Review - Mortal Engines
I watched Mortal Engines this week, directed by Christian Rivers.
The movie was based on a 4 book series by Philip Reeve, I haven’t read them, but this review is solely focused on the movie.
Unfortunately, the movie suffers from a problem that can occur when converting from book to movie, especially when making a movie from a book series, that problem is the story is too busy. In order to get everything into this story they just ram it in, without giving characters the screen time we need to get to know them.
Backstory flashback exposition is liberally used to tell the main character’s history, it is not only overdone to the point of boredom, but there is literally a part where the story is almost self-aware of it and the main character, Hester Shaw, says “We are not going to tell each other our sad stories.” Which would be fine if she didn’t go on to tell her sad story almost immediately anyway.
The world the story is based in doesn’t get built, it gets told to us. Every threat gets a little exposition monologue just before it happens so that we know what’s going on, instead of building the story up in an organic way. The transition from the ordinary world to the extraordinary world happens at 26 minutes, in a 2-hour film, which isn’t super early but they could have spent 10 minutes shifting the threat exposition into the beginning hook, which will make the threats seem a lot less forced.
As I watched the movie it felt as though someone was just ticking of boxes in a story checklist. If I did an in depth analysis of the film, like I would do to examine a masterwork of a genre (This is definitely not a masterwork), I doubt I would find any huge glaring story issues as such. It had all the pieces, in order, but nothing is surprising. There is no part of this film where the story does something innovative or unique.
All in all, Mortal Engines is not a terrible film, it feels a bit rushed and not worth the cost of a cinema ticket, but it would pair well with a couple of beers and a cuddle on the couch at home.