A mysterious young woman named Hester Shaw joins forces with Anna Fang, a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head, and Tom Natsworthy, an outcast from London, to lead a rebellion against a giant predator city on wheels.
Directed by: Christian Rivers
. Starring: Hera Hilmar
, Robert Sheehan
, Hugo Weaving
, Ronan Raftery
, Leila George
, Patrick Malahide
, Stephen Lang
, Colin Salmon
, Mark Mitchinson
, Regé-Jean Page
, Menik Gooneratne
, Frankie Adams
. Music by: Junkie XL
As comedy goes it's classic gold! London has been transferred, presumably via a futuristic huge forklift truck of some kind, onto a huge chassis and is now chugging its way across mainland Europe. Needing fuel, it has the capability to gobble-up (take that Barnier!) other towns and cities (also roaming the countryside) which London 'digests' (smoke that Tusk!). Curiously, the captured cities' inhabitants are not exterminated but integrated into the City's population: so much for any anti-immigration policy! (LOL).
But all doesn't go entirely smoothly for the UK capital. The Lord Mayor of London (Patrick Malahide) declares "We should never have gone into Europe. It's the biggest mistake we ever made". (Classic: how we SNORTED with laughter!)
Stuffing it squarely to the 'remainers', London makes its own future. "It's time to show the world how strong London can be". Having conquered most of Europe, it's time to set its sights on new markets to conquer: so London takes the Chinese on! (Now the tears of laughter are flowing freely!) Trade deals have never been more entertaining since "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace"!
OK, so in the interests of 'advertising standards', I'd better make clear before you rush out to the cinema expecting a comedy feature that my tongue is firmly in my cheek here. For "Mortal Engines" is the latest sci-fi feature from Peter Jackson. But when viewed from a Brexit perspective, it's hilarious!
In terms of plot, this (like "Waterworld") makes clever use of the Universal logo to set the agenda. The world has been decimated with a worldwide war - though clearly one that selectively destroyed bits of London and not others! - and the survivors must try to survive in any way they can. Settlements are divided between those that are 'static' and those (like London) that are mobile and constantly evolving: "Municipal Darwinism" as it is hysterically described. But London, or rather the power-crazed Londoner Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), wants revolution rather than evolution and he is working on development of one of the super-weapons that started the world's demise in the first place.
But Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), separated when young from her mother Pandora (yes, she has a box and we've seen it: wink, wink) is intent on stopping him, since she is on a personal path of vengence. Teaming up with Londoner Tom (Robert Sheehan) and activist Anna Fang (Jihae) they must face both Thaddeus and the ever-relentless Shrike (Stephen Lang) to try to derail the destructive plan.
Anna Fang declares "I'm not subtle" and neither is this movie. The film is loud and action-filled and (as a significant plus) visually extremely impressive with it. I'm not a great fan of excessive CGI but here it is essential, and the special-effects team do a great job. The production design is tremendous - a lot of money has been thrown at this - and the costume design inventive, a high-spot (again snortworthy) being the Beefeater guards costumes!
Where the film really crashes, like a post-Brexit stock market, is with the dialogue. The screenplay by Jackson himself, with his regular writers Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens contains some absolute clunkers, notwithstanding the unintended LOL-worthy Brexit irony. It's jaw-droppingly bad, believe me.
As for 'the turns', the only real "name" in the whole film is Jackson-favourite Hugo Weaving. Just about everyone else in the cast is pretty well unknown, and in many cases it shows. Standing head and shoulders though for me over the rest of the cast was Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar, who strikes a splendidly feisty pose as the mentally and physically scarred Hester. I look forward to seeing what she does next.
Story-wise, there's not a sci-fi film that's not been looted, and a number of other films seem to be plundered too. (I can't comment on how much of this comes from the source book by Philip Reeve). The Londonmobile looks for all the world like Monty Python's "Crimson Permanent Assurance Company"; the teenage female lead is Sarah Connors, relentlessly pursued by The Terminator; the male lead is archaologist cum hot-shot pilot Indiana Solo, leather jacket and all; there is a Blade Runner moment; a battle that is a meld of "The Great Wall" and Morannon from "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers"; a less sophisticated aerial location from "The Empire Strikes Back"; and another classic Star Wars moment (without the words being actually said!).
Now I'm loathe to say anything bad about director Peter Jackson, after his breathtakingly memorable "They Shall Not Grown Old". And the film has its moments of flair, most memorably a "life flashing before your eyes scene" that I found genuinely moving. But overall, as an actioner, it's a bit of a mess. It's a long way from being the worse film I've seen this year by a long stroke - it kept me interested and amused in equal measure for the running time. But I think given it's initially bombed at the Box Office, any plans Jackson had to deliver a series of these movies might need to be self-funded.
(For the full graphical review, please check out One Mann's Movies on the web or Facebook.
Review by bob-the-movie-man from the Internet Movie Database.