"Mortal Engines" is a mash-up of great films

by SM Hahn - Dec 14, 2018

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It’s really hard to be surprised these days by a movie, especially big budget flicks helmed by big-name producers. So chances are you already know something about “Mortal Engines” without reading this. Maybe you saw a preview a few months ago, or read an article on your smartphone while you were waiting for the doctor to see you about your bad back. Just like you, I knew I was going to see “Mortal Engines,” because it’s my patriotic duty to see any movie made in New Zealand (Weta Workshop created the jaw-dropping steam-punk world that “Mortal Engines” is set in). My husband Mike, on the other hand, has been a die-hard Peter Jackson fan since 1992’s cult classic “Braindead,” which puts lawn-mowing in a whole new light. We decided to make this outing a family affair and included the freshly-graduated-from-high-school son and grandparents, Grammy and Pop-Pop.

Since you, like me, already know what the other critics thought about “Mortal Engines,” I’ll provide you with a multi-generational family perspective instead—so you can decide which movie all the relatives are going to see during the holiday season.

Me, putting on my critic’s hat as we leave the movie theater: “Well, that was an interesting mashup of “Brazil,” “Terminator,” “Hunger Games,” “Star Wars,” and “The Matrix.”

Grammy: “Did you get the ‘Titanic’ bit?”

Me: “How could I miss it?”

Husband Mike: “I thought ‘City of Ember’ did the dystopian ‘our-city-is-running-out-of-resources’ story better. A ’60 Minute War’ ended civilization a thousand years ago? And now all people live in giant cities that chase smaller cities around to steal their energy? That’s ‘Mad Max’ with ‘Transformer’ cities. I was hoping for something so campy that it would turn into a cult classic.”

Me: “But let’s not forget that a plucky hardscrabble heroine fighting against the status quo male power structure with a trusty handsome male sidekick is definitely recent ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Hunger Games.’ With the added bonus of a ‘Terminator’ meets ‘Wall-E’ robot!

Husband Mike: “Was it an homage to all those things or a lack of originality?”

Me: “It’s not good when you can’t tell…Clearly, a lot of money was spent making that movie look as gorgeous as it did.”

Grammy: “It reminded me of ‘The Hobbit,’ too.

Husband Mike: “That’s because it was filmed in New Zealand, Mom. And Peter Jackson produced it.”

Grammy: “I think there’s going to be a sequel. The story definitely sets you up for it.”

Husband Mike, whipping out smartphone: “It’s based on a four-novel young adult dystopian fantasy series by Philip Reeve. I’m skipping the sequels.”

Me: “I dunno…I’m curious to see how the story would do in the hands of a more coherent, less derivative director. There’ll only be sequels if this one makes enough money.”

Husband Mike: “So what did you think, son?”

Son: “It kinda…sucked.”

Me: “No, it didn’t! It was ambitious, if flawed. And the social commentary was rather—"

Husband Mike: “That’s HIS opinion, not yours. And I agree with him. I want my money back.”

Me: “You’re overreacting. It wasn’t that bad at all. Pop-Pop, what do you think?”

Grammy: “I think the Harry Potter movie we saw last week was a little bit better than this one. Not much, just a bit.”

Pop-Pop: “Whatever you say, dear.”

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