I went into the screening of Mortal Engines not having read the book by the same name. I had only seen the preview, months before hand. I was extremely impressed with the story as well as the amazing cinematography of the film itself.

The movie is a sweeping saga that involves many lives and people in an entirely new world. People from our time are called The Ancients, as we predate the “Sixty MinuteWar” that was waged with horrific nuclear type weapons. Set around a thousand years later, this steampunk dystopia keeps finding bits and pieces of the world from before. Cities are portable, on massive tank tracks. Some are the size of several houses, whereas London is many stories high and includes many of our current London icons. They include St Paul’s Cathedral at the very top, as well as the British Museum, and two massive remodelled lions flanking the area in the middle, where they hunt down smaller cities and tear them apart for fuel and resources. It appears that the Americas were obliterated in the war, as it is spoken of as a dead continent. All of the action takes place across Europe and into Asia.

Peter Jackson's Mortal Engines
In this concept art for the film, a mobile city rolls across a desolate war-torn wasteland.

While I’m sure the book has many more details, this movie does an admirable job of fitting so much information into two hours on screen. We begin with the Universal logo,showing massive world wide explosions. It continues with a voiceover, “Sixty minutes is all it took for the Ancients to bring humanity to extinction.” It described the Predator Cities of the West, and that is the normal way of life. A brief introduction to the major character of Hester Shaw leads to a city chase after London causes a group of smaller mobile cities to flee a small get together where trading was being done. When the larger city catches up, citizens of London are cheering on the viewing platforms at the front. They assimilate the citizens after they are stripped of all weapons, valuables, and tech.

Hester Shaw is played by Hera Hilmar, an Icelandic actress who is already making her mark with television and movies such as Anna Karenina (2012) and Life in aFishbowl (2014). The story revolves around her and her nemesis, Thaddeus Valentine, who basically runs London, played with an intensity typical for Hugo Weaving. Robert Sheehan, who looks more than passingly similar to Eddy Redmayne from Fantastic Beasts, plays the character Tom who transitions from being a helper at the British Museum to embarking to an adventure unlike any he could have imagined, once he ends up teamed up with Hester in the Outlands. Other characters include Strike, the last of the Lazarus Brigade, played with more emotion than one would expect by Stephen Lang; Leila George plays Thaddeus’ blonde daughter Katherine; and the beautiful Jihae playing the Matrix-style rebel Anna Fang.

This movie is a spectacle, and definitely better on the big screen. The story is quite self contained, so it stands on its own, even though there are more books in the series by Phillip Reeve. There are several nail biting scenes, and the climactic ending lasts some time as scenes unfold. With the renowned Peter Jackson at the helm, this is a visually immersive movie. Jackson is already discussing sequels. I can’t wait.

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