The Netflix Sci-Fi Steampunk Dystopia No One Saw In Theaters Finds Second Life On Streaming

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

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In 2018 a steampunk dystopian film called Mortal Engines was released. It cost Universal Pictures between $100 and $150 million to make, but it only made $83.7 million in theaters, certifying it as a cinematic dud. Now, six years later, it’s getting a second chance on streaming and you can watch it on Netflix.

Mortal Engines

mortal engines

In the realm of cinematic adaptations, few tasks are as daunting as bringing beloved novels to life on the big screen. Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines, a captivating tale of post-apocalyptic survival set against the backdrop of moving cities and political intrigue, was one such challenge.

Directed by Christian Rivers and backed by the visionary talent of Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, this movie adaptation hit theaters in 2018 with much anticipation and speculation.

Set 1,000 Years In The Future

mortal engines

Like any sci-fi or fantasy book adaptation, Mortal Engines took a lot to bring it to life on the big screen. Set more than a thousand years after the disastrous Sixty Minute War, humanity has adapted to a new way of life where entire cities roam the Earth on wheels, consuming smaller settlements for resources.

The philosophy of “Municipal Darwinism” reigns supreme, with larger predator cities hunting down and absorbing smaller prey.

The Fate Of Humanity At Stake

mortal engines

Mortal Engines follows two main protagonists: Tom Natsworthy, an apprentice historian from the mobile city of London, and Hester Shaw, a mysterious and scarred fugitive with a vendetta against Thaddeus Valentine, one of London’s high-ranking officials.

As they navigate the dangers of the Mortal Engines world, uncovering secrets and confronting their own pasts, Tom and Hester find themselves entangled in a larger conflict between the mobile cities and the Anti-Traction League, a resistance group fighting against Municipal Darwinism.

With the fate of humanity hanging in the balance, they must confront their deepest fears and make sacrifices for the greater good.

Supporting Cast

The cast of Mortal Engines brings these characters to life, doing their best to capture the essence of Reeve’s original vision. Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar (A Letter from Helga) delivers a powerful performance as Hester Shaw, portraying her as a fierce and determined survivor driven by revenge.

Alongside her, Irish actor Robert Sheehan (The Umbrella Academy) shines as Tom Natsworthy.

Supporting performances from Hugo Weaving as the enigmatic Thaddeus Valentine, Jihae as the fearless Anna Fang, and Stephen Lang as the haunting Shrike help create a rich mixture of personalities and captivating characters that propel Mortal Engine’s story forward.

Ambitious Worldbuilding

Despite its stellar cast and ambitious world-building, Mortal Engines faced a mixed reception upon its release. While some praised its visual effects and action sequences, and the movie even won an award from the Visual Effects Society, many critics found fault with its pacing and narrative execution.

The film’s deviation from the source material also sparked debate among fans, with some applauding the changes for cinematic effect while others lamented the loss of certain elements from the novels.

Financially, Mortal Engines struggled to find its footing, ultimately becoming one of the biggest box office bombs of all time. Falling at least $17 million short of breaking even with the budget, the film fell short of expectations, leaving the studios who vouched for it at a significant loss.

Streaming Mortal Engines

mortal engines

Despite the alterations made in the transition from page to screen, Philip Reeve, the author of the original novel, emphasized the film’s ability to capture the essence of his original work while infusing it with cinematic grandeur.

Reeve praised what he considered perfect pacing and genuine emotional core. His endorsement helps support why Mortal Engines deserves a second shot at becoming a cult classic.