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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Mortal Engines: Reasons to Praise It

I just saw Mortal Engines on HBO.  It was released here in the U. S. in December 2018, and received almost universal criticism from the usual group of myopic and tone-deaf self-appointed experts.  According to Wikipedia, "It was the biggest box-office bomb of 2018 (one of the 10 biggest of all time, as of August 2019)".

Unsurprisingly, I disagree - not with Wikipedia's statement of the movie's lack of success at the box-office, but with the critics.  In particular, I thought the Shrike story - the reanimated man and Hester - was one of the best of this kind.  The Shrike had a winning combination of insanity, obsessive violence, and tenderness, and Hester's love for him made a lot of sense, too.

And I liked Hugo Weaving's performance as the villain Valentine, whose character also made a lot of sense.  If you're going to be a power-mad conquerer, you might as well be consistent. That's certainly in tune with real-life current leaders who are not yet conquerers, but pretty clearly power-mad (as in Donald Trump).

One thing the movie did get its just recognition for was its special effects, which were indeed outstanding.   And the general ambience, a cross between Mad Max and Lord of the Rings, and suggestive of what James Blish's Cities in Flight might have been, had it been made into a movie, worked quite well, too.   (Peter Jackson was one of the main creative forces.)

But the sad thing about the combination of critical pans and poor box office is that it tends to put a kibosh on sequels.  I hope that Peter Jackson and others behind this powerful and entertaining movie ignore all of that, and get to work on the continuing the story (the movie comes from Philip Reeve's novel of the same name, and there are four in the series).  I'll certainly watch it, and even likely be able to talk my wife into seeing it on a big screen.


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