Friday, May 17, 2019

The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part


RATING: D+

It's been five years, but we finally got a sequel to The LEGO Movie, which was one of the biggest surprises of "wow this is actually really good" movies in recent memory. Since then, we got a couple of spin-offs--once centered around LEGO Batman, which was quite hilarious and memorable as well. Then there was the LEGO Ninjago Movie, which was quite a bit more forgettable. But now we're going back to the characters we know and love from the original LEGO Movie, and as that movie would say, everything is going to be awesome! Right? Right...? Oh dear.

This movie starts off by picking up literally where the first one left off; however, after about five minutes, we have a time-skip of five years. Now the former Bricksburg (or whatever it was called) is basically a post-apocalyptic wasteland due to the attacks of the Duplo aliens. Everyone has had to adjust to a tougher life, and toughen up themselves in the process. All except Emmett, who is still convinced that "everything is awesome." However, things get crazy again when a new alien connected to the Duplo lot shows up--General Mayhem--and kidnaps most of Emmett's friends, who now must go after them and save them.

Let's cut to the chase: this movie is not that good. This is the second animated movie sequel I've seen recently which really was a huge step down from its predecessor and also went bizarrely off the rails (Ralph Breaks the Internet being the other). There are a ton of problems with this movie, some of which I can't go into very much without revealing spoilers.

First off... the plot. It does start off pretty promising with a post-apocalyptic version of Bricksburg, but once we go into space, it goes downhill from there. Like the first one, the events of this movie are basically in the imaginations of a real kid--only this time it's two kids. And this brother and sister have very serious differences on how to play with LEGOs. Those differences are solvable in real life, but in a movie, those differences are irreconcilable. I mean, how are you supposed to mix a sci-fi/post-apocalyptic adventure with an elementary girl's imagined LEGO space wedding? (Yeah, I know... they're both space-related. But trust me, they do not mix.)

But the real problem is that the movie tries to make the sister out as the victim of having her LEGO toys messed up when she tries to play with her brother... but the problem is, she actually *steals* LEGO toys from her brother. (I don't consider this a spoiler, because if you saw the first movie, you know about the events of these movies just being imagined... and it's kind of easy to see what Mayhem's capturing of Emmett's friends symbolizes.) While that doesn't justify the brother's response (which I won't reveal), I find it difficult to have much sympathy for the sister.

This is another big issue with the movie, though: there's very little subterfuge or surprise this time. Possibly because we already know that these movies take place in the imagination of children, they don't even bother trying to hide it this time. Most namely, the name of an actual LEGO apocalypse is clearly a reference to a real-world character as well. So it's pretty easy to guess what's going to happen in that regard. There are other twists that you don't necessarily see coming, but the problem is... they're not good ones. Namely in who the identity of the real villain is.

There are two more key things I take incredible issue with in this movie. First is what happens to LEGO Batman. He's quite dumbed down in this one and doesn't actually do much memorable... except do a musical number with a shape-shifting alien queen. Yes, seriously. And that's memorable for all the wrong reasons, which segues into the second other key issue I have with this movie -- there are a few musical numbers in it. I am honestly befuddled and confused as to why musical numbers (which we also saw one of in Ralph Breaks the Internet) are suddenly making a comeback. Maybe they appeal to certain people... but I just find it annoying.

After four paragraphs of explaining why this movie is really not good, you'd think there would not be much positive to say. But there are still some good moments. Probably the best part is actually the first action scene after the five-year time skip, which basically feels like a LEGO version of a Mad Max: Fury Road chase. And that's actually pretty awesome. And there are still several laughs to be had; some of them are related to the other LEGO Justice League members. Also, there's the character Rex Dangervest, and while his character is a separate can of worms, he has pet LEGO raptors... and those are cool.

