A kind of ‘Mad Max’ for pre-teens, this mega-budget YA sci-fi fantasy opens with a barnstorming chase across a dystopian wasteland – only it’s not cars on the move but steampunk cities. The film, based on the first in a series of novels by Philip Reeve, is directed by Christian Rivers, an apprentice of Peter Jackson (who co-produces here and co-wrote this script). Like the ‘Hobbit’ movies, ‘Mortal Engines’ is a relentless assault of CGI and earsplitting noise.
Set 1,000 years after civilisation was blown to smithereens, the remains of cities have been rigged on to tank tracks. London, pimped out with St Paul’s Cathedral on top, is an aggressor city, roaming around hoovering up smaller towns. Robert Sheehan plays museum worker Tom. After a run-in with London’s sinister energy minister (Hugo Weaving, doing a nice shade of dastardly) he meets Hester (Hera Hilmar), who’s seeking to avenge the murder of her mother. Raised in the dusty outlands, Hester is one tough cookie, though in time her rough edges will be smoothed off by friendship, and who knows, possibly more.
‘Mortal Engines’ really is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent slog, as characters leap unfeasibly out of planes on to bits of cities while a squad of rebel-fighter pilots straight out of ‘Star Wars’ buzz around. Its video-game aesthetic is awash with CGI dazzle – though if you had your fingers on the controls, you might have preferred to send them all under the tank treads after that spectacular opener.