Thanks for visiting again! This is my final triple feature review of the 2018 movie lineup. Hopefully, the 2019 film schedule will be somewhat less crammed. I’m covering Mortal Engines, Bumbleebee, and Aquaman. Fortunately, all three of these movies are more impressive than my last group of films. I’ll explain each film’s strengths and weaknesses below. Keep reading to find out the details.
I’m kicking off this post with a steampunk epic titled Mortal Engines. The story takes place in a distant post-apocalyptic future after the earth was devastated by nuclear war. Now cities are motorized and participate in Darwinian battles for survival on the wasteland. Larger cities, like London, hunt down and devour smaller cities for valuable resources. A young rogue named Hester Shaw tries to assassinate London’s lead historian, Thaddeus Valentine, because he murdered her mother several years earlier. Hester’s plans are ruined by a young apprentice named Tom Natsworthy and both of them are quickly ejected into the wasteland. Along the way, Tom and Hester join the Anti-Traction League to change the future.
This film is getting a bad rap and I don’t know why. It’s excellent! Mortal Engines is a seriously epic movie. I fell in the love with the visual effects. Nearly all of the VFX are stunning, polished, and oddly beautiful for a post-apocalyptic setting. Can something be hideous and gorgeous at the same time? I would say Mortal Engines pulls it off. The world building is very creative with elaborate steampunk mechanics, scorched landscapes, and cool fight scenes. It’s a great action movie with amazing entertainment value.
I really like a couple of the characters. Hugo Weaving gave a solid performance as Thaddeus Valentine, the film’s antagonist. It’s kind of hard to explain. He gives a good performance as a steampunk character. In general, steampunk characters fit various archetypes and Weaving does a really good job as the corrupt imperial conqueror. Jihae played the rebellious leader of the Anti-Traction League named Anna Fang. She’s a supporting character, but really effective. Fang is a great action heroine and a rebel with a cause. Every steampunk film needs a feisty action heroine and Fang fits the mold quite well.
The musical score is also epic. It’s rich, powerful, energetic, and downright cinematic. Junkie XL is an effective composer for action films with credits like Mad Max: Fury Road, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Divergent, 300: Rise of An Empire, Deadpool, and the upcoming Alita: Battle Angel. It’s a grand musical score for an equally great movie.
I really enjoy the story as well. It’s quite fascinating and unique without being confusing. The plot includes several themes, such as survival, revenge, sorrow, triumph, and more. It’s a very emotional story that brings something new to the cinematic experience. I have to admit, this is a super violent movie. However, it works perfectly with the rugged apocalyptic themes. In essence, this is a tale about Darwinism pushed to the limit. It’s great if you like steampunk fiction.
What are the film’s weaker elements? First of all, it has some noticeable pacing issues, especially in the first half of the story. Sometimes it’s a really slow burn that makes the movie seem longer than necessary. This problem gets much better along the way, but let’s face it. Human beings have limited attention spans and they might walk out if a film is too boring.
Most of the characters are overpowered by everything else in the movie. I wouldn’t say the characters are underdeveloped, but they’re simply less interesting than the plot, action scenes, music, world building, etc. This issue is not uncommon in steampunk works. Elaborate world building is a crucial part of any steampunk film. Beyond that, most steampunk stories focus either on the characters or plot. In this case, the plot reigns supreme and the characters have less attention. I also feel like Hester and Tom weren’t casted appropriately. The pair was played by Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan respectively. Honestly, I don’t remember these actors from other films or television shows. It’s okay to cast less popular actors, but they need a strong performance and presence that will carry the movie. That’s how I feel about most of the characters except Valentine and Fang. Sadly, most of the characters are pretty weak.
Some viewers won’t connect with this movie. Truthfully, Mortal Engines is a really expensive film that will appeal to a niche audience. Universal Studios took a huge risk and I’m pretty sure it’s going to backfire. The film completely flopped at the box office. It’s still a great movie. In fact, Mortal Engines could rival Percy Jackson’s earlier films, including Lord of the Rings. But it doesn’t matter because the audience needs to have an appreciation for steampunk or post-apocalyptic settings. That’s a narrow audience who can’t compensate for the general public.
If this movie is still playing in theaters, please go see it. Mortal Engines is a real treat and a unique movie going experience. I don’t want its legacy to be a financial wreck. If you love steampunk, check it out. This is definitely the most accurate representation of steampunk in a film. Did you enjoy post-apocalyptic action flicks like Mad Max: Fury Road? You should go see this one too! It will be up your alley. This movie will be great to collect on Blu-Ray as well.
