightening appearance at first. One person is also seen praying to a marble image of Medusa.
There aren’t a lot of redeeming lessons in this film. However, if there is one thing I can draw upon, it is the theme of revenge. Hester spends 8 years trying to get onto the city of London—8 years plotting her revenge against Thaddeus for killing her mother.
We must remember that revenge is driven by hate and vengeful anger and those are not of God. The Bible is very clear:
This includes revenge, which itself IS an act of sin. Let God be in charge of vengeance. God says,
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” —Deuteronomy 32:35
“Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” —Proverbs 10:12
“Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.” —1 Thessalonians 5:15
“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” —Mark 11:25
Not surprisingly, the film “Mortal Engines” took MANY creative liberties from its book source—changing characters, the world and story. For example, in the book, Hester’s whole face is scarred and disfigured, with a missing eye and partial nose, but in the film you only see a cut across her cheek and the rest of her face is flawless for marketing purposes. And yet, when the author talks about the film, he states that most of the film looked exactly as he imagined with small portions being even better than he imagined. I find this interesting, because I wonder how a film can be exactly as you imagined, if a studio has made THAT many changes.
Nevertheless, while critics across the board have generally given this film a thumbs down, this critic’s thumb would be somewhere in the middle. “Mortal Engines” has moments where it thrives, visually and cinematically, and moments where it is way too cliché of YA (young adult) dystopian films that have come before. The violence alone is enough to caution against viewing by spiritually immature viewers, and even that I recommend caution (there is also a moderate amount of profanity to deal with, as well).
In short, “Mortal Engines” isn’t a horrible movie option for the holidays, but it certainly isn’t the greatest, either. You would probably be better off reading the book, Mortal Engines, instead, or, actually, just skip it altogether.
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.