© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

Mortal Engines: Krieg der Städte (Mortal Engines)
New Zealand/U.S.A. 2018

Opening 13 Dec 2018

Directed by: Christian Rivers
Writing credits: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Philip Reeve
Principal actors: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery

It’s the year 3118 and human nature hasn’t progressed much, actually regressing back to early civilization. Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) is the chief navigator and bad guy, creating a new energy system to destroy all. His beautiful daughter Katherine (Leila George) has faith in him, until she sees the truth. Historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) runs the museum and sorts through thousand-year-old junk. Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) is a young woman, who dedicates her life seeking revenge for the murder of her mother, while running away from Shrike (Stephen Lang), a part-human, part-robot who rescued her when she was only eight years old. He wants to turn her into a robot, too, so that “she is free and no longer sad.” And then there is Anna Fang (Jihae) who wishes to improve the present situation and make history. Countries no longer exist, just city states on wheels or “walking pyramids,” which chase other cities. The largest is London, the home of Thaddeus, Katherine, and Tom. It is huge with the rich living in luxury at the top and the poor and the captive on the bottom. Huge engines grind up everything that is captured, which makes it difficult for Tom to rescue historical objects, such as an old toaster.

Based on a series of Mortal Engines books by Philip Reeve, I was surprised how fascinated I was, considering that I’m not so familiar with science fiction. Here the special effects are splendid in a world basically empty, as it would have been a thousand years before our time; we have come full circle in destroying everything around us. War never ends. Here, though, there seems to be advanced technology, including Valentine’s perverse invention: a huge weapon which rises out of the top of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The international cast is excellent, coming from Iceland, Ireland, England, the USA, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Australia, etc. Jihae, from South Korea, is a musician now in her first feature film. Other young members of the cast are definitely on the brink of successful careers. The music carries along the emotions and expectations perfectly. Composers are Tom Holkenborg, who goes by the title Junkie XL, and Antonio Di Iorio. Both have a history of successful film music composition. Filmed in New Zealand. (Becky Tan)

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