Now I’m ready to talk about Bumblebee. It takes place during the 1980s and focuses on the friendship between the titular Bumblebee and a troubled teenager named Charlie Watson. A war takes place on planet Cybertron between the heroic Autobots and the villainous Decepticons. Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots, sends Bumblebee to Earth, hoping they can set up a new base. Unfortunately, the American military attacks Bumblebee shortly after his arrival, damaging his vocal chords and memory. For a period of time, he lies in disguise as a Volkswagen Beetle until Charlie finds him. She drives him home and abruptly finds out that he’s a robot from outer space. The two misfits form a wonderful partnership and fend off enemies in the form of humans and robots.
Overall, Bumblebee is fine, but it’s not one of my favorite movies of the year. It definitely has some good elements. I appreciate Bumblebee as a character. He’s quite heroic and rather cute in an awkward way. Bumblebee is definitely out of his element on our planet. He also participates in really cool action scenes. Charlie is a pretty good character too. She’s very believable and probably relatable for some girls. Sometimes she’s quite a brat, but that’s typical of teenage girls. Her struggle is also very believable. Charlie’s father passed away a while ago and she’s still coping. Her friendship with Bumblebee seems very natural and organic, which I find impressive because he’s an alien robot.
Bumblebee also has a decent story. It completely avoids confusion, disorganization, and too many subplots. The plot is straightforward, simple, and understandable. It’s very heartwarming and sincere as well. I never thought this would be possible for a Transformers film, but the plot is actually quite realistic. It reminds of ET in some ways.
Luckily, this movie fixes the major issues from Michael Bay’s Transformers installments. It focuses on characters and storytelling instead of flashy action scenes, cutting edge VFX, and casting female actors who look like supermodels. As a result, the end product is more down to earth and that’s completely fine with me. It’s a huge improvement to the franchise.
Even though this movie has several positive elements, I have some criticism. It has a lot of pacing issues. Sometimes the film is very slow. The runtime is slightly less than two hours, but the film seems longer for some reason. It probably needed a couple more action scenes. I don’t miss the bloated action scenes from the other Transformers movies, but it definitely needed something else to push to momentum forward.
Only half of the humor works. Sometimes the humor is funny, but it also misses the mark frequently. The individual who wrote the humorous lines doesn’t have a knack for comedy. Better humor would have fixed some of the pacing issues as well. If you’re not going to have a lot of action, it’s still important to keep the audience engaged.
Honestly, I think a lot of the characters are annoying. They’re believable, but I didn’t find very many of the characters endearing aside from Charlie and Bumblebee. Her family is pretty annoying. They remind me of goofy families from various sitcoms. A teenage boy named Memo has a huge crush on Charlie. The situation should be cute, but his character is kind of irritating. He’s a good kid, but very awkward, wimpy, and scared of his own shadow. The film has weak villains too. John Cena plays Jack Burns, a soldier who’s a foil to Bumblebee. It doesn’t seem like Cena is a particularly good actor and the character is supposed to be somewhat funny. Again, very little of the humor works. The main Decepticons are Shatter and Dropkick, voiced by Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux. They’re not very memorable or menacing. Granted, lackluster villains are a common issue in most action films.
Should you go see this movie in theaters? I recommend it for certain people. If you’re a big fan of Transformers in any form, check it out. This is also a great movie for kids. I think a lot of young boys and even girls will enjoy it. Bumblebee has some robot violence, but it’s not bloody or anything. It’s a very light PG-13 release. This could be a nice outing for a new generation of Transformers fans.
My final viewing of 2018 was Aquaman. It’s an epic superhero film and origin story for the titular Aquaman. Queen Atlanna washes up on the shore in front of a lighthouse. Tom Curry, the lighthouse keeper, rescues the metahuman queen and nurses her back to health. They fall in love and have a son named Arthur. Unfortunately, their peaceful family life is destroyed when soldiers from Atlantis attack them. Fearing for her family’s safety, Atlanna returns to the ocean. Eventually, an Atlantean instructor named Nuidis Vulko trains Arthur to become a formidable opponent underwater. One day, Princess Mera approaches Arthur and asks for help. King Orm, Arthur’s half brother, wants to wage war on the surface. She believes Arthur needs to retrieve a mystical trident and take his rightful place on the throne. Ultimately, the film is a grand adventure with battles that take place on land and under the sea.
Aquaman is a blast! It’s larger than life, but in a good way. This film will satisfy most action movie fans and hardcore superhero followers. The action scenes are really creative and exciting with amazing visual effects. I have to admit, some of the VFX are inconsistent, but this is a hugely ambitious project and most of the graphics are terrific. The world building is beautiful with a vivid depiction of Atlantis and other locations. Some of the action scenes remind me of the Lord of the Rings franchise. Nothing about this film is subtle or small. Everything is grand, bold, and ripped out of the comics. Aquaman has a ton of spectacle, oceanic creatures, Atlantean battles, and other great visual elements. Even the costume design is lovely. However, I think parts of the costumes are digital.