But ultimately, we have another failure of a kids-movie sequel--just like Ralph Breaks the Internet, which this movie actually has a few subtle things in common with. This movie does have a certain message, and I get what it's trying to say. But it is executed so, so poorly. I'm not sure how the makers of this movie thought this was supposed to be entertaining; and heck, the laughs even generally disappear in the second half. And this is all the more bizarre because the first LEGO Movie was inventive, surprising, and generally a joy to watch. The only thing of those that this movie is would be maybe inventive. But it's possible for a movie to be inventive and still be terrible.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Glass


RATING: B-

If one is familiar with M. Night Shyamalan at all, then they've probably heard of Unbreakable--which was probably his most popular film after The Sixth Sense. It was a pretty unusual superhero movie that didn't rely on source material, and had more in common with the thriller genre than with action. Still, it was pretty good and some who watched it hoped for a sequel... which never happened. Then Split happened, which was sort of a resurgence for M. Night, and it was revealed to take place in the same universe as Unbreakable. And because of the success of Split, M. Night was able to make a final chapter that acted as a sequel to both Unbreakable *and* Split... as well as a final entry in a trilogy of sorts. And thus we have Glass. 

This takes place shortly after Split (which I actually never watched), and Kevin/The Horde/The Beast/James McAvoy's character is still on the loose. And at this point, David Dunn is trying to hunt him. However, both of them end up in the hands of a psychiatrist named Dr. Staple who already has Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, and she is out to prove that in fact they do not possess superhuman abilities. All the while, Mr. Glass, being the super-genius he is, has something up his sleeve for the occasion.

I am left with kind of mixed feelings on this movie. First off, it moves rather slowly at times during the first half, although this is a common trait of Shyamalan movies. But the bigger issue is the whole "you're not really superheroes" game Dr. Staple tries to play with the three main characters. Even though it does kind of serve a purpose, it's still rather irritating at times to see her attempt to twist events of previous movies when we *know* for a fact that at least David and Kevin *are* superhuman. It also comes off as kind of silly when, after a rant by Dr. Staple, her motivations seem for a moment to basically be "I hate Comic-Con." (This is not the case, but it's kind of a bizarre dig.)

The second half is certainly a lot more interesting. It's also a lot more bonkers, resulting in an ending that's insane even by Shyamalan standards--both in good and bad ways. There's a bit of pretty awesome payoff, but there's also a sense of disappointment. Whatever the case, the ending probably isn't what you may expect.

M. Night seemed to be tasking himself with going against normal superhero conventions (while still making a sly wink here and there to superhero clich├ęs), which had to be quite tough in a Hollywood environment that is heavily saturated with superhero movies--much more so than was the case when Unbreakable was released, when Spider-Man hadn't even hit the big screen yet and the X-Men would only do so for the first time that same year. M. Night does kind of succeed at that task... but it does come at a little bit of a cost.

What does work without a doubt is some of the acting. James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson are both superb. In particular, McAvoy's ability to convey different personalities so well is insane. You probably already knew this if you saw Split, but it's worth mentioning anyway because he's just that good. Bruce Willis does seem to be unfortunately phoning it in a little bit this time... but on the other hand, that could just be because of who he has to share the screen with.

Glass is a movie that both works quite well in some ways and then kind of doesn't in some others. To a certain degree, it's typical Shyamalan pulling out the rug from under us. The difference is that unlike in some of his other endings, this one isn't altogether satisfying. As previously stated, it still works in some regards. But I find it hard to imagine that there won't be some people who are disappointed. Still, this is a generally pretty interesting follow-up to Unbreakable and Split and a unique installment in the superhero genre, so it does deserve some credit--even if it never really stands out the way Unbreakable did.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Avengers: Endgame


RATING: A-

Here we are at last, at the end of it all--at least until Marvel starts another new saga in their massive Cinematic Universe, anyway. But this is the final movie of the saga that started with Iron Man, Thor, and The Avengers. After about 20 or so movies and 10 years, and after basically giving us The Empire Strikes Back (and then some) of superhero movies last year with Infinity War, Marvel's ready to give us the close to the Infinity Stones/Thanos arc.

