Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Mortal Engines

(New Zealand/USA, 2018)

“Steampunk” is a genre within the science fiction genre that I’ve never really understood. These stories take place in alternate universes where the tech has not advanced beyond the Jules Verne stage, and yet they seem to involve massive, sometimes gargantuan, machines. Rivets, brass, bolts, steam hissing out of everything … these are all visual things, hard to sell in a written story. Brazil is often cited as a progenitor of steampunk.

This may be the ultimate steampunk movie. I hope so. I’d hate to see anything get clankier, bloatier, nastier, or dumber than this. The idea, such as it is, is that for some fucking reason they have built these mobile fucking cities, miles and miles wide and high, and they go drag racing across the countryside gobbling up little mobile villages. Why? Don’t ask. The stupid thing was so boring and so predictable (I had figured out every plot point in about the first fifteen minutes) that we ejected it after half an hour. I am happy to say it was a gigantic box office bomb.

Brazil was visually stunning. This is visually stunning. My lord, the level of detail of these CGI environments is just beyond belief. But Brazil is smart and funny. This is just loud!!!!!!

I couldn’t help but recall James Blish’s Cities in Flight stories from the ‘50s, and wondered if anyone might make a movie out of them. Probably best that no one does, if they can’t do better than this.