Mortal Engines

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Mortal Engines
Genre: post-apocalyptic
Running Time: 128 minutes
Country: New Zealand
United States
Release Date: December 7, 2018 (New Zealand)
December 14, 2018 (Unites States)
Directed by: Christian Rivers
Written by: Peter Jackson
Fran Walsh
Philippa Boyens
Distributed by: Universal Pictures
Starring: Hugo Weaving
Hera Hilmar
Robert Sheehan
Ronan Raftery
Leila George
Patrick Malahide
Stephen Lang

Mortal Engines is a post apocalyptic adventure film released in 2018. It is based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve.

The Plot

In a post-apocalyptic future, all cities and towns are built on wheels so as to more easily harvest the Earth's resources, with the larger cities frequently devouring their smaller counterparts. Hester Shaw, a resident of one such town, uses the opportunity to try and get revenge on Thaddeus Valentine, the man who killed her mother, but is unwittingly foiled by an apprentice historian named Tom Natsworthy. Afterwards, the two team up to take down Valentine and prevent him from activating a super-weapon named MEDUSA.

Why it Sucks

  1. Generic story about a chosen one who is fated to bring down a tyrannical civilization.
  2. Hester Shaw is a blatant Mary Sue, who is shown to have no significant character flaws other than her obsessive need for revenge on Valentine, has a vast number of talents, and the other characters make long speeches about how incredibly special she is.
  3. Hester's story arc feels like a rip-off of that of Jyn Erso from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. To be fair, the original novel pre-dated Rogue One by over a decade, but they could have done more to make Hester distinct from Jyn.
  4. They combined a bunch of the novel's first scenes into one, meaning that the start of the story feels like a massive co-incidence; Hester just happens to be instantly presented with an opportunity for revenge on Valentine, the man who killed her mother, after her old town is devoured by London.
  5. The story revolves around London having developed an incredibly powerful superweapon that can instantly destroy other cities. But London is already so powerful that there's no logical reason why they would ever need such a weapon.
  6. The whole "cities on wheels" premise is poorly explained. You'd think that building cities in this way would use up far more of the resources they were trying to conserve! This is something the novel explained better, but the film glosses over.
  7. None of the main characters are particularly likeable or interesting.
  8. While the acting is generally okay, no-one aside from Hugo Weaving or Patrick Malahide really stands out very much.
  9. Christian Rivers isn't nearly as good at directing large-scale action sequences as Peter Jackson (who produced and co-wrote the film).
  10. The ending pulls the "I am your father" twist in total seriousness. Not only is this extremely cliched for a film released in 2018, the twist is already obvious by about a third of the way through the film, and even from just watching the trailer!

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Impressive visual effects and production design on the cities.
  2. It's at least pretty faithful to the original novel outside of a few scenes being condensed for time.
  3. Hugo Weaving is an entertaining villain.


The film got poor reviews, and a 26% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it the worst-reviewed film of executive producer Peter Jackson's career. To date, the film has only grossed around $73 million against a budget of $100 million: including marketing, it is estimated to have lost $103-150 million, making it one of the biggest box-office bombs in history.