Always on the search for those ever-elusive “so bad it’s great” films.
“Mortal Engines” is the NOT directed by Peter Jackson action epic, based on the 2001 Phillip Reeve’s novel of the same name. It’s The Matrix meets Mad Max meets The Lord of the Rings. What could possibly go wrong?
Adapting books into movies is a tricky business. Fans want the film to be as accurate to the book as possible. I should know. I remember being extremely upset back in the day when I learned that they were leaving Peeves out of the first Harry Potter movie.
In hindsight, they were right to make that decision, and “Mortal Engines” should have followed that example. I have not read the books by Phillip Reeves, but watching the movie it’s obvious that they tried to cram as much of the original material into the movie as possible.
Because for every cool moment or sequence “Mortal Engines” offers us, there’s a ten-minute slog through exposition to get there. There’s SO much information in this movie you might wonder if there’s supposed to be a test after the credits roll. This is especially egregious considering that the plot is basically as follows: “Bad guy kills protagonist’s mother. Bad guy has plans for world domination. Protagonist wants to exact revenge and stop bad guy.”
That’s it. That’s the plot of the film. But, how did this post-apocalyptic world come to be? Why are they rolling around in “predator cities?” Why did the bad guy kill the mother? Why does the bad guy want to take over the world? How is the bad guy going to take over the world? How did the protagonist survive after her mother was killed? Who is this undead bounty hunter chasing our protagonist? Why is there an undead bounty hunter? And I haven’t even mentioned the fugitive or the love interest or the giant wall that they need to save.
Every single one of these questions and plot points involves a ten-minute explanation that drags the movie to a halt. Characters are introduced to us in one scene, killed in the next and we’re asked to care about them. I’m sure readers of the book shed a tear for “Blonde Guy #3,” but I didn’t.
Perhaps if they had simplified the plot – removed the Peeve’s, if you will – they could have had a fun film set in a unique world. The finished product, however, was a drag, which is a bummer because it feels like everyone involved in this project is extremely talented.