The latest blockbuster to rumble across the big screen from the makers of The Lord of the Rings trilogy is surprisingly clunky and run of the mill.
Adapted from a series of books by Brit author Philip Reeve it’s a steampunk sci-fi fantasy epic set 1000 years into the future on an apocalyptic Earth.
Icelandic actress Hera Hilmar plays a young orphan bent on revenging her mother’s death and becomes involved in a fiendish plot to unleash centuries old technology with the power to destroy the world.
Her target is Hugo Weaving’s duplicitous patrician, who’s geared to driving London to a brighter future.
Tremendously designed and rendered in faultless CGI throughout, it’s a world where Europeans inhabit cities resting on ginormous armoured vehicles which prey on smaller mechanical towns for scarce materials such as fuel and salt.
There are sea-travelling prison towns on crab-like legs, small scavenger villages and a floating hot air balloon metropolis, while in the Asiatic east a static settlement sits behind a huge wall, and is presented as a fortified Shangri-la.
However the inspired premise is crushed beneath the wheels of misfiring storytelling, which has clanking dialogue, comedy and romance which barely register and is bereft of a sense of time or distance.
London is a giant tank thundering across Europe, flattening opposition and scooping up resources for it’s over-privileged upper classes, but this abundant wealth of satirical possibilities is wasted.
Despite determined efforts by the actors to provide emotional fuel, they’re too often squandered as grist for the towering spectacle.
Plus Hilmar’s nominal central role is squeezed out of focus by a bevy of subplots and not particularly interesting characters.
The best of which are Stephen Lang’s undead cyborg, who takes the story into an agreeably dark place, but it’s all too quickly back-pedalled from in favour of more family friendly action scenes.
And despite some game playing by Irishman, Robert Sheehan, his lowly historian and wannabe aviator is required to bridge an awkward divide between romantic lead and comic support.
With it’s strong Antipodean accent in front and behind the camera, this too often feels like an enormously souped up riff on Mad Max, but one with a fraction of the dynamism.