Hapless post-apocalyptic adventure is laughable in all the wrong ways

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The unruly "Mortal Engines" plays out like the lamest "Star Wars" spinoff story, told as a runaway steam punk version of "Mad Max: Fury Road."    

This visionary mess is this year's "Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets," a big budget bust that was somehow financed by a major studio despite being made for an audience of, well, who, exactly? Maybe 11-year-olds who play "World of Warcraft" will like it. No one else will, at least not un-ironically. 

The premise should require its own Wikipedia entry. At least 1,100 years in the future, "traction cities" — think London as a giant tank — roam the Earth and swallow up smaller independent settlements, which are also on wheels. The communities on board London have museums filled with ancient junk from our current times; known as "The Screen Age," our era is reduced to statues of Minions and a couple of cracked iPhones. 

Outside the big mobile metropolis, rebel warrior Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) seeks her opportunity for revenge against Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), a cartoonishly villainous and power hungry London authority figure. When she misses her shot, she's forced to wander the countryside with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), a historian who's fallen out of favor with Valentine who helps her in her quest to get back on board and take down the bad guy. 

Directed by Peter Jackson apprentice Christian Rivers and based on the 2001 young adult novel, "Mortal Engines" isn't savvy enough to work as social commentary, and is too clunky to work as an action movie. Even its leads are unappealing; Hilmar and Sheehan have the romantic chemistry of a brother and sister.

It adds up to a giant slog, a movie that, despite its ambitious look, doesn't manage to offer us anything new. In the Screen Age, we'd refer to it as an epic fail.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Mortal Engines'

GRADE: D

Rated PG-13 for sequences of futuristic violence and action

Running time: 129 minutes

 

 

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