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.

 

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Old Plot and New Twists

The producers of Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom really hope that it will be the summer hit. The ads have been very cute with short flicks of Chris Pratt trying to get a velociraptor through airport security and other save-the-dinosaur scenarios. Other trailers featured the usual awesome dino pictures, including the Masosaurus (the one in the dolphin-like enclosure in Jurassic World) in a giant wave about to eat a surfer. That image alone made me want to see it along with a curiosity of where the story line is going. After all, I’m a huge fan of monster movies, including Godzilla and Cloverfield. After seeing the movie however, I don’t think this will be a classic summer blockbuster.

Fallen Kingdom

The movie had an okay plot although it lacked the freshness of the first Jurassic World. The gist of the plot is that the island’s volcano is about to explode. Some in America think that this is God’s will to re-extinct the dinosaur, while others, including Claire Dearing, want the government to intervene and rescue the dinosaurs as an endangered species. Towards that end, she recruits three others, including Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and heads to the island.

The idea that Clair, (Bryce Dallas Howard), wants to save the dinosaurs struck me as very inconsistent. In Jurassic World she never showed any real interest in the creatures when she ran the park. It was a job, an overwhelming part of her life, but only a job and she strove to be the best at it. It was easy to picture Claire never once stepping out into the park and touching a dinosaur. That excitement was reserved more for the CEO Masrani, who died a fiery death in the first Jurassic World movie.

On the opposite end, Owen Grady was the soul of the place in his role of animal behavior expert. In the first movie, he proved (in theory) that the animals could be trained and directed. Fallen Kingdom added footage about the raptors training to prove this to us. He should have been the one working to save them from a fiery death.

Later, evil rich guy Eli Mills (Rafe Spall) ultimately blames Grady and Dearing for his attempts at breeding, training, and then wholesaling the dinos to the highest billionaire or government bidder. His idea was to use them in the military, rich playthings, or even further genetic development into bigger and badder critters. The fact that Grady and Dearing bought that weak excuse and accepted the blame for his terrible actions was one of the low points of the film.

Lessons learned from the Jurassic Movies

However, after watching five of these films, some overall truths come out.

  1. Never trust rich old guys that own islands. They are either kind and delusional or related somehow to rich, evil, young guys.
  2. Rich old guys live in huge castle-like homes that, like the Bat cave, contain huge rooms below for experimentation (including Batman and Ironman on this one).
  3. Don’t trust guys in corporate suits or who dress like mercs.
  4. Mosquitos must have sucked on everyone in the dino epochs, including gator-like fish, which is highly unlikely since it is aquatic and mosquitos aren’t.
  5. T-Rex rocks. Always has and always will have the money-shot moment.
  6. Mercs are always kind of stupid, except for old leader mercs.
  7. The “indestructible” hamster balls for humans aren’t. They actually destroy quite easily by crushing teeth, severe dino kicking and now lava fireballs.
  8. Humans are stupid enough to think that big, bad and multi-toothed monsters are not bad enough. We have to keep inventing something bigger and with more teeth.
  9. Humans, particularly rich ones, think dinos don’t have brains enough to think for themselves.
  10. Genetic scientists don’t care what they combine with what as long as the result is a really cool, big monster. It is like making Play-Doh animals but with really expensive equipment. You never know what you are going to get until the end.
  11. Genetic scientists always have a back door to sneak out of and a helicopter waiting only for them.

The hidden message

Many of the scenes seemed like retreads of the 1997 The Lost World: Jurassic Park where Jeff Goldblum and Julianne Moore set out to thwart a bunch of mercenaries from collecting animals to take them off the island and then she works to get the T-Rex out of San Diego. The latter half of that movie was one of the silliest parts of the dinosaur flicks and reduxing them did not help this movie.

In addition to the repeated ideas, this film also had bad plot flaws. First of all, how do humans escape a sinking human-hamster ball into lava laced water and swim to a different part of the island without being burned by flying hot debris? How do dinos breathe in hydrogen cyanide for several minutes without dying but still have the energy enough to bolt out the garage doors the moment they are opened. This was a critical part of the ending. Even released, the animals would have terribly scarred lungs, AND the main characters just set free a cloud of deadly gas. Luckily it dissipates pretty quickly in the open air. What happens to the released dinosaurs? Do we let them go or hunt them down to kill them?

Finally, the film glossed over one very important fact that Lockwood dabbled in human cloning. Rumor has it that this movie really is the precursor to Jurassic World 3 and this one factor about genetics should be a strong part of that story line. After all, Henry Wu loved making massive monsters. Would he be happy cutting and combining human genomes for supermen? Wu’s character has always implied that he had no moral limits. If JW 3 doesn’t play upon this small but very significant factor, the quiet reveal in JW 2 is then a complete waste of time.

Recommendations?

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed the film. It kept the tension up as the characters went from the island to the rich guy’s underground lair. Some of the visual impacts, particularly of the volcano killing off the dinosaurs, were quite powerful. I’ll own it when it comes, out but so far it is my least favorite of the Jurassic movies. It also lacks the true pizzazz and for a summer blockbuster.

If you love monster movies too, then by all means go see this flick. You’ll love the scenes with the gentle Aposaurus and the new dinosaurs presented, including a Carnotaurus which looks like a T-Rex with horns and amazingly small arms. It seems like this film had more variety of predators, both real dino and Wu-constructs. The Jurassic Park and Jurassic World movies have always made them the start of the show because they are so amazing. Therefore, consider catching this move in a theater for that reason alone. The big gals are well worth the large screen presentation.