Mar 122019

Mortal Engines is to say the least imperfect and I suppose even disappointing considering Peter Jackson was involved as a producer and co-screenwriter, and indeed it’s not very well written and yet I did find myself relatively entertained.



Mortal Engines

Genre(s): Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Universal | PG13 – 128 min. – $39.98 | March 12, 2019

Date Published: 03/12/2019 | Author: The Movieman

Directed by: Christian Rivers
Writer(s): Philip Reeve (novel); Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson (screenplay)
Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang
Features: Commentary, Featurettes
Slip Cover: Yes
Digital Copy: Yes
Formats Included: 4K, Blu-ray
Number of Discs: 2
Audio (4K/BD): English (Dolby Atmos), Spanish (Dolby Digital Plus 7.1)
Video (4K): 2160p/Widescreen 2.39
Video (BD): 1080p/Widescreen 2.39
Dynamic Range: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Codecs: HEVC / H.265 (4K), MPEG-4 AVC (BD)
Region(s): A, B, C

Universal Studios Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this Blog Post.
The opinions I share are my own.

THE MOVIE — 3.5/5

Plot Synopsis: Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (HERA HILMAR), emerges as the only one who can stop London — now a giant, predator city on wheels — from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (ROBERT SHEEHAN), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (JIHAE), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head as they attempt to stop Thaddeus Valentine (HUGO WEAVING) before he deploys a deadly weapon.

Review: Mortal Engines is a movie that will mostly be known as the biggest box office flop of 2018 and perhaps one of the biggest flops in the last 10+ years. I will say that I did enjoy this movie but can’t say I’m disappointed this won’t become the trilogy the studio was likely hoping for. Problem is, amongst some amazing technical work, the story in of itself is rather weak and like The Divergent Series before it, not nearly enough to sustain a franchise.

Beyond its lackluster box office, the movie itself actually wasn’t half bad. Now, by no means is it great and story wise it is on the thin side, but this is a case where style over substance still led to a quasi-entertaining film filled with some really respectable visual effects and some decent performances from a mostly, at least to me, cast of unknowns.

Leading the way is Hera Hilmar, who really grew on me as the film progressed, though thanks to some of the accents, took a while to realize her character’s name was Hester… In any case, the other standout oddly enough was Stephen Lang. Not odd that Lang could give a good performance, but his character was something called a Stalker named Strike, a soldier brought back from the dead and very little remnants remain from his former life. This aspect, and his relationship with Hester whom he had rescued following the death of her mother. It’s actually a touching story and one of the few purely emotional spots in an otherwise detached film.

It is strange that the weakest point of Mortal Engines resided with the screenplay adapted from Philip Reeve’s novel series by the trio of Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson who, of course, were behind The Lord of the Rings… and The Hobbit series… one wonders of they, Jackson in particular, struck gold with LOTR. Whatever the case, it was a bit surprising to find a half-baked script.

The film was directed by Christian Rivers, marking his feature-length debut following working in the visual effects field for Peter Jackson on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Lovely Bones and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey as a pre-viz supervisor. I guess it’s not hard to see why Rivers was chosen for this effects extravaganza, but the film did lack an emotional core, reminds me a bit of Transcendence which was longtime Nolan cinematographer Wally Pfister’s first feature film, and it looked good, but the story and narrative was rather poor. I don’t know if Rivers is to blame, though I found his direction to be perfectly fine, if not anything noteworthy.

One big positive aspect: while it is left open-ended, they did resist the urge to sequel-bait and this holds up as a standalone story.



This release comes with a title-embossed slip cover. Inside is the redemption code for the Digital HD copy.

Audio Commentary – Director Christian Rivers guides us through the process of bringing the source material to life, on his approach to filming some scenes, breaking down story and character elements, etc. Kind of would’ve been nice to add a couple other participants like Peter Jackson.

End of the Ancients (3:13) is a lame “featurette” giving a “tour” of the London Museum and the “artifacts” inside. Pointless.

Character Series (21:43) is a set of 5 mini-featurettes about main players and interviews with the respective actors: Hester Shaw, Tom Natsworthy, Anna Fang, Thaddeus Valentine and Shrike.

Welcome to London (26:19) is a 5-part featurette on the creation of this behemoth traveling, or traction, city. Features interviews with the cast and crew (including producer Peter Jackson) and some behind-the-scenes footage.

  • Building the Beast
  • Levels of London
  • The Smallest Details
  • London Museum
  • Medusa and St. Paul’s

In the Air (4:52) – This featurette delves into the designs of the airborne city of Air Haven and the flying vehicles.

Film New Zealand (3:52) seems to be a contractual obligation for the cast and crew to praise the beautiful landscape that is New Zealand and what the country (where of course Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were films) had to offer to this production.

4K VIDEO – 5.0/5, BD VIDEO — 5.0/5

Universal releases Mortal Engines onto 4K Ultra HD and Blu-ray where it is presented in its original 2.39 widescreen aspect ratio and given 2160p and 1080p high-definition transfers respectively (HEVC / H.265 and MPEG-4 AVC codecs). Shouldn’t be any surprise, but this movie looks absolutely gorgeous looking movie, detail is incredibly sharp and well defined and although this takes place in a dystopian future, there are some nice pops of color, especially prevalent on the 4K disc, aided by the HDR (the disc also includes Dolby Vision but my system isn’t equipped to decode).

AUDIO – 5.0/5

Both the 4K and Blu-ray come equipped with a strong and very robust Dolby Atmos track. This is almost the perfect movie to show off ones home theater system with a good balance of some quieter, more dialogue-heavy scenes with the action-packed ones beginning with the opening “chase” sequence as a gigantic city chases down trading posts. The front and rear channels mainly get used for any ambient noises but also gives the film some great depth giving an immersive experience.


OVERALL – 3.75/5

Mortal Engines is to say the least imperfect and I suppose even disappointing considering Peter Jackson was involved as a producer and co-screenwriter, and indeed it’s not very well written and yet I did find myself relatively entertained and found it to be an enjoyable way to spend two hours. That said, this is easily only a rental. This 4K UHD and Blu-ray combo pack offers up excellent video and audio transfers and an okay selection of bonus features.





The screen captures came from the Blu-ray copy and are here to add visuals to the review and do not represent the 4K video.

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