PG-13 Dir: Christian Rivers | Universal | 1h 51min
Plot: What’s it about?
Any hopes that the people behind Mortal Engines had of building a franchise were quickly put to rest by the film’s paltry $7 million opening weekend. The film cost Universal Studios a huge chunk of change. Even with the December release date and Peter Jackson’s name as one of the producers, the film vanished without much talk at all, well, the bad kind of talk. Maybe someday we will get more original content that doesn’t have such an inflated budget, and can stand on its own, without trying to build a franchise. While the film has some merits, it does very little to stand apart from its peers. The YA (Young Adult) series have been hit-or-miss lately, with more misses than hits. For everyHunger Games and Divergent, there’s the disaster such as this and The Darkest Minds. It’s likely audience fatigue as they’re flooding the market and the quality isn’t always there.
Hundreds of years after civilization is destroyed, a new world has emerged where cities are mobile. You read that right: cities can move. Mobile cities were created as a way to survive on a dying earth. We see a young woman whose face is covered. Her name is Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and she is concealing a scar and seeks revenge against Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) for killing her mother. After a close encounter, she and Tom (Robert Sheehan) team up and join the resistance. London has become a giant predator city on wheels, and Shaw and the others try to stop it. There’s a lot more plot going on here, but I’ll leave it for whoever chooses to sit and watch the thing.
Mortal Engines has an urgency to it that keeps it from stalling for too long, and some of the big action scenes are well-done, but I was just bored by it all. At times the look of the film is very dark and hard to decipher just what’s going on. The characters also didn’t do much for me, making it hard to care about the outcome of any of it. I will say that the film is hardly a disaster its box office numbers would have you believe, but it’s hardly one that can be defended either. It simply exists and goes through the motions. I’ve seen better and worse films in this genre, with this just being very average.
Video: How’s it look?
There are some films that are on the 4K format that have left me scratching my head. Others, it would seem, make much more sense. Mortal Engines certainly falls into the latter category and it makes full use of anything and everything the Ultra HD format has to offer. The majority of the film is CGI, but it doesn’t feel like it. Some titles in 4K often feel somewhat fake or manufactured due to the increased resolution and color due to the HDR. This actually works in favor of this film as the 2.40:1 HEVC 4K picture looks simply stunning. I really couldn’t find anything wrong with it. The higher dynamic range really works here, offering deep, rich blacks and a richness in texture and detail that left my jaw on the floor. While the film itself might leave some wondering, if pure visual enjoyment is what you’re after – look no further.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Not to be outdone, we’re presented with a Dolby Atmos track on both the 4K version as well as the Blu-ray (also included in this set). I was simply stunned at how good this sounds. Vocals, of course, are strong and crisp with a well-defined range. But, as is so often the case with Atmos soundtracks, the atmospheric sounds had my head buzzing and spinning during several key sequences. The front stage does a fair job, but it’s really a testament to the plethora of speakers in your system and how this film utilizes them all – and well. Again, from a technical standpoint, this film delivers the goods on audio.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- End of the Ancients – If you’re unfamiliar with the source material, this should serve as a good segue into the world of Mortal Engines.
- Audio Commentary – Director Christian Rivers gives us a very by-the-book commentary track. It’s almost as if he has a list of bullet points that he wants to cover for this track and checks them off one by one. Still, if you’re interested in this film (and I assume you have to be out there), it’s a very well-thought out track that literally covers all of the basis of the production.
- Film New Zealand – Many supplemental features have a feature about the state of Georgia. Others have one about New Zealand. This is the latter. And seeing as how they tout the film as “…from the makers of Lord of the Rings…” we see the amazing beauty that is New Zealand.
- Welcome to London – Assuming you’ve watched the film, we know that the film took place in a post-apocalyptic London. If you’re one of those that read these before viewing the film, oops. Broken down into five shorter segments (that really don’t denote an explanation), we get a look at some of the key set pieces used in the film.
- Building the Beast
- Levels of London
- The Smallest Details
- London Museum
- Medusa and St. Paul’s
- Character Series – Similar to the above feature, we get another segment, once again broken down into five shorter pieces that give us a breakdown of the characters in the film. Some behind the scenes footage is included as well as the actors telling us about their respective characters and roles.
- Hester Shaw
- Tom Natsworthy
- Anna Fang
- Thaddeus Valentine
- In the Air – The monstrous, floating cities used in the film are given a once over here with some emphasis on how they were created and thier roles in the film.
The Bottom Line
While not terrible, Mortal Engines failed to do much for me. The plot moves along at a reasonable pace, but little else about it stands out from its peers. Maybe Hollywood should give the young adult genre a bit of a rest and shift their approach. I suppose a rental for those seriously curious about the film, but it’s not great.