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Tolkien Trio Fails To Get Fantasy Film 'Mortal Engines' Out Of First Gear

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TEILEN

Fantasy film wizard Peter Jackson co-wrote the screenplay of this dazzling mishmash of a movie, but don’t expect another epic for the ages here.
Although fantasy film wizard Peter Jackson co-wrote the screenplay of this dazzling mishmash of a movie with his “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” cohorts Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, don’t expect another epic adventure for the ages in “Mortal Engines.” Based on the first of a quartet of young adult novels by Philip Reeve, this film is more of a lightweight diversion for undiscriminating CGI addicts.
First-time director Christian Rivers (a visual effects Oscar winner for Jackson’s “King Kong”) unfortunately takes a “more is more” approach that often feels like an over-revved assault on the senses. Swooping cameras are nearly always in motion, the bombastic but generic score (by Tom Holkenborg, a.k.a. Junkie XL) is on almost constant blast, and the frenzied action-scene editing is on the ADHD spectrum.
The story’s future-dystopia setting is established before the movie proper even begins, as explosions go off all over the planet Earth behind the opening Universal Studios logo. Turns out this “Sixty Minute War” was so devastating that people still are scavenging for survival 1,700 years later.
The flick’s preposterous but visually impressive central gimmick is that entire cities and towns have become mobile, traveling on gigantic treads to “ingest” weaker ones for their resources and people. That’s sort of like if a rambling Russia had to chase down a fleeing Crimean peninsula across Europe before claiming and assimilating it. Whether the spoils of this “Municipal Darwinism” possibly could justify the massive amount of energy that would be required to move an entire major metropolis cross-country falls in the category of, “Hey, this ain’t a physics symposium, Brainiac.

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