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Blockbuster films based on dystopian young adult novels have enjoyed varying degrees of success over the years and they arrive with such regularity that it takes a lot to stand out. This past weekend, Mortal Engines, based on the novel by Philip Reeve, arrived in theaters, and on the surface it distinguished itself by having The Lord of the Rings' director Peter Jackson on board as producer and co-screenwriter. So did that pedigree translate to success on the screen?
The world building seems to be a common thread in many of the reviews for Mortal Engines, and it seems that director Christian Rivers as well as Peter Jackson and Co. have created a fascinating and unique world. For IGN's Rafael Motamayor, that was enough to power this film to a positive review, despite the film's narrative weakness. As he explained:
Indeed, despite all of the visual splendor that was no doubt painstakingly created onscreen, for many reviewers, that was just a beautiful exterior to what was ultimately a hollow film. Mortal Engines doesn't fire on all the cylinders it should have, as the Chicago Tribune's Katie Walsh lamented:
While many found that the film was just your standard clichéd YA film in fancy new packaging, others found that its derivative nature did not diminish the sheer beauty, inventiveness and the flat out bonkers fun of Mortal Engines. The Wrap's William Bibbiani gushed about the film, comparing it to others that were not appreciated in their time:
One of the main critiques of Mortal Engines seems to be that in a fascinating world, the characters are dull, with little development and reason to invest in them. IndieWire's David Ehrlich laid out this problem in his review:
So it seems that there is a lot to like and a lot to dislike about Mortal Engines, but it is clearly bursting at the seams with ideas and story to tell, as Vox's Alissa Wilkinson made plain:
Ultimately, your opinion on Mortal Engines seems to hinge on whether or not you think its strengths overcome its weaknesses. With a 28% score on Rotten Tomatoes, most critics seem to believe that they do not. But with visual spectacle befitting a big screen presentation, those interested may find something to like in this movie.