Mortal Engines (2018)

I’m still entirely unsure how I felt about this to be honest. I’m kind of glad I’ve seen it, but I never need to see it again. For one thing, the characters were all incredibly dull (and there was a lot of them), most of the characters have no chance of being remembered as great YA movie characters in years to come. Tbh I can barely remember their names. There’s two possible exceptions: Hester (not, as I thought, Esther) has a definitive look and backstory which at the very least means you remember her. I get the feeling she was better developed in the book, and they cut a lot out to fit the film. I mean, her character backstory is well developed, but her non-flashback character is kind of bland and not there. There’s another character called Shrike (who I thought was called Shrek until just now) who is a great character, but is disposed of far too easily. He has a heartbreaking backstory hinted at, and could easily be a bigger part of it. I think that’s my issue with this film, it goes through about 3 films worth of concepts in one, but doesn’t really flesh out any of them.

It’s also far too long. This would be fine if it didn’t feel so long, yet so much of the time in this is wasted with stuff that ultimately means nothing. Even Shrike, great character that he is, only seems to exist in the story as a way to move the characters on. That’s all he seems to do for a lot of it, turn up, the characters move, he turns up again, the characters move again. In some senses he’s not a character, he’s a plot device.

Tonally the film is a bit all over the place, random references to masturbation are followed by deaths. It takes itself far too seriously a lot of the time, as such it’s just, well it’s not very fun. It’s a film about moving cities, at the very least it should be fun to watch. I mean, it’s GREAT to look at. Props to everyone involved for the designs of the places themselves. The trouble with a lot of films similar to this is there’s so much CGI that everything looks super clean, buildings end up looking like pieces from video games. In this everything looks REAL. You look around at the background and see decaying buildings, wear and tear on machinery etc. THAT’S the art of great set design, creating little imperfections can make a world seem perfect. Similar to that, the world design is fantastic, there’s a LOT of lore and world history to unpack here. Although I do have to point out one thing very early on that annoyed me: they imply that people using phones and computers caused them to forgot how to read. Have you been on the internet lately? It’s 50% people getting your/you’re mixed up, and 50% people shaming the first group of people. Also, don’t criticise something for “dumbing people down” when you’re a dystopian YA movie that makes references to Minions.

So yeah, see this at the cinema, maybe watch it at home if you’ve got a big enough TV to take it all in, but it’s hard to recommend that you watch this for any reason other than the scenery. 10/10 would play a video game of this though.

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