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THE REEL: Mortal Engines

Friday March 1 2019

A screen grab from the trailer of the movie Mortal Engines, a 2018 post-apocalyptic adventure film directed by Christian Rivers. PHOTO| COURTESY YOUTUBE

A screen grab from the trailer of the movie Mortal Engines, a 2018 post-apocalyptic adventure film directed by Christian Rivers. PHOTO| COURTESY YOUTUBE 

Mortal Enginesis a 2018 post-apocalyptic adventure film directed by Christian Rivers and with a screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve.

The setting for this tale is some hundreds of years after civilisation was destroyed by a cataclysmic event (the shattering of the earth’s crust).

From this post- apocalyptic era rose the predator cities. London is a powerful town on wheels, people- yes, actual wheels- making it a mobile city. We are not told exactly how they were able to achieve such a feat; we can only assume that the need to scavenge for the scarce resources from other settlements led to this.

The smaller towns are also mobile and we are treated to this battle for supremacy between the cities early into the movie with London as the predator attacking a small mining town to exploit its minerals.


In this town we meet Hester Shaw (Hera Himlar) who is feral in her pursuit of her mother’s killer Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) who is the head of the guild of historians, as well as the lead engineer of London’s energy project.

She waits eagerly to get to London even if it means her town has to be captured. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) , a London historian, finds himself on the wrong side of Thaddeus and pays for it by being left for dead.

Tom and Hester Shaw, together with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw they meet along the way, all work together to stop Thaddeus Valentine who has a nuclear weapon which he has no reservations in using against whoever gets in his way.

Valentine and his weapon is not the only obstacle facing Hester and company, we also have a half-zombie half-cyborg like creature who is obsessed with killing her for breaking a promise she made him.

The undead robot called Shrike (played by Stephen Lang with a substantial overlay of CGI of course) is part of something called the ‘Lazarus brigade’ which is information that won’t help you in any way as we have been given no backstory at all. 


The movie is packed with eye-catching special effects and computer graphic imagery, but fell a bit short on narrative depth.

I found the plot to be a bit too predictable and the cast’s performance unconvincing.

I know that sounds like a blanket condemnation but no one particularly stood out for me.

There is a story to follow, but maybe the book just had a bit much more of a story that wasn’t able to be fitted into screening time.

There is also sufficient action from Anna Fang who resembles Neo from the “Matrix”, or maybe it’s all in my head.

The writer-producer trio of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens were all responsible for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, as was Christian Rivers, the film’s director. Fantasy is what these guys do and they did it well.

I particularly enjoyed a scene where Hester and Tom were jumping over tread tracks from the cities wheels like they were in a steeplechase.

There are a number of talking points raised such as the self-destructive nature of humans where the “ancients” (which means us) managed to destroy the world in sixty minutes through a bio weapon.

This is all personified by Thaddeus Valentine who has a serious appetite for war and shows no hint of remorse indicating that humanity has not learnt its lesson.

If you are looking for something out of the norm to watch then look no further.