Mortal Engines ★★★

If I listed every problem I had with this, it would probably seem like I hated this film. (Although, to be fair, a huge number of them can be reduced to the HOBBIT screenwriters following up stretching two hours of story over nine hours with condensing nine hours of story into two hours.)

The thing is, I kind of liked it. In a world of CGI where anything is possible, so often we're brought back to the same bloody things over and over again, and to see two cities driving over the hillside chasing each other is exciting enough to get me to sit forward. The wildly compressed plot gives this a manic propulsive energy that helps compensate for the lurching story beats. Christian Rivers shows promise as a director, executing complicated tracking shots with brio. (His work sometimes falls down in more conventional staging, or with the all-too-common problem of two people at great distance in a CGI landscape both shot in medium closeup so you have no sense of space between them.) Hera Hilmarsdóttir is good (if forced too quickly through her character beats) and Korean actress Jitae is even better. And even if it's arguably overscored, I enjoyed the traditional symphonic approach.

So yeah. I won't overpraise it. There's a lot of scenes that seem to ignore basic laws of physics. The male lead is a bit insufferable, and I certainly wish Weta would figure out a way to finish rendering their films before they come out. (The level of VFX range from astonishingly, mind-blowingly seamless to "someone said that was ok?!?".) And maybe I was in part just pleasantly surprised that this is one-and-done rather than a forced setup for eight more instalments. Nonetheless, even if "It's much better than I feared" isn't a great pullquote, it's true.