I’ve come across a large array of articles recently that have all been suggesting the same thing: That Mortal Engines is expected to be one of the biggest box office disasters of the year.
As of this writing, Mortal Engines has taken approximately $42 million against a budget that is rumoured to range anywhere between $100 – 150 million. $42 million might not sound too awful, but when you consider that Aquaman took approximately $126 million in its opening weekend, then it becomes apparent that Mortal Engines is on track to make a huge loss.
There could be a number of reasons why this has happened, and I’m by no means an expert on this subject. But it is clear that there are a variety of different factors that, when combined, create a perfect concoction for a box office bomb.
Firstly, Mortal Engines isn’t a book adaptation film akin to one like the Harry Potter series, for example. Although it does have a sizeable fanbase (in the UK at least, as far as I’m aware it’s not very well known in the US), the film itself isn’t going to necessarily attract the casual filmgoer and sadly, that has proven to be the case. I’m sure there are plenty of passionate readers of the book like myself that were itching to go, but unfortunately, there aren’t enough of us to sustain a film with such a high budget.
Secondly, with the exception of perhaps Hugo Weaving, Mortal Engines has no real star-power that would attract the casual audience. I’m not saying that the cast was poor, far from it, but if you’ve got a film that isn’t part of an already established huge franchise, then you need some big stars to entice your audience, especially if you’ve blown over $100 million on the project. Whilst Hera Hilmar and Robert Sheehan did a decent job as the protagonists, I highly doubt anyone would be rushing to see a film based on them two alone.
This brings me quite nicely into my next point, without the lack of a huge star to drive the film’s marketing, this film relied heavily on promoting it as Peter Jackson’s next project, as this was arguably the biggest pull factor they had, despite the fact Jackson didn’t direct it, you’d be forgiven for thinking he did. Sadly, I think the marketing campaign for Mortal Engines was pretty dire, focusing too much on Jackson and not focusing enough on actually selling the concept and the story to the audience. I know a lot of people who felt the concept of the film was “stupid”, and as a book reader, this saddened me. Unfortunately, it seemed like no further effort went into trying to sell the concept, instead, the marketing team just kept throwing around Peter Jackson’s name in the hopes that it would bring in a sizeable audience. It was a gamble, and sadly it hasn’t paid off.
Finally, the critical reception hasn’t helped at all. At best, it has received mixed to bad reviews and that was probably the final nail in the coffin for a lot of people, if they weren’t sold on the concept but the film opened to critical acclaim, it might have been salvageable. But once the negativity began to surface, I think that was more or less “game over” for Mortal Engines.
So, how do I feel about the situation? Honestly, I’m gutted. Although the film itself was flawed, as you can see from my review, I didn’t think it was awful. I saw potential and I was hopeful that any issues could be rectified for future installments… Looking at the figures, I would safely bet that we will never get to see the rest of the series on the big screen. As someone who waited in anticipation for years to see a Mortal Engines film, to think that the franchise is now probably dead and buried before it really began is very disappointing. I might go and see it a couple more times, just to do my part, but unless by some miracle this film makes a killing in China, I think this will be the one and only time I get to see this universe on screen.
Upon reflection, I can see why the film was presented the way it was, because it holds up as a standalone film and it doesn’t really try to set up future instalments. Perhaps this was intentional, perhaps it wasn’t, but all I know is that there might be a lot of people who will never even realize that there could have been more to come… But then again, looking at the figures and the reception, those same people probably don’t really care either! It’s just one of those things, and this news will only really hurt the loyal book-readers like me.
Did you see Mortal Engines? What did you think?
Did you decide against seeing Mortal Engines? If so, what put you off?
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts, so leave a comment and let me know!
Until the next time.