When we last left the Avengers, they were in pretty bad shape--since they had not only lost to Thanos, but lost half their comrades and in the process half of all life in the universe had died. And yet, the surviving Avengers (mostly just the original Avengers, plus Rocket, Rhodey and Nebula) aren't ready to give up yet. For one thing, they want to make Thanos pay. But if there's a chance at all that they can reverse what he did... they want to take it as well. But as one of them points out, that's not going to be easy--even with a few extra hands they didn't have in the last movie, namely Ant-Man, Hawkeye and Captain Marvel. 

Little more can be said about the plot than that, because the marketing deliberately did not reveal very much. And because of the extra outcry from folks (including the directors themselves), I'm going to try harder than usual to avoid even vague spoilers. So I'll just say what I can. 

First off, this is certainly a great movie and a mostly satisfying conclusion for sure. It doesn't quite reach the heights of Infinity War, but that's simply because IW took risks and did things that hadn't been done in the genre before. Hence why earlier I called it The Empire Strikes Back of superhero movies. Endgame isn't without such moments either, but some of the plot devices it *does* rely on feel slightly more familiar... and also a little more flimsy at times. 

Yes, Endgame is slightly more sloppily plotted at times. Regarding a certain plot device which shall be unnamed, there are a couple contradictions and just some things that make no sense. But often during these moments I often found that I just didn't care. Those are more heavily invested in this series and not more casual viewers may feel the same way. And for the most part, the general plot/idea works--even if it feels like it literally would not work anywhere else than a comic-book movie. 

And even if one finds themselves a little frustrated with a couple of the plot devices used and some of the pacing, they still ought to find themselves quite fulfilled by the final hour. The final act is basically the single biggest comic-book nerd/geek fever dream ever brought to life, and so much awesome stuff happens during that part that even I were writing a spoiler-filled review for some reason, I could not possibly cover it all. 

Beyond that, a lot of character arcs are pretty satisfyingly handled. Some fare better than others, but namely Iron Man's, Captain America's, and (surprisingly) Hawkeye's stand out. On another note, while some may be disappointed to find that Captain Marvel really doesn't play as big of a role in this movie as you'd expect, she still shines when she is present--and doesn't feel *too* overpowered versus the general competition here.

Elsewhere in the movie, I liked how they took some time to shed light on the effects of the Snap on Earth--and just how devastating it would be in general. One scene in particular of Ant-Man wondering his old neighborhood, which now looks like a post-apocalyptic wasteland, stands out. But even amidst all the tragedy, coping, and action, there's still a good amount of levity--particularly in the first half. In general, it does not feel out of place and they tone it down a bit for the more serious final third of the movie.

Endgame is not a perfect concluding movie. But it's still pretty doggone good and generally satisfying, and it's difficult to see scarcely anyone who's been invested in this series for a while being disappointed. Some may like it more than others, as some will be more forgiving of some of the plot holes. And even if I felt a little annoyed with a couple parts here and there, it's all worth it purely for that final battle--because that bit is about as awesome as anything you will ever see in a superhero movie. 

Friday, April 19, 2019

Aquaman


RATING: C+

When we last left the DC Extended Universe, they were truly on life support. The last movie they'd made before this was Justice League--which was a mess of a movie in multiple facets. At that point, the only good thing about the DCEU was Wonder Woman. So what's next for the DCEU? Apparently, it's making a movie about your dumbest superhero. Sure, they made Aquaman somewhat passable in Justice League, but he was still probably the least-needed hero of the bunch. Why would we want a movie about the guy whose abilities are breathing underwater and talking to fish? 

The premise of this movie is that Arthur Curry/Aquaman is the heir to the throne of the underwater kingdom Atlantis. Yup, Atlantis is a thing in this movie. What complicates matters is that he is a "half-breed"--child of an "Atlantean" and a human. Which kind of makes him an outcast from that underwater world. But he's kind of okay with that. Until his half-brother and current Atlantean king Orm decides he wants to unite all seven of the underwater kingdoms and lead a war against the surface world. So how is Aquaman and his compatriot Mera going to stop him? By finding a mythical trident MacGuffin that would make Aquaman "the one true king." Or something. 

