At this point in its life cycle, MORTAL ENGINES is more famous for how big of a box office bomb it was. Someone even pointed out that the documentary THEY SHALL NOT GROW OLD had grossed almost $2 million more than MORTAL ENGINES at the domestic box office. So I guess that’s some good news and bad news for producer Peter Jackson. For what it’s worth, MORTAL ENGINES went on to gross another $67 million worldwide, but I think the message here is that something went terrible wrong with MORTAL ENGINES.
MORTAL ENGINES takes place in a world ravaged by a world war that utilized a mass destruction weapon called the Medusa. Given that everyone can breathe normally and trees are still growing, we have to assume these were not nuclear in nature. But thousands of years after the war, there are two types of cities; mobile and stationary. The mobile cities travel around destroying everything in their path and using up resources while the stationary cities protect themselves behind a wall and try to live peacefully. We’re following Hester (Hilmar), an orphan girl that seems hellbent on killing the leader of the largest mobile city, Thaddeus (Weaving). After losing her chance at revenge, she and dopey historian Tom (Sheehan) are thrown off the city and forced to fend for themselves. That is until they join forces with the famed outlaw Anna (Jihae), who might be their only hope in stopping Thaddeus from resurrecting the Medusa weapon and using it to tear down every city in his path. The plot is a bit much and maybe it’s because I just watched WATERWORLD again, but the plot reminds me a little of that film. We’re in a post-apocalyptic world where resources are scarce and one man has too much power and seems determined to destroy the world.
The good news with MORTAL ENGINES is that for me, it proves that grand effects-heavy stories can be a reality. There has been talk about bringing live-action projects like Akira, Voltron and Gundam to the big screen and MORTAL ENGINES is the first film that has me convinced it can happen well. The opening sequence where the giant city of London barrels down on a smaller city was shot with human actors in almost every shot and it looked incredibly realistic, so much so that I started questioning how they pulled it off. With all do respect to the Marvel and Star Wars films, the effects in MORTAL ENGINES were amazing, even when you take into consideration the lackluster final battle.
So what went wrong with MORTAL ENGINES? The release date didn’t help matters. This is a late summer or early fall release at best, not a mid-December release. Without a recognizable franchise name or with an A-list actor or actress leading the way, there wasn’t enough here to merit that prime release date. A date with less competition would have helped. The film also needed a charismatic leading actor or actress. Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan did fine, but they weren’t enough to carry the film. MORTAL ENGINES needed someone leading the way that the audience would be drawn to and that could carry the lesser parts. Hilmar and Sheehan weren’t ready for that responsibility.
That said, MORTAL ENGINES is a surprisingly fun film given how bad of a reputation it has. It has a long way to go to make up that $100 million budget, but it should find a life on home video. However, it is sad that the incredible effects won’t ever be seen on the big screen again.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: I always try to be careful to avoid hyperbole when I review a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray I’m impressed with. I feel like every new release has someone claiming it’s the best looking disc out there. So I actually waited a few days to write this review to make sure I truly believe this when I say that of the more than 250 4K discs I’ve reviewed, this is the best looking 4K disc I’ve seen. Yes, there are a handful that stick out and we can argue the details all day, but lets put it this way; if anyone comes over to my house and asks what 4K is all about, this is the disc I’m going to show them. The detail and color definition is startling with its intensity and the upgrades over the Blu-ray are prevalent right from the opening shot. In my review, I talk about how great the opening action sequence is and a lot of that is due to the lifelike detail you see in the 4K. It’s not just in the well lit scenes either; the darker scenes are ripe with additional detail you just don’t see on the Blu-ray, mainly in clothing, closeups and settings.
Audio: The Dolby Atmos track adds another layer to the already impressive video presentation. The surround channels are used almost constantly throughout the film as there was always something going on around our heroes.
This title was reviewed using a Samsung UBD-K8500 with a Sony XBR75X850C TV.
There are no 4K exclusive special features, but it does include a Blu-ray of the film, which has the following special features:
Commentary with Christian Rivers: Rivers isn’t the most exciting speaker to listen to, but he does offer a very detailed track and keeps it flowing nicely.
Featurettes: There are three short featurettes that look at some fake history in the movie and another where the cast talks about how great New Zealand is.
Welcome to London (26:17): This is broken into five parts, all looking at the mobile city of London in the film.