Skip to main content

Incredible Honest Trailer for Mortal Engines Shows us Just How Bad the Movie Is

As someone who covers movies, I knew there was something wrong with Mortal Engines before it hit box offices. There’s a certain sense of doom you can smell in the air.

The buzz was either nonexistent or just plain not good. The advertising was lackluster, as though the studio couldn’t bring itself to care. And every time we posted a trailer or tidbit here, our readers who enjoyed Philip Reeve’s novels voiced their doubt. (There was also rightful dismay that the production changed protagonist Hester Shaw’s scarred, disfigured face to something easily covered and far less significant.)

The fact of the matter is that Mortal Engines looks like a hard cinematic sell on paper before we even get to the actual movie. Giant, fast-moving cities gobbling up other cities in a cyberpunk post-apocalyptic future? I like many of the words there, but they seem to combine to an unwieldy whole. What I did not expect, however, is just how preposterous this actually became.

Watching Honest Trailers boil Mortal Engines down to its clangy, tongue-tying essence makes me laugh and also simultaneously cry when I think about how much time, money, and effort so many people poured into this catastrophic mess.

“Welcome to a post-apocalypse Earth,” the trailer begins, “a world that still seems—pretty okay looking. Nevertheless, humanity is forced to fight over limited resources … by using … tons of resources to live on massive mobile cities that devour smaller mobile cities, in a harrowing game of Hungry Hungry Hippos. Except for the humans who live in sky cities. Or in mobile home parks. Or in just—normal cities. Which will make you wonder why parts of humanity have decided to live on massive mobile cities that consume smaller mobile cities in a harrowing game of Hungry Hungry Hippos.”

And … welcome to Mortal Engines! Look out! Everything is falling and exploding! Everyone is attractive and attractively saying unfortunate things!

It just gets even more bonkers from there. From the painfully leaden dialogue to the preposterously named people (sometimes fantasy names look better in books than spoken aloud!), to what appears to be a head-scratchingly derivative cyberpunk Star Wars plotline, part of me is still grappling with how this thing came to fruition at all. With a budget of over $100 million dollars (and now projected to lose that much money or more), somehow many, many people kept signing off on Mortal Engines until it became … this.

Producer Peter Jason had originally intended for Mortal Engines to be a franchise. Jackson, a man who somehow managed to make three movies out of The Hobbit, a slender volume that clocks in under 100,000 words, is fond of franchises. It seems like we should be glad global audiences had no appetite for more.

Did you see Mortal Engines? How did you cope with the experience thereafter? How many times did Hugo Weaving mutter “think of the paycheck, the paycheck, Hugo” under his breath to himself? If you’re a fan of Reeve’s books, do you think there was any real way to adapt them? And does anyone want to play Hungry Hungry Hippos with me?

(via Honest Trailers, image: Universal)

Want more stories like this? Become a subscriber and support the site!

The Mary Sue has a strict comment policy that forbids, but is not limited to, personal insults toward anyone, hate speech, and trolling.—

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.