Probably one of the biggest problems with this movie (aside from its unnecessary length) is that the plot, while not bad, is quite derivative. This is basically Black Panther and Thor, but underwater. But also let's include the whole "chosen one" trope crossed with the "half-breed" trope, and also the quest for the mythical MacGuffin. Like I said, it's not really a bad plot--it's just unoriginal and completely devoid of any surprises or twists. And the dialogue that comes with it is often pretty poor or just silly. The phrase "one true king" is repeated too often, and these underwater societies are so annoyingly obsessed with pure blood that you might think you're in a Harry Potter movie. 

With all of this (and more to be mentioned), it's kind of amazing that this movie sort of works--or at least, it's not bad. For one thing, the visuals underwater are often pretty astounding (and perhaps a bit overwhelming) to look at. They put a lot of detail into the places and creatures down here. While not all of the action scenes work, a couple do; namely the extended fight with Black Manta about halfway through, who really should've had a bigger role in this (more on that later). The opening scene where Aquaman infiltrates a submarine and decks pretty much everyone on there is also quite fun. Elsewhere, our two main leads Jason Momoa and Amber Heard play off each pretty well, which leads to some decent banter at times. 

The final act is a mixed bag--at first, we get a pretty awesome colossal war between various underwater factions. But once Aquaman shows up, it's over all too quick. He defeats his enemy too easily. It doesn't help that Orm isn't really as interesting a villain as Black Manta at all. The latter has more interesting motivations and also a cool villainous outfit during the signature fight scene with him. Orm's motivations are limited to "I don't like humans because they pollute the water." He's supposed to be a cross between Killmonger and Loki, but he's not as effective as either one. 

Some commentary on the length needs to be made as well. I'm not often one to complain about movies being too long... but this one is definitely longer than it needs to be at 143 minutes. While Justice League was too short, this one is just too long and probably should've been cut down by about 20 minutes. This along with the derivative plot makes it feel like DC really has no idea how to make a truly good movie. It seems like Wonder Woman was not good because of DC, but despite them. Man of Steel is the only other one they've made that was above average. 

While Aquaman is fairly entertaining and a bit of a step up after Justice League, it's still weighed down by DC shooting themselves in the foot too much. And while I suppose they deserve credit for making their worst superhero passable, this is still merely average material. If you're a big fan of DC or the superhero genre in general, I suppose this is worth a watch. But probably only the one. 

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse


RATING: B-

Look, I'm going to give full disclosure here: this movie never had a chance of 100% working with me. Allow me to explain why. You know how some people these days are feeling superhero-movie fatigue, and have been grumbling more and more about the Marvel Cinematic Universe lately? Well, generally this is not me. Except for one category: I have Spider-Man fatigue. There have been three iterations of Spider-Man in the past two decades, each one feeling less inventive than the other (though each actor has brought something good to the table, in their defense). 

And now we're going to make a cartoon animated version? Where we're going to introduce the multiverse and have multiple Spider-Men/People on at the same time? To me, this was literally the worst idea they could've had. In a time where we've already had two many versions of Spider-Man in a short span of time, the last thing we needed was a movie with *multiple* people wearing the mask. And if you *were* excited about this prospect from the beginning... then you're probably better off not reading the rest of this review and finding a review from someone who actually was excited about this from the get-go. 

I'll give them credit for at least trying to do something different, which the previous reboots have struggled to do. And that includes using a different Spider-Man--Miles Morales instead of Peter Parker. (It helps that it is canon in the comics.) This at least gives them room to do different things with the character of Spider-Man. Those things may not necessarily be that much better... but at least they're trying. The problem is, as passable as Morales is, he's not one of the most memorable things about this movie. 

But before we get that far... let's do the quick premise. In this Spidey universe, Miles Morales--a young teenager struggling to settle in a new boarding school and not feeling totally on the same page with his father--gets bitten by the famous radioactive spider and becomes Spider-Man. Thing is, Peter Parker actually did exist in this universe as well--he's just dead. (The fact that he's dead is not a spoiler, because it was advertised... but *how* he came to be dead would be a spoiler, because that was not advertised.) Miles doesn't quite have the natural penchant for this Spider-Man business that Peter did, so he needs a mentor. Fortunately, he's about to get plenty of help there--because the Kingpin is opening a dimensional portal which manages to suck in other Spider-Men/People/Things--but not much else (don't ask why or how). And they all need to go back and the Kingpin needs to be stopped--along with his minions the Prowler, and... a female version of Doc Ock? Why is she not the one in charge here? Feels to me like she could kill the Kingpin easily if she wanted to and just run the multi-dimension project herself if she wanted. Oh well, whatever.

