Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Mortal Engines

On Sunday, December 23rd, we went to see Mortal Engines, the movie made from the successful series of post-apocalyptic novels involving mobile cities that prey on each other for fuel and material.

We thought the movie was actually pretty good, and certainly very interesting to look at. The design sense of Peter Jackson and Weta Workshop are very much in evidence. In particular, the design of the City of London, incorporating St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben, and the statues of Boudicca and the Trafalgar lions into the juggernaut city, is nicely done.

The story is a decent adventure story, although somewhat diffuse. The basic plot deals with trying to keep the head bad guy (Thaddeus Valentine, played by Hugo Weaving) from getting and using a superweapon.

Comparisons with Star Wars are pretty inevitable: London becomes the Death Star; there’s a scene involving flying inside the giant machine to attack it, and even an “I-am-your-father-Luke” moment. The London citizens, cheering as their city overtakes and captures another have good reason to rejoice, but they still reminded me of audiences from The Hunger Games. And, you can’t avoid a Metropolis reference: London’s great engine is the Heart Machine in hellish color. Other than that, though, the characters are their own selves. Valentine is a particularly protean villain, sometimes menacing, and sometimes smarmy. Heroine Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) is not like any other character I can readily think of. Anna Fang (Jihae) is not just Han Solo in drag.

Given its great expense, the movie did staggeringly badly opening weekend and was estimated to threaten a $100 million dollar loss. I think it was better than that, but was badly marketed. It’s not just that the movie establishment still doesn’t know what to do with Steampunk (which it’s lumped into) but I realized that, even though I’ve seen most of the superhero, SF and fantasy movies this year, I only saw about one trailer for Mortal Engines. Compare that with the year-long advertising and hype campaigns that you get for the next Star Wars or Marvel film, and I think it was woefully under-promoted.

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Tags: fantasy, movies, science fiction, steampunk
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