This might sound a bit odd, but I haven’t really been paying too much attention to reviews lately. Hell, for the most part I have been ignoring trailers as well, unless I am in the theater. You know you gotta watch the trailers when you are about to watch a movie, that’s just part of the package. I have a caveat though, once I have seen the movie or show, then I might read some reviews. I like to form my own thoughts before I let others color what I might think about something.
Now with all that sad, I failed to do that with what I am about to talk about. Mainly it was snippets here and there after it came out and the realization that the movie had a forgettable run in the theaters. I’m talking about Mortal Engines. It’s one that I really wanted to see when I saw the trailers for it. While at the same time, I was leery because the problem I have with trailers (and have had for a long time now), is how they show you the flashiest parts of a movie and you have the fear that this is the best you will get of it.
I will back up a bit and say that it wasn’t so much that I was disappointed with the movie. It’s more that I walked away thinking it was a bit… odd. Add to that, maybe a little disappointment. The main thing about it is, I have seen it before. I can sit here and pick apart so many different things about it, and I might even hit on a few in a moment. But the oddness or weirdness of it pretty much says it all.
When I say that I have seen it before I don’t mean the movie specifically. I am referring to the way the story plays out. They blatantly used Star Wars as a template. Sure the Death Star was a giant roaming city and Yavin was a stationary city with a giant wall to protect it, but they keyed in to the trench run and didn’t let it go till the air ship had flown into the center and laid out its bombs. Then you add in a Luke, I am your father moment and it just makes you scratch your head. Sure they changed out some words for the scene but it didn’t take away from it. The movie felt like a mix between Empire and the original.
And then we come to one of the things that really got to me. See, this is where I had heard too much about the movie before I finally saw it. I had heard someone mention that the movie was steampunk and that was its downfall. Their claim was that steampunk doesn’t sell well for movies. Yeah, I don’t buy that. And when I watched it I saw more of the issue than this person seemed to grasp. See, the movie wasn’t really steampunk. It fell more into a diesel punk style. So, you think the steampunk groups are only a small fraction of movie fans, imagine the fans of diesel punk when hardly anyone has even heard of it. But for me that wasn’t even the problem with the movie. They incorporated their tech as part of who and what the movie was. For the most part it was a seamless addition to the cast. I liked that aspect of it. Even the roaming city aspect made for some interesting visuals.
Now the next part is a can of worms I am loathe to get into but there is an aspect of it that really stood out. Essentially, there were a few things of today’s politics that came into full swing in the story. One of them being that the evil people were all white and the good ones were all sorts of different varieties. This is a pretty common theme in a number of young adult styled stories and such lately and doesn’t really go much beyond notice for me. Basically, the visual presentation of things will always follow what is in fashion for the target audience.
The thing that stood out to me as a big thing though happened in two separate instances. Each time if it had been pretty much any other movie, the hero and heroine would have had a kissable moment. It wouldn’t have mattered who initiated it, could have been her or could have been him. But nothing happened in either of the moments. It felt like something was left hanging in the air. Both times my wife and I looked at each other and said they were waiting for consent.
I mean, yeah, that’s something going strong in today’s political battles. We can’t escape notice of it. But in a movie, it stands out when the characters avoid doing something that is expected. And of course, you know the thing about it is, we both had the same thought each time we saw it.
And that might be part of the heart of wrong with this movie. Essentially, it wasn’t as much a coherent story as it was a bunch of tropes slapped together. Sometimes they played out exactly as they should and other times they misfired in ways that made you scratch your head. That right there more than anything else is a good indicator of why this one didn’t last long at the box office. It’s one of those things needed for good storytelling. The tropes are expected and understood for good reason. They set us up for a specific pay off. Sometimes changing them up can give a surprise that creates something greater than the sum of its parts. And other times, the tropes are so disjointed that we witness a creature more misshapen than Frankenstein’s monster.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.