Mortal Engines (2018)
★ / ★★★★
Boiled down to its essence, “Mortal Engines” is a parable involving privileged whites who desperately wish to maintain dominance over the poor, many of whom are people of color. Those in power reside in a massive mobile city of London, obliterating everything in its path for resources. It is a predator city in which one of the citizens’ respected leaders is Valentine (Hugo Weaving), a man in search of putting together rare materials to create a power source similar to a nuclear weapon. As you see, the central plot and its moving parts are not subtle. But for some reason, the screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson, buries what could have been a potentially deep, thoughtful, timely story in place of a sort of love story between a girl with facial scarring (Hera Hilmar) and an apprentice historian (Robert Sheehan), which includes an awkward appendage of the former’s origin story. As one expository sequence reveals another… and then another still for about an hour, viewers yearning to be challenged are haunted by rawer images of Londoners treating war like sport. They gather and cheer with ecstasy as their gargantuan home threatens to utterly destroy another smaller and exponentially weaker moving city. Director Christian Rivers is given nothing to work with other than expensive special and visual effects—all smoke and mirrors, no substance.