I think most of the characters are great. Jason Momoa is the right fit for Aquaman. He’s masculine, charismatic, snarky, and a really good action hero. The film also makes it perfectly clear that Aquaman has a high moral compass. Amber Heard plays Mera and she’s a fabulous leading lady for our aquatic superhero. In fact, they’re a team through most of the movie. The romantic elements are really strong and they’re a couple who kicks serious butt. Patrick Wilson plays King Orm, aka the Ocean Master. He’s the main antagonist and quite effective. Orm is campy, but also power hungry and a great enemy for his half brother. I’m not usually a fan of Dolph Lundgren, but he did a really good job as King Nereus, Mera’s father. He’s a classically stoic and imposing king. Yahya Abdul-Mateen II plays Black Manta, a pirate and Aquaman’s future arch nemesis. He seems like an appropriate fit for the character and looks amazing in the classic Black Manta costume. It’s almost like Black Manta was adapted straight out of the comics and he’s a very tough opponent to fight. I appreciate Nicole Kidman and Temura Morrison as Aquaman’s parents. Atlanna and Thomas Curry don’t have much screen time, but their roles are very important. Willem Dafoe as Vulko is probably the least memorable character, but he's not awful. He seems a bit monotone for some reason. However, his character is very important.
This movie has a surprisingly nice story. Superhero films aren’t known for good storytelling, but Aquaman impresses me. It’s almost like a combination of Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Romancing the Stone. This might sound like a mess to you, but it absolutely works. I don’t know how the creators of this film pulled it off. It’s a solid origin story, a wonderful romance, a swashbuckling adventure, and virtually a space opera underwater. Everything comes full circle with a great conclusion. There’s a lot of context to the elaborate action scenes. It’s not just a bunch of mindless violence.
I love the music as well. It’s an epic soundtrack for a grand film. The musical score has a lot of variety with peacefully subtle moments, regal themes, and large scale sections that work well with the battle scenes. I’m not particularly familiar with Rupert Gregson-Williams, but he’ll probably continue to find work. This score should look really good on his resume.
It’s time for the negative elements. Aquaman is a great movie, but it’s not perfect. Ironically, it shares a problem with Bumblebee. Neither film can land the humor right. Certain lines and scenes were funny, but I didn’t laugh at very much of the humor. The dialogue just wasn’t very funny for some reason. Believe me. This movie wants to be witty like Marvel. Luckily, the lackluster humor doesn’t hurt the film very much.
Even though I like the story, it has some plot holes and head scratchers. I’ll give you some examples. These example are minor spoilers, so beware. A small portion of the film takes place in the earth’s core. It’s like a lost civilization. Apparently, the center of the earth isn’t magma after all. I guess our scientists got it wrong! We saw Mera use hydrokinesis in Justice League and she uses it several times in this film as well. None of the other Atlanteans have this power and I don’t know why. A section of dialogue explains that Atlanteans occupied the Sahara back when it was underwater. The Sahara has been a desert for seven million years. Does that mean Atlanteans have been around since the prehistoric era? Also, everybody has a new outfit in every other scene. Somehow, the characters have time for costume changes in the middle of really busy scenes. It’s better not to think very much while watching this film. Just relax and have fun.
I also noticed an element that’s both endearing and distracting. Mera and her father look so much like Ariel and King Neptune from The Little Mermaid. Both of them have bright red hair and a big part of the character designs seem to have influences from the Disney animated movie. It must have been on purpose. Seriously, this film should have been called Aquaman: The Little Mermaid Goes to Battle. I actually like the connection, but some people will probably find it annoying.
Aquaman will probably be too loud, huge, goofy, and obnoxious for some viewers. I still believe it’s a great movie, but others will disagree with me. There’s a huge amount of spectacle and it comes across as scenery porn in some ways. The film is also totally self-aware. It’s over top and embraces the giant world building with flying colors. In a way, Venom tried a similar approach. It was also self-aware, goofy, and over the top. However, Aquaman is far more successful. The film is larger than life without being a bloated and silly mess. But I know what happens. Many viewers hate movies with excessive VFX and a campy tone.
In conclusion, you should definitely see this movie in theaters! See it on the biggest screen possible. IMAX and other deluxe screens are the best options. It’s really fun, creative, and unique. This is the first underwater epic to my recollection, so let’s enjoy the moment.
I'm all done with this post. Thanks a lot for being a great audience. Have you seen any of these movies yet? Are you looking forward to any films in 2019? Leave your thoughts in the comment section. Next week, I'm going to post my comprehensive list of every film I reviewed in 2018. I'm going to post them in backwards order from my least favorite movies to absolute favorites of the year. There were quite a few stinkers in 2018, so you might find my comments a bit amusing. Happy New Year and I'll see you guys next week.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.