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On TV tonight: Peter Jackson's grand sci-fi film turned out to be a major flop.

On TV tonight: Peter Jackson's grand sci-fi film turned out to be a major flop.

October 31st, 2023

The team behind "The Lord of the Rings" is responsible for an epic failure.

During the first years of the 21st century, Peter Jackson managed to put the fantasy genre on the cinematic map with his fantastic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." In 2018, he returned to the world of fantasy when he produced "Mortal Engines," a grand adaptation of Philip Reeve's book of the same name. The catch? The film was a colossal loss.

"Mortal Engines" is directed by Christian Rivers (who previously worked on visual effects in, among other things, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy) and

produced by Peter Jackson, who also co-wrote the screenplay along with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, both veterans from "The Lord of the Rings."

The cast also includes a representative from Middle-earth: Hugo Weaving, who played Elrond, takes on the role of the power-hungry Valentine here. Other roles are filled by actors like Robert Sheehan ("The Umbrella Academy"), Hera Hilmar ("See"), and Stephen Lang ("Avatar").

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities are on wheels and roam the planet. The most powerful city is London, led by the historian and deputy mayor Valentine. A young woman named Hester Shaw seeks revenge against him for past wrongs, and her actions set off a race against time to stop London's progress across the world.

"Mortal Engines" performed terribly at the box office. The film's budget was reported to be around $100-150 million, but the global box office earnings amounted to a meager $83 million. The poor reviews the film received could be one reason why "Mortal Engines" failed so badly. Another explanation could be that the film, which includes a fair amount of young adult elements, was released a few years too late to capitalize on the success of similar dystopian love stories like "The Hunger Games." The fact that "Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse," "Aquaman," and "Bumblebee" were all released around the same time probably didn't help the film either.

It's still a bit unfortunate that "Mortal Engines" sank so completely, as the film has elements worth watching. The initial chase scene between two cities feels like a large-scale Mad Max sequence, Hugo Weaving is delightfully sinister in his villainous role, and the scenes with Stephen Lang's cyborg Shrike are both dark and beautiful. Additionally, "Mortal Engines" features Regé-Jean Page (who, a little over a year later, made a significant portion of Netflix's subscribers swoon in "Bridgerton") in a supporting role.

If you missed "Mortal Engines" when it was released, or if you just want to revisit it (which I personally think is worth it), it's airing tonight at 10:00 PM on Channel 9. It's also available for streaming on Amazon Prime.


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