One of my biggest concerns about this movie was just how many iterations of the Spider-Whatever they were going to jam in here. The impression I got was that there was going to be a *lot.* However, much to my relief, it's only six including Miles--which is easier to keep up with. Three of them actually work better than Miles does. There's an older and more jaded version of Peter Parker, who has an interesting character arc of his own. There's Gwen Stacy/Spider-Woman, who actually has a pretty good backstory and is one of the more appealing characters here. Then there's Spider-Man Noir, who is voiced by Nicolas Cage. Perhaps the biggest problem with the movie is that Spider-Noir is not in it more, because every moment he's in it he steals the show--probably in part because it's Nic "Not the Bees" Cage voicing him. 

It's the remaining two iterations where this movie gets really weird. There's a weird Spider-Pig like thing--and yeah, many of you are probably thinking of The Simpsons right now. "Peter Porker," as he's called, is probably also the most useless of the bunch. And *then* there's an anime girl version--complete with a mecha suit. Yes, seriously. Her presence definitely feels the most jarring here. 

Probably the best thing about this movie is the humor it brings to the table. This film's pretty funny at times. From some slapstick to an amusing homage to the previous Spider-Man movies to every time Spider-Man Noir speaks to some fourth-wall leaning to one of my favorite post-credits scenes ever. Seriously, watch through the entire credits for that scene--especially if you keep up with memes. 

The plot is alright, if nothing to write home about. It has a nice few tricks up its sleeve, such as a stunning twist regarding the identity of one of the baddies. But while the multi-dimensional thing makes enough sense at the time, it makes less sense the more you think about. And for a movie that actually has some pretty doggone good action sequences, it's rather unfortunate that the final act descends into incomprehensible madness for a fight in the midst of an unstable multi-dimension portal. 

I guess I haven't commented on the art yet. While the comic-book style animation can be a little jarring at times due to it being quite fast-paced, in general it actually is pretty great. There are some parts that are just gorgeous. And it emulates an actual comic book pretty well--even including yellow thought panels and large words appearing out of thin air like "Boom!" when explosions happen. 

This movie definitely has some interesting ideas and I do want to give it credit for at least trying to do something different. But the only thing that really sticks out about this movie to me is its humor... and this iteration of Gwen, I suppose. And of course, Spider-Noir... but he falls into the "humor" category. And even if I think that spin-offs for Gwen or Spider-Noir might be a better idea than an actual sequel to this... there's still a part of me that wishes they would just stop making anything Spider-Man related for at least a couple of decades. 

Look, this movie is fairly hard not to like. Somehow they made this idea sort of work and not be a total disaster. And I'm sure anyone who's a Spider-Man fan and who's *not* Spider-Manned out will enjoy this. But at this rate, the character's going to be run into the ground eventually. Maybe not on the next installment, maybe not for a few years yet. The issue is that I'm already in that process of feeling some Spider-Man fatigue--just as some are feeling the MCU fatigue. All of that said, if they can keep writing good humor for these "Spider-Verse" movies (assuming there are more of them) then they might at least be good for the laughs--if not a whole lot else. 

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Ralph Breaks the Internet


RATING: C-

Ever since it was announced that there was probably going to be a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph, most of us were pretty excited. Wreck-It Ralph was one of a couple excellent Disney Animation movies that *almost* got lost in the shadow of Frozen (the other being Big Hero 6). It was a quite creative movie with strong character development arcs and plenty of action, humor, and fun video game references. 
From the outset, it's admittedly not a movie that necessarily needed a sequel; but given how well they were able to pull off a tough concept about video game characters coming to life and living in a giant surge protector and traveling between games, I had hope that lightning could strike twice here. 

