The thing about bad epic fantasy is that it foregrounds the work that goes into good epic fantasy to make it feel like more than going through the motions of genre tropes. This adaptation of Philip Reeve’s book is set 1,000 years in a post-apocalyptic future, where mobile cities scavenge the landscape for precious resources. When high-ranking engineer Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) in the rolling remnants of London tries to revive the deadly technology that caused civilization’s collapse, it’s up to vengeance-driven orphan Hester (Hera Hilmar) and young historian Tom (Robert Sheehan) to stop him. Not surprisingly for a production written and overseen by Peter Jackson and his regular contributors—and directed by one of Jackson’s long-time art department collaborators, Christian Rivers—the movie is full of eye candy, like a balloon-supported metropolis. But the central relationship offers a poor approximation of romantic chemistry, and some potentially interesting sub-plots are swallowed up in a third act determined to ape every last Star Wars story beat. There’s no point in creating a new cinematic world if all you’re going to do with it is remind audiences of old ones.
Director: Christian Rivers
Producer: Zane Weiner, Amanda Walker, Deborah Forte, Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Ken Kamins
Cast: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang, Colin Salmon and Regé-Jean Page