A brief look on the internet this morning suggests that many critics didn’t much like Mortal Engines. I enjoyed it.
The film is set several thousand years in the future, by which time civilisation has managed to wipe itself out and a new way of living — the gloriously named Municipal Darwinism — has emerged. This involves moving cities roaming the land in order to prey on smaller towns. London is the biggest and meanest of these cities and finding that towns on which to prey are becoming fewer and further between.
Fortunately (for London), Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) has a plan.
Into this steps Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), who has a history with Valentine. After a failed murder attempt, she finds herself pushed off the city along with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), a naive Londoner who finds himself dragged along by events and forced to discover how wrong were many of his beliefs about the world.
In terms of plot, there isn’t a great deal going on and the various reveals are all pretty predictable. It is also true that, apart from Hester, the characterisation can be pretty flimsy. This is especially noticeable in the case of Thaddeus Valentine — if it wasn’t for the charisma that Hugo Weaving brings to the role, the emptiness of his backstory would have been seriously problematic.
At the end of the day, though, this is a film about moving cities and on this level, Mortal Engines delivers spectacularly.
Obviously, this is a very CGI-heavy film but the CGI feels both consistent and satisfyingly solid. The steampunk design certainly helps here so that, when you see the characters leaping across impossibly oversized mechanisms, the bone-crunching potential of any slip feels both real and thrilling.
Mortal Engines is a steampunk action film in which a well-drawn central character is superbly supported in order to hold your attention from each set-piece to the next. And the set-piece action scenes are both frequent and stunning.
Some films are built for a big screen. This is one of them.