Mortal Engines (Blu-ray) (2018)

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Released 23-Mar-2019

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Featurette-End of the Ancients (3:13)
Featurette-Character Series (21:43)
Featurette-Welcome to London (26:19)
Featurette-In the Air (4:52)
Featurette-Film New Zealand (3:52)
Audio Commentary-Director Christian Rivers
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2018
Running Time 128:21
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Christian Rivers
Studio
Distributor
Universal Sony Starring Hera Hilmar
Robert Sheehan
Hugo Weaving
Jihae
Stephen Lang
Leila George
Rege-Jean Page
Patrick Malahide
Ronan Raftery
Menik Goonaratne
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Tom Holkenborg


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Atmos 7.1
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
Arabic
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

     Civilization as we know it was destroyed in 60 minutes in a nuclear holocaust, the Earth poisoned and the geography of the continents altered forever. The vestiges of mankind struggled to survive for hundreds of years until now, over a thousand years after the disaster, humans exist in mobile tractor cities that move across the ruined landscape pillaging food and energy. But some cities, including London, have become huge “Predator Cities” preying on and devouring smaller cities as they move. London is built on seven tiers of living spaces giving it a stratified class based society. The bottom level, called the “gut”, is where the lowest workers live and toil in dirt and grime; the top tier, airy, green and sunny, is where the rich and powerful live in opulence and where St Paul’s Cathedral has been restored.

    : Mortal Engines is a film with a lot of characters and a number of intersecting storylines. London is run by the Lord Mayor (Patrick Malahide) although in practice Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) holds the real power. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) is a low grade apprentice historian who works in the London Museum helping to collect ruined ancient artefacts, such as broken pop-up toasters, fossilised computer keyboards and mobile phones. When London catches and absorbs a smaller city, one of the inhabitants it takes in is a mysterious young woman named Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). It is quickly apparent that Hester has a history with Thaddeus as she tries to assassinate him. Tom, who is nearby, intervenes. Hester flees and escapes down a garbage chute. Tom may have saved Thaddeus but he has heard from Hester something Thaddeus does not want to be revealed so his reward is to be pushed by Thaddeus into the garbage chute as well.

     Tom awakes in the wilderness, the Outlands, with Hester nearby as London moves away. Hester grudgingly agrees to help Tom survive in this hostile environment but they are soon captured by slavers. Hester is being auctioned by the slavers when she is saved by Anna Fang (Jihae). Fang is a wanted terrorist with a bounty on her head and a member of the Anti-Traction League who oppose the traction cities. Anna knew Hester’s mother Pandora who was an archaeologist who had discovered a piece of ancient technology during an excavation. Thaddeus killed Pandora and stole the artefact while Hester escaped into the wilderness to be raised by the killer cyborg Shrike (Stephen Lang).

     On the top tier of London within St Pauls Thaddeus is building something named Medusa in secret utilising that “ancient” technology he killed Hester’s mother to obtain. He advertises it as a new power source to help London although his daughter Katherine (Leila George) and lower tier worker Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery) believe that it is something far more sinister.

     Anna rescued Hester from the slavers because she believes that Hester knows something that could be the key to stopping Thaddeus, Medusa and London. All this time Shrike is also hunting for Hester. The interconnected stories come to a head as London approaches the massive shield wall behind which shelter those who oppose the tractor city civilizations. Thaddeus has developed his powerful weapon inside St Paul’s and intends to unleash it to bring down the shield wall and obliterate all opposition to his tractor city. Hester, Tom, Anna and a motley crew of the pilots of the Anti-Tractor League are the last hope to stop London and Thaddeus destroying their world.

     Mortal Engines is based on the books by Philip Reeve and was a pet project for many years of Peter Jackson before he co-wrote the screenplay with his usual writing partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Jackson did not, however, direct the film, passing those duties onto first time feature director Christian Rivers. Rivers had jointly won a Visual Effects Oscar for Jackson’s King Kong (2005) and his visual effects background is certainly of benefit here for Mortal Engines is an effects extravaganza. There are cities, large and small, moving as giant tractors across the ruined landscape, numerous strange and colourful flying machines whizzing around, a city on fire in the sky, fire, explosions, a massive shield wall and a cyborg, all beautifully realised and detailed so that Mortal Engines is visually stunning in almost every frame.

     Unfortunately, the visual effects tend to overwhelm the actors although they are not helped by some muddled storytelling trying to cram the characters of the books into a two hour movie running time. Thus, important characters in the plot such as Captain Khora (Rege-Jean Page) and Sathya (Menik Goonaratne) of the Anti-Traction League only make an appearance late in the story while a number of story lines go nowhere such as the Leila George and Ronan Raftery subplot. The film also draws heavily on a number of other films including Star Wars and The Terminator. For example, the climax of Mortal Engines is right out of the Star Wars playbook with London, standing in for the Death Star, bent on the destruction of the alternative civilization (rebels) while being attacked by a rag tag bunch of aircraft and pilots buying time for our heroes to get into the core of the city and to shut down its earthshattering power source. We even get a scene that veers very close to the Star Wars “I am your father” scene; it does not go so far as to actually use that line but it was a close run thing.

