SUB-PRIME ‘STAR WARS’ STORY
AS is customary when reviewing teen sci-fi, I’ll start by listing some older and better movies…
Here Star Wars meets Mad Max, flirts with The Matrix and has a fling with The Terminator.
While that sounds great on paper it makes for a surprisingly dull night out.
The setting is a postapocalyptic London which, in the first instalment of Philip Reeve’s four-novel series, has become the Death Star on wheels.
It’s 1,000 years after an event called The Sixty Second War and the city is pursuing a small German town around a blasted landscape.
After an eye-popping chase that brings to mind Mad Max: Fury Road, London – now mounted on giant tank treads – captures the mining town in a mesh of harpoons, opens its giant maw and swallows it.
Sadly this isn’t just a thrilling opening, it’s also the film’s best scene. The motorised cities in this Peter Jackson-produced sci-fi look impressive but the characters are running on fumes. At first a young museum curator Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan, inset) seems the likeliest hero.
His work collecting artefacts from the “Screen Age” gets the curiosity of Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving) the de facto ruler of London who has a curious interest in 21st century weapons. Early on, the men find themselves in the bowels of the city as a masked girl called Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) tries to stab Valentine. Tom intervenes and chases the would-be assassin to the city’s refuse chute. Before she tumbles over the edge she tells him Valentine murdered her mother.
Tom, who has a talent for doing precisely the wrong thing at the worst time, reports this to the clearly evil Valentine while he is standing next to a giant hole. After this, things all go a bit Star Wars. Tom and Hester pick themselves up, begin an unconvincing romance and team up with rebels who want to stop Valentine building a superweapon with a glaring design flaw. Their leader is a hot-shot aviator and Han Solo stand-in called Anna Fang (Jihae) who is dressed as at least three different Matrix characters. She doesn’t say much but those “Morpheus” glasses work beautifully with her “Neo” leather coat. We also get a fun but pointless subplot involving Hester’s undead robo stepdad Shrike (Stephen Lang) – a zombie Terminator with parental abandonment issues. Other characters drift about. In the opening act, Valentine’s daughter Katherine (Leila George) and a cleaner with the great name of Bevis Pod (Ronan Raftery) seem to have a big role to play. But the film forgets all about them in a meandering middle stretch. By the final battle it’s hard to remember who everyone is...and almost impossible to care.
■ COVER-UP: Hera Hilmar as Hester. Above, Hugo Weaving