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Film review: Mortal Engines


Dystopian thriller Mortal Engines plunges viewers into a futuristic world with steampunk styling and no shortage of explosive action.

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Based on the book by fantasy fiction author Philip Reeve, Mortal Engines is set in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic world after a 60-minute war employing the most horrific weaponry has all but destroyed much of habitable Earth.

To survive, giant engines have been created to allow cities such as London to mobilise, and they roam around devouring smaller mobile towns and depleting the planet of its resources.

It is an imaginative world and the CGI specialists have done an excellent job in re-creating Reeve’s conception of the cities. The costuming and sets include an intriguing mix of recognisable old London, resulting in a futuristic world with a steampunk theme.

Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar plays the beautiful but scarred Hester Shaw, who at the outset is intent on taking personal revenge by assassinating the villainous Thaddeus Valentine (brilliantly played by Hugo Weaving). He, in turn, is desperate to create the Medusa weapon that will allow him to destroy a wall that exists between civilisations and give him mastery of the Earth.

Hester’s offsider is Tim Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), a fresh-faced museum attendant who seems to know quite a lot about technology and how to use redundant pieces of junk to create an amazing weapon. The pair eventually join with rebel pilot Anna Fang (South Korean musician Jihae) to try to thwart Thaddeus, but must also deal with Shrike, a seemingly indestructible technological assassin bent on killing Hester.

Director Christian Rivers has Mortal Engines explode onto the screen with action, and the story develops at a rapid pace with regular twists and new characters added.

The film marks Rivers’ directorial debut, but New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson is both a producer and screenwriter, and Mortal Engines is in the same vein as some of his epic movie experiences (Rivers also worked as a storyboard artist on The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings series).

The result is an escapist, enjoyable sci-fi movie which looks good but offers a bleak view of the kind of future that could unfold as a result of military conflicts, weapons of mass destruction, the depletion of natural resources, and man’s desire conquest and expansion.

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