     Icelandic actor Hera Hilmar is a good, feisty heroine, although Robert Sheehan is altogether too soppy and the “romance” with Hilmar lacks any spark. Hugo Weaving is fine, and as usual he can make his villains almost sympathetic. However, it says a lot for the film’s lack of a heart amid the CGI chaos that the most genuinely poignant and effective scene in the film belongs to Hilmar and an almost unrecognisable Stephen Lang as the dying cyborg unexpectedly finds his humanity.

     Mortal Engines is a young adult fantasy adventure on a massive scale with extensive world building and impressive visuals. While beautiful to look at the plotting is muddled and it is very derivative. It performed poorly at the box office. On rottentomatoes.com the score from critics is 27% although the audience score at 51% is rather higher. This probably indicates that there are visual treats here for an audience, but not a great deal of substance.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     Mortal Engines is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     This is a stunning, glossy, digital visual presentation. The CGI designs of the cities, running on huge tractor wheels, are incredibly detailed. Even more detailed are the sets, the London set featuring a combination of medieval costumes, bits of a London from the “ancient” past and steampunk technology, while Airhaven is all flapping fabric and the airships inventive although how the various flying craft are powered is a mystery. The colour palate is often muted with a dingy grey gun metal look; this is a poisoned Earth after all, with the denizens of the lower part of London quite grubby. The top tier of London is another matter with blue sky and areas of green fields while the costumes of the elite in London are more colourful. There are also flashes of colour, such as deep red “sails” of Anna’s flying craft, the vivid blues of Thaddeus’ home or the yellow fabric walls of Airhaven, the city in the sky, while the flashback scene with Hester’s mother has a much brighter yellow look. The blacks are very black indeed and shadow detail pristine. Skin tones are natural, contrast and brightness consistent. Marks and artefacts were absent.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired plus Arabic are provided.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is a choice of English Atmos, which defaults to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English descriptive audio and an English Commentary, both Dolby Digital 2.0.

     I do not have a 7.1 set-up. In 5.1 the audio is still very good with loud action sequences featuring the thump of the massive tractor engines and treads, whizzing aircraft, shots, explosions, crashes, impacts, destruction and general mayhem around the sound stage. In the non-action sequences the surrounds and rears carried voices, the hum of machinery, the groans of metal contracting or the sound of thunder in the distance. Through it all dialogue was clear. The subwoofer added constant boom to the machinery, engines and the general destruction. It may be a result of viewing the film in 5.1 rather than 7.1 but the bombastic music tended on occasion to overwhelm the effects. The score is by Tom Holkenborg, aka Junkie XL, who is no stranger to big budget action films with the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Alita: Battle Angel (2019) on his resume, but I found that the music called attention to itself.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

End of the Ancients (3:13)

     Robert Sheehan narrates as we visit the Hall of Ancient Technology at the London Museum, with its ancient artefacts such as fossilised iPads and mobile phones.

Character Series (21:43)

     This is in five parts with a “Play All” option. In turn it looks at the characters of Hester Shaw, Tom Natsworthy, Anna Fang, Thaddeus Valentine and Shrike using film and behind the scenes footage including green screen footage, plus comments, at various times, by director Christian Reeve, author Philip Reeve, co-screenwriters Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson and cast members Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Lang, Leila George and Rege-Jean Page.

Welcome to London (26:19)

     Hosted by Robert Sheehan this is a five part look at the film’s London using film and green screen footage, concept art, pre vis and sound bites from a multitude of those involved behind the camera including production designer Dan Hennah, DP Simon Raby, the concept artist, previsualisation supervisor, visual effects supervisor, animation supervisor, the art director, set decoration buyer, soft furnishings assistant, prop maker, assistant art director, costume props supervisor, SPFX supervisor plus all the cast and crew mentioned in the extra above. Not sure they missed anyone out! The five parts are:

In the Air (4:52)

     This concentrates on the design and building of Airhaven, the city in the sky.

Film New Zealand (3:52)

     An extended ad for why NZ is a special place to make films. They probably have a good point!

Commentary by Director Christian Rivers

     In a mainly scene specific commentary with only a few pauses towards the end Rivers talks about his intentions in certain scenes, the London and Airhaven sets, CGI and visual effects, pick-ups, cameos and developing the look of Shrike and he also identifies cast members in minor roles and names all the airships. He has a pleasant speaking voice and an engaging manner resulting in a decent commentary.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     Except for some language and subtitle options this release of Mortal Engines is the same as the US Region A Blu-ray.

Summary

     Mortal Engines is loud, colourful and entertaining yet despite stunning visuals, an intriguing premise and the interesting world being built the script is muddled, characters appear from nowhere or go nowhere and one gets the distinct impression while watching Mortal Engines that you have seen it all before, in a galaxy far, far away.

     The video and the audio are both excellent. The extras are worthwhile and we get what is available elsewhere.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Wednesday, September 04, 2019
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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