From the makers of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” comes this tale set more than 1,000 years in the future. With the exception of a rolling city, it has precious little to distinguish it from other, better post-apocalyptic films. Rating: 1 star out of 4.
It was the age of rust and scowls.
It was a time of giant, crusty machinery, clanking noisily; of gears and hoses and cables and pipes and huge belching smokestacks jammed haphazardly together in a mishmash manner that repels the eye. It’s no wonder hardly anyone smiles.
The time in “Mortal Engines” is more than 1,000 years in the future, when the city of London, powered by primitive technology, rolls across forlorn plains of a post-apocalyptic Earth on humongous caterpillar treads, devouring smaller, fleeing cities in its massive metal jaws … Wait. What? Huh?
That sounds very peculiar. Peculiar in the extreme. But such is the world dreamed up by novelist Philip Reeve and adapted for the screen by Peter Jackson, his wife Fran Walsh and their longtime collaborator Philippa Boyens. Makers of gargantuan entertainments (“The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” “King Kong”), they confined themselves to writing and producing this time around. Jackson handed off directing chores to Christian Rivers, whose previous experience is as a storyboard and visual- effects guy who’s spent his whole career with Jackson.
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“Mortal Engines” is gargantuan all right. A gargantuan mess. With a purported budget of $100 million, never has so much money been spent to produce something that looks so crummy.
Enmeshed in the chaos is a scarred young woman named Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), who is hellbent on killing Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), the guy who slashed her face and gave her those scars. He also happens to be the evil genius at the top of the political power pyramid of rampaging London. Also in the mix is a twit named Tom (Robert Sheehan), who somehow wins the affection of tough-minded Hester despite being an ineffectual pest for most of the picture.
With architecture that seem cribbed from “Brazil,” a cyborg with glowing green eyes that looks like a rotted Terminator and a climactic battle straight out of the attack on the Death Star in “Star Wars,” “Mortal Engines” hasn’t much in the way of originality, other than its rolling city, to distinguish it from other, better post-apocalyptic tales.
★ “Mortal Engines,” with Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae. Directed by Christian Rivers, from a screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. 128 minutes. Rated PG-13 for sequences of futuristic violence and action. Opens Dec. 14 at multiple theaters.