This time, instead of staying strictly in the gaming world, the film introduces our characters Ralph and Vanellope to... the Internet. The owner of the video game store sets up a wi-fi connection there, and due to Ralph and Vanellope needing to get a "part" for the latter's game Sugar Rush following an incident which leaves the game unplugged, they end up travelling there... and getting a lot more than they bargained for. As does the viewer. 

There is a *lot* to unpack here, so let's cut to the chase--this movie is not that good. It is a perplexing big step down from the predecessor. There are multiple reasons why; but there are two critical ones that stand out above the rest. Let's start with Ralph himself. Rarely have I seen a character regress as badly as he does in this sequel. For one thing, he's oddly more useless action-wise here. Remember, he has "freakishly large hands," as Vanellope called them once before--and those actually have quite a few good uses. But he scarcely uses them at all, except for towards the beginning. He doesn't do much "wrecking" in this movie, if you will. 

But the real problem is Ralph's character development takes a huge dive. He's quite insecure about his friendship with Vanellope for some reason--and this ends up being a major plot point. And while this does lead to a lesser-used message about friendship (which is still delivered without subtlety at all), we have to deal with Ralph making some shockingly bad decisions just to try and save his friendship and keep things going his way. Ralph had issues in the first movie too, but they felt more justified because of all the abuse he was taking. But he still grew as a character, and learned to become quite content with his life. His new issues in this movie are way more unjustified, and often feel out-of-character. (Unfortunately, Vanellope's not free of dumb decisions either. Basically, there are a lot of dumb decisions made by characters in this movie.) 

And that issue of Ralph's character taking a nosedive leads directly to the second major problem with this movie: the final act. Obviously, not too much can be said here without a spoiler warning. But I will say this: there are some parallels with the first movie in terms of Ralph's actions accidentally causing chaos, only this time... there is no big plot twist regarding the villain. Instead, we're given one of the dumbest climactic acts that Disney has ever written. There's potential for massive stakes, but it all gets shot as the focus becomes more on the main characters instead of the implications of what's happening around them. 

But there's plenty of other problems with this movie. They kind of ignore the rules of the previous movie at times; Fix-It Felix says he'll cover for Ralph during the day while's gone in the Internet. But wasn't his absence during the day what caused the game to almost get unplugged last time? And Vanellope is considering joining another racing game called Slaughter Race (basically a PG post-apocalyptic version of Grand Theft Auto... I think?), despite the big deal the last movie made about "game-jumping." 

And then there's the "Disney" section of the Internet, which feels kind of shoehorned in. I'm a little conflicted here, because there's a few funny jokes in here--namely the Groot cameo. But this is part of where the movie loses focus for a little bit, especially once the Disney Princess team-up happens. Obviously some will enjoy that part; not really my cup of tea, though. But I could've probably overlooked it a bit more if it hadn't led to Vanellope having a silly musical number. Yup, that actually happens. 

Also, if you had any trouble wrapping your head around the concept of the first movie... you're gonna have a bad time here. Remember, this is basically an anthropomorphic of the Internet. And though much of what you see your brain can probably accept in the moment, when you think about questions like how in the world is this Internet world interacting with the real world, and how can our video game characters even really be here... it kind of blows your mind a bit. 

After all this, it may seem amazing that there is anything positive to say about this movie. But there actually is some funny stuff in this movie. Despite the overwhelming nature of this virtual Internet world, it's actually not that bad during the first half. There's amusing characterizations of a search engine and an algorithm. And there's also just some amusing Internet jokes/references. Also, the car chase that takes place in the "Slaughter Race" game is actually pretty fun. Even though the film can feel implausible at times during that first half, it's really not until the second half that things really start to go truly off the rails. (And when they go off the rails... boy, do they ever.) 

This is one of those movies that I didn't dislike too much at first despite the ludicrous final act and Ralph's character regression, but the more I thought about other issues with the movie, the more it infuriated me. I don't know what I'm more confused by: how the same director/writer who made the superb first movie gave us this for a sequel... or how this movie actually got well-received. But then again, I'm also among the minority of people who didn't care for Frozen and thus isn't interested in the upcoming sequel either. So what do I know? 

