When the director of one of the greatest sagas in cinema speaks, we listen to him. When he produces and (partly) writes a film too. All this to say that the name of Peter Jackson associated with Mortal Engines necessarily makes our hair stand on end, even if he entrusted the camera to Christian Rivers, a long-time collaborator whose first experience as a director. But no one is required to be perfect, even when your name is Peter Jackson.
We had left the first thirty minutes of Mortal Engines quite excited by the great spectacle full of promise that this production of Peter Jackson was delivering to us. By overseeing the first volume of the Fatal Mechanics saga by Philipe Reeve, the Lord of the Rings dad had the cards in hand to sign, perhaps, THE surprise blockbuster of this end of the year. And if, visually, we were already conquered, we especially expected to know what the film could tell us.
A little reminder of the facts: about a thousand years in the future, the Earth, and more particularly Europe, is nothing more than a vast desolate expanse where the survivors have gathered within Locomopoles, gigantic mobile cities which devour each other. both to grab resources. A sort of Mad Max (compulsory parentage) where the vehicles are on the scale of a city. In this deadly game of stalker and stalker, young Hester (Hera Hilmar) is in search of revenge and on her way, will meet Tom (Robert Sheehan). So begins Mortal Engines.
Mortal Engines and its worn mechanics …
Let’s say it right away, the strong point of the feature film is not to be found in its script. Here, we quickly understand that we are dealing with the stereotype of Young Adult, whose literature abounds and which made the heyday of Hollywood a decade ago. Whether it is the relationship between our two heroes or the story in general, we see things happening well in advance and few events will manage to surprise us. Especially when a certain sequence is blithely pumping on the Star Wars side.
The lack of scriptwriting originality of the film could still have passed – which can be the case if you are really fans of the genre – if we had not felt this lack of control of the different elements populating the original work. We reassure you (or not), no need to have read Reeve’s work to realize the narrative blunders of Mortal Engines, especially with regard to the writing of the characters. Thus, many are the supporting roles to have been totally sacrificed, surely for lack of time. One thinks in particular of Katherine Valentine (Leila George) whose presence never manages to weigh on the story; or Anna Fang (Jihae), a person who would have a lot to say, but who is hardly interested in the story.
The most frustrating being to see that in the end this universe has enormous potential that the script touches on more than once. The pacifist utopia, the animal metaphor, the lessons of history, the class system, the war between megalopolises, etc … all the ingredients are gathered to open the debate around the economy, ecology, nationalization and we feel that the footage would sometimes like to go in this direction. Except that he seems a prisoner of the genre to which he belongs and will never insist elsewhere than on what remains the least worthy of interest.
… nevertheless ambitious
On the other hand, where we can not blame Mortal Engines, it is in what it puts in scene. The technical teams have done a colossal job to deliver us a steampunk decorum like we had never seen in the cinema. Each place visited has an aspect, a personality that makes it unique. All the scenes contain a lot of detail and Rivers’ camera pays homage to this titanic job, especially when it comes to flying over a moving and alive London, both humanly and materially. Not only is it impressive, but it’s also far from lazy. As much as we could complain about the lack of freshness of the scenario, we do not hide our pleasure in front of this visually abundant universe. At this level, we almost regret not having more to eat.
We were hoping for a great show and we had some! From the first to the last minute, there’s always something going on onscreen. Mortal Engines does not lack rhythm, or epic moments and offers us some breathtaking sequences. There is undoubtedly generosity in the film produced by Peter Jackson, which combines gourmet artistic direction and high quality special effects. We are not bored or little and we take full view.