Mortal Engines Parent Guide
"Mortal Engines" features breakneck action sequences, a high-speed and unpredictable plot, top quality CGI, and a unique steampunk aesthetic.
Parent Movie Review
Mortal Engines opens with what must be the most unusual chase scene ever filmed: a massive rolling city is chasing a smaller mobile municipality across the countryside in order to “ingest” it, that is, to use its raw materials as fuel. The scene typifies the entire movie – it’s fast moving, exciting, visually interesting, and distinct from other films in the post-apocalyptic teen movie genre.
This film adaptation is set in a dystopic future. The “Ancients” destroyed the world in their Sixty Minute War using a fearsome “quantum energy” weapon named Medusa. The conflict shattered the earth’s crust, rearranging the continents, devastating the environment, and leaving the survivors in a Darwinian struggle for survival. This battle plays out dramatically between predator cities and “static” cities. One of the largest predator cities is London, which has crossed the land bridge and is devouring Europe’s resources.
London is led by a Lord Mayor (Patrick Malahide) and the able and very popular Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Valentine’s rise – and his plans to make London an unstoppable power – are soon to be jeopardized. During the routine absorption of a small mining city, Valentine is stabbed by a young woman (Hera Hilmar), who flees, only to be pursued by Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan). Mishap, treachery, and attempted murder bind their fates together and Tom and the young woman, named Hester Shaw, go on the run in a quest for safety, justice, and vengeance.
Their quest moves extremely quickly: the film has breakneck action sequences, a high-speed and unpredictable plot, top quality CGI, and a unique aesthetic. In fact, the movie’s steampunk design is one of its most appealing features, making it easy for audiences to feel completely immersed in the story’s universe. Screen writer Peter Jackson’s youthful fascination with Star Wars also comes through in the film. Star Wars fans will have fun picking out the allusions and will either be entertained or annoyed by Jackson’s homage to the classic sci fi trailbreaker. Some viewers might also be irked by the plot holes (how did a low-tech society manage to invent giant predatory cities?) but the story’s energy and the likability of the cast are strong enough for the audience to suspend their disbelief and enjoy the show.
Parents looking for an action adventure movie for family viewing can be comfortable in taking their teenagers to Mortal Engines. The movie has no sexual content or drug or alcohol use and only a smattering of curse words. It is, however, very violent, with multiple fight scenes, some of which involve firearms or swords. Characters are wounded and some die, although there is no explicit gore. There is, however, one particularly troubling scene where a father and daughter are locked in combat, each trying to kill the other. The movie also features a Stalker (a cross between a zombie and a cyborg) named Shrike (Stephen Lane) who is a genuinely frightening character and could easily alarm children or sensitive viewers. In terms of messages within the film, parents may be disturbed by one character’s desire for murderous vengeance. Fortunately, the film also provides positive messages about courage, loyalty, sacrifice, and justice.
Moviegoers who enjoy Mortal Engines will be pleased to know that the story is based on the first volume of Philip Reeve’s four novel series. This film stands well on its own and viewers are not left hanging, waiting for a future film to resolve the story. But those who want more can head to their local library to sink deeper into this beautifully imagined world.Directed by Christian Rivers. Starring Hera Hilmar, Hugo Weaving, and Stephen Lang. Running time: 128 minutes. Theatrical release December 14, 2018. Updated February 11, 2021
Watch the trailer for Mortal Engines
Rating & Content Info
Why is Mortal Engines rated PG-13? Mortal Engines is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for sequences of futuristic violence and action
Violence: A predator city chases, harpoons, and captures a city. Smaller predator cities chase people and harpoon them; one character is injured by a harpoon. A city is seen rolling over human skulls. Some blood is seen. There is a fistfight between a group of extras. A young woman stabs a man in the abdomen; some blood is shown but he recovers. A woman falls a great distance from a platform. A young man is pushed off the same platform. A woman has flashbacks of the murder of her mother: the violence is not detailed. A man slashes a child’s face with a knife. A man orders a plane to fire on a prison so that an external cage will be released. The prison is destroyed and it is shown burning in the distance and sinking into the sea. Prisoners are taken to a market and sold into slavery. A fight takes place in a public place involving guns (a man’s head is shot off), knives, swords, and hand to hand combat. A man shoots and kills the head of his government. A Stalker (zombie cyborg) fights a crowd of people by punching, stabbing and throwing them off a floating city. Gun fights are held in a church and control room as part of an attempted coup. A woman and man shoot each other and then fight with swords. The woman falls from a balcony. Aircraft attack a moving city which fights back with weapons fire. Some pilots crash and die. A man tries to kill his daughter and she stabs him. A city is attacked with a weapon which causes massive destruction. No deaths are shown up close, but we see walls falling and buildings burning. A plane crashes and the man within is crushed by a rolling city – not seen in detail.
Sexual Content: A young man and woman embrace. There is a brief glimpse of a man embracing a woman while lying down.
Profanity: There are approximately a dozen mild profanities and terms of deity used in this film.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated February 11, 2021
Mortal Engines Parents' Guide
Valentine doesn’t learn from the destruction wrought by the Ancients’ powerful weapon. Why do people so often fail to learn from their history? What can we do to learn from history and avoid repeating the mistakes of the past?
Valentine describes the predatory cities as practicing “municipal Darwinism”. What do you think that means? Do you agree that Darwinism can be used to apply to human societies? Do you think that social Darwinism remains part of our culture? What are the risks of embracing social Darwinism as a philosophy?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
This movie is based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve. It is the first in a seven novel series so if you enjoy the film, there are a lot of books to look forward to reading.
Did you enjoy the steampunk aesthetic in Mortal Engines? Heather Dixon’s Illusionarium has a similar feel along with a floating city, a dangerous new drug, and an appealing protagonist.
Kira has grown up in a world devastated by drought. When she discovers the ability to draw water from the ground, Kira finds herself entangled in a battle for power. Dry Souls by Denise Getsen is suitable for teen readers.
In Trail of Lightning, the first book of her Sixth World series, Rebecca Roanhorse introduces readers to Maggie Hoskie, a monster hunter on the Navajo reservation. Ecological disaster has devastated most of the world and Maggie is forced to fight the monsters that stalk her people.
The most recent home video release of Mortal Engines movie is March 12, 2019. Here are some details…
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Another film set in a dystopic future is A Quiet Place, which features a family on the run from aliens who track people by listening for sounds. Can the family remain totally quiet?