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Mortal Engines


RATING: B-

It's been a while since we've heard from Peter Jackson. When we last saw a project of his, he was going through a George Lucas-esque stage (this makes two reviews in a row I've referenced this now!) and making a pretty poor prequel trilogy out of one book--aka the Hobbit trilogy. Now it seems he's moving on to a different book series--Mortal Engines, a steampunk/sci-fi/adventure series. Of course, now it looks like we'll never get a sequel to this because the movie bombed so badly during the theatrical run. Oh yeah, and although this is really Jackson's project, he did not direct this--Christian Rivers did in his directorial debut. 

Mortal Engines takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where the cities that weren't destroyed by weapons of mass destruction are now surviving... by rolling around on wheels. Or even flying, in one case. And in order to survive, these cities consume each other for supplies and fuel. This may sound like a ludicrous premise, but they mostly make it work--though I'm still unsure on how the destruction of one city fuels another. 

This one mostly takes place on the mobile city of London, where a young scarred girl named Hester attempts to assassinate a high-ranking important person in London--Thaddeus Valentine. One down-on-his-luck apprentice named Tom foils the assassination, and through a series of events, both Tom and Hester end up in basically no-man's-land outside of London. And now they'll have to work together to get back to London and prevent a conspiracy from occurring, which centers around Valentine. 

This was yet another recent film that was unfortunately kind of hurt by its marketing. The film marketed itself as a crazy CGI-fest and also kind of as part of the young adult niche. With regards to the former... that doesn't really happen until the final act (more on that later). As for the latter... I really don't see it. There's some mild similarities here and there (there is a resistance group, for one) but the final film really does not target a limited audience of young adults in my estimate. And really, are we just going to start dismissing every book-to-movie adaptation that's post-apocalyptic as young-adult-only fodder? 

Unfortunately, the film did less emphasizing of some of the cooler stuff in the marketing. Namely, the resurrected cyborg "Stalker" Shrike (who you might have known as Grike, depending upon which version of the book you read--if you read it at all). His design is excellent and he's played quite well by Stephen Lang, and in general he's one of the cooler things about this movie. This is another reason why it's kind of unfortunate there will never be sequels, because there would've been plenty more of those Stalkers. Also, there's the character Anna Fang, who has a few pretty nice fight scenes that are almost Matrix-esque. 

The biggest problems with the movie do crop up in the final act--and unfortunately, some of the problems extend from the book here. The final act deals with an old superweapon called MEDUSA with vaguely defined power--other than that it's destructive. This is where the crazy CGI-fest comes into play. The problem is, the book wasn't really any better at explaining what exactly MEDUSA did either other than destroy things. The final act is also changed quite a bit from the book; some of the changes are negligible and a couple are even welcomed (one likable character who died in the book not dying here), but one decision made very late by Hester seems to go against her character--the character the movie established early on, and also the character that she's supposed to evolve into in future books. (It should also be noted that Hester is quite less scarred in the movie version than in the book version--something that will likely be a point of contention for book purists.) 

Despite having a pretty decent budget, it seems they blew a lot of it on the special effects because the cast surprisingly isn't that high-profile. Besides Lang, the only other actor one may recognize is Hugo Weaving, who we haven't seen much of lately--and it's good to see him in a big role again, and he does quite well with it. Hera Hilmer is also pretty good as Hester. 

Mortal Engines' biggest problem is pretty much the final act, which descends into CGI madness and goes on for quite a while. There's other problems too. The antagonist's motivations aren't really developed as well as they should be. There's also an ill-advised reference early on to Minions, of all things--which is probably not going to age very well. 

Still, it's kind of unfortunate that we're only going to ever get one movie out of this. Because it's a unique and interesting premise, and even if the film is a little more lackluster down the stretch, I would've liked to see how the book sequels would've turned out in film format. Heaven knows we need more book-to-movie adaptations to be successful anyway... instead of Hollywood continuing to produce utterly pointless remakes of old movies.