Let’s do some math here—Philip Reeve’s young adult adaptation, produced by Peter Jackson, director of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit trilogy—cost $110 million. It grossed $7.5 million in its opening week,making a worldwide total of $42.3M. That’s quite a loss, and it’s become international news, that Mortal Engines , which follows Hester Shaw, played by Hera Hilmar, a girl in a ‘post-apocalyptic world where cities ride on wheels and consume each other to survive’, has flopped hugely.
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There are a couple of reasons why this is thought to have happened. Firstly, the Reeves’ books upon which the film is based are not hugely popular- at least not popular enough to ordinarily merit an adaptation of this magnitude.
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In addition to there not being enough hype around the source material, Deadline notes:
Mortal Engines’ tanking was never a case of problems on the set, a director dropping the ball, or a producer losing sight of the project while juggling several others. [Peter] Jackson and director Christian Rivers made the movie that they pitched, and Universal and Media Rights Capital were always behind them, fully aware that it was a risky concept from the onset. The thinking by the production was that Jackson’s name on the project would get audiences into seats, and that clearly didn’t happen.
The situation is not helped by generally poor reviews. The film holds an approval rating of 28% on Rotten Tomatoes, with The Guardian dubbing it a “tiringly frenetic and derivative fantasy-adventure movie.”
Still, others have given it more favorable reviews, with New Zealand website Stuff “praising director Christian Rivers for the film’s tone, pacing, choreography, sets, and costumes while noting the film’s references to other series, including Star Wars, Mad Max, and The City of Lost Children.”
If you’re interested in seeing for yourself what all the fuss (or lack thereof) is about, check it out on general release in theaters!