On Earth sometime in the future there was a sixty second war. Further in the future steam punk cities roam Europe.The amazing technological advancements required for these cities on tank treads are offset by numerous loses in communications and weapons technology.
I fear mentioning any more plot details or character motivations as I may be accused of spoilers. Very few specifics are learned in the opening moments of the movie. Although there seems to be a protagonist, Hester Shaw, her motivations are questionable at best. Determining who was supposed to be good seemed more about how they were introduced rather than how they actually behaved. On my second viewing I decided “Mortal Engines” would be a very bad place to try and learn morals. In the large cast of characters, there are only two, perhaps just one, that seem to have altruistic actions. I kept thinking “I can see why this guy is bad, but is this other guy good?”.
The structural problems of the film stem from some significant world building problems. The world is very complicated, and we learn enough to know it’s complicated, but not enough to know why anyone does what they do. Not just the main characters, but the societies as well. That might be realistic and true to life, but it makes a hard film to get emotionally connected to. There are moments clearly meant to be emotionally impactful that, for me, just aren’t.
The plot chugs along in a mostly pleasing way in a visually very impressive world. If you have a 4K tv you want to see what it can really do “Mortal Engines” is a great film to test it out with. Right from the start the movie has highly detailed very realistic looking sets. Even when you see something and know it must be computer generated it looks real. On my 5.1 system the surround is pretty good. The soundtrack is fitting, but not memorable.
There’s not much course language or sexual content, but there’s plenty of violence. Most of the violence is around the same level as Harry Potter except one brutal scene.
“Mortal Engines” is a lot like “Avatar” beautiful, but shallow. It’s exciting at times, but burdened with an overly complex world that either needed to be explained less, or a lot more.
My review sounds pretty bad doesn’t it? I think there are pretty good odds I’ll watch this again someday and I give it a 6/10. You could watch it while folding laundry without your kids.