Mortal Engines Drives into Plot Hole Confusion

Mortal Engines is the newest post-apocalyptic film offering, and like so many others, it fails to hold together. The movie looks engaging with its steampunk-ish giant rolling cities and fantastic airships, and the artistry is something to behold. However, the plot sinks with holes and confusing logic leaps. The one entertaining aspect of this movie is counting the number ideas it stole from other films, including the Matrix and Star Wars.Mortal Engines

Based on an idea of “municipal Darwinism”, a great phrase that could  be applied today as larger cities incorporate the smaller ones around them.  In Mortal Engines, the great city machines chase down and engulf smaller ones for food and fuel, the London machine has grown to be the greatest city roaming the land. The model used for it is impressive with a locomotive front, and rising levels of towers that ends in a cathedral top and necessitates the need for an internal subway system to get to the engine levels.

The enemies are the people who live beyond the “great wall,” which looks like a giant dam guarded by an array of flying craft. The anti-tractionists chose to settle in one place, build homes, farm and, by the Mayor of London’s thinking, hoard all their supplies. These Luddite-style people are a peace-loving mixed culture that includes Asians and Indians, making this a type of racist war as well. The plot centers around the idea that as long as the wall is standing, the great machines and scavenger societies can destroy their side of the world while leaving the rest alone.

But of course, tell a power-crazed man he can’t go to some place and he will steal, murder, and sacrifice all to go there.

That is exactly what Hugo Weaving’s character, Thaddeus Valentine, does. Weaving plays the villain in the wonderfully menacing way he perfected. He murders a woman to get an ancient WMD to blow down the damn Wall. In killing people, he sets up a practically Shakespearean plot twist where the daughter (Hester Shaw) of the slain woman grows up seeking revenge. The movie starts at Shaw’s attempt at revenge, and much of the story is told in backflashes.

The story problems begin with the initial world. London, which boasts a large population, is in constant need of food, supplies, and energy. Except the audience sees multiple views of lovingly tended flower gardens. A ridiculous idea for a community on the edge of starvation. Food, if it could be called that, is shown multiple times, but only in the sense of sludge and algae. Edible animals must have disappeared completely. Yet this world isn’t the barren wasteland of Mad Max fame. The great engines roll through some wasteland, but the film shows great forests as well so the Earth is obviously capable of sustaining farms.

In addition, when London “eats” a town, the people are subsumed into the population, but the material goods are not stripped out, the food is not confiscated, valuables like cloth and furniture are not recovered. The town is put through a gigantic grinder to reduce it to burnable fuel. In short, the premise of this world doesn’t hold up.

Finally, the most glaring plot hole is the fact that as London approaches the great Wall, the anti-tractionists on the other side know Valentine has the WMD. This miracle knowledge appears out of thin air since the weapon is a secret to most Londoners, including Valentine’s own daughter. How would the Wall dwellers have known about it? In addition, as the only other witness to the finding of the WMD (and the murder of Shaw’s mother), Hester doesn’t even know or understand the importance of the weapon until near the end of the movie. Nor does she know about Valentine’s plan for it. She has the only key to stop it and, at the climax of the movie, seems to know exactly where to place the key in order to shut the whole thing down.

In short, the movie offers beautiful CGI and steampunk atmosphere but dies on plot, making this movie not worth seeing. It’s a shame really because such graphic art deserves a wonderful story to cement its fame. Peter Jackson has certainly done better. Yet Mortal Engine’s future lays in being shown in some Mystery Science Theater 3000 venue where shouts of disbelief and popcorn throwing are allowed.

 

Avengers: Infinity War, Epic Fights, Space Battles and…

Although I’ve seen most of the comic book movies over the last 15 years, the genre is not one of my film favorites. However, this third Avengers movie promised to be, well, super because of the all-star cast from so many other good movies coming together. It should have stirred the heart strings and made my pulse race with tension. Instead, it left me with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”

Spoiler Alerts

Avengers: Infinity War had all the major players with the notable exception of Antman. Screen time is dominated by Ironman, Thor, and Peter Quill, although  Dr. Strange, Black Panther, Gamora, and Black Widow play major roles as well. Everyone else in the Marvel movie world shows up in smaller, sometimes bit parts. That’s okay too because having the audience follow too many superheroes in their multiple storylines would be too confusing. The plot bordered on that already with a lot of jumping between Earth attacks and Thanos progressing his way through his stone collection on other worlds. I never felt bored with the movie, but I never engaged with it either.A Infinity Wars

What Went Wrong?

In the roughly 2.5 hours I sat in the theater, I never felt emotionally involved with the film. By trying to force so much story in a short time, the creators didn’t slow down long enough for the audience to develop any attachment to the scenes. Tears should have flowed when Gamora begs for death or when many of the heroes meet their death. Some audience members did cry. Unfortunately, I simply walked away with a feeling that it wasn’t real.

Instead of focusing on the relationships, my mind filled with all the mistakes they made. First if Gamora is so important to Thanos’ scheme, why didn’t she disappear to unknown parts? Surely the galaxy is big enough to hide in. I also felt that Dr. Strange’s character was downgraded dramatically from his stand-alone film. Here is a guy that held another interdimensional god at bay with time manipulations. Why wasn’t this an option again? He also freaked out and befuddled two other gods, Loki and Thor. Granted neither of those have high intelligence skills but Dr. Strange even trapped Loki into an ever-falling dimension. Why could this not happen to Thanos’ minions? I will say (Spoiler!) that Dr. Strange gave the biggest hint of all about the end of the war, (not the same as the end of the movie) in two separate lines.

The end of the movie proved to be worse. During the final fight in Wakanda, the forces of good go up against the forces of alien in an epic battle that reminded me of scenes of Braveheart. It shouldn’t have. Braveheart was set back in the pre-technology days where swords and spears made sense. We’ve got guns people! Bombs! And Wakanda is supposed to own advanced technology. They used it but in limited ways. So why are we fighting hand to hand here? Why not wait to bomb the raging critters after they’ve come through the shield? Why run full speed into battle, exhausting yourself before the first blow and dispersing your troops? Looks good on film but dumb in battle.

Finally, I didn’t go into the theater expecting to see the first in a two-movie story. This always irritates me because I expect a film to wrap up the plot unless it is otherwise advertised. Avengers: Infinity War ends with half or more of the heroes dead. Thanos won. Heck, half of the galaxy is instantly erased from existence. Why do I know it is a two-movie plot? Because no studio would ever kill successful cash cows such as the Black Panther, Spiderman, and Thor without a plan to bring them back. Since the wielder of the infinity stones controls time, reality, and space, death becomes an easy fix.

By the end, I didn’t feel like I wasted money but I would not see it again. Nor am I sure I will buy the Blu-ray when it comes out. Considering I’ve collected many of the comic book movies, that says a lot.

So should you see it? If you’ve followed the comic book movies, then yes, see this film. No doubt the plot will be a major factor in the future MCU films. If you are not a Marvel fan, then don’t bother. For all of its fast pace, great CGI and pageantry, Avengers: Infinity War fails to stand on its own.