Mortal Engines Movie From Lord Of The Rings Veterans Is A Huge Flop, Report Says

Mortal Engines is expected to lose $100 million or more, report claims.

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Now Playing: Mortal Engines - Official Trailer (2018)

Mortal Engines, the big-budget sci-fi movie from a series of Lord of the Rings veterans, is expected to be a major box office flop. Variety reports that the film is expected to lose more than $100 million when all is said and done. The film had a reported production budget of $100 million, with "tens of millions" more spent on marketing. As of December 16, Universal's Mortal Engines has made only $42 million worldwide.

"This is a true Christmas disaster and a lump of coal for Universal," Exhibitor Relations analyst Jeff Bock told Variety. "They took a big swing, and they struck out."

Mortal Engines has yet to open in China, which is a massive market, but it currently has no release date for that country. The disappointing box office results come even though Mortal Engines has big names attached--it was written by LotR's Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, and Fran Walsh. It was directed by Oscar winner Christian Rivers, who also worked on LotR.

As we reported in the past, Mortal Engines takes place in the far future where modern technology as we know it has been destroyed and morphed into a steampunk-like world, where giant, moving cities traverse through Europe looking for other cities to eat, in order to use the eaten city's structures to power their gigantic machines to continue the hunt.

That might be a visually stunning set-up, but the complicated plot was one of the reasons that Warner Bros. and Fox said no to the film because Universal picked it up, according to Variety. Universal reportedly only contributed 30 percent of the production costs, with Media Rights Capital putting up half of the money. Legendary and Perfect World also financed the movie.

Jackson apparently at one point said he believed Mortal Engines could become another big franchise, but this box office performance suggests that may not happen.

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Avatar image for Jarten

I haven't even seen this movie advertised at all before. So for me this article is my first time even seeing anything for it.

Avatar image for ballashotcaller

The marketing for this movie was really bad. I will get it on 4K though.

Avatar image for cappy

Personally, As a sci-fi and fantasy geek, I’m fine it flopped. I don’t care to see interesting source material simplified and stripped of its interesting details for mass market. I’d much rather see a lower budget TV version, like HBO or even Netflix, appealing to a more hardcore sci-fi audience.

I have respect for what Peter Jackson did, but I wish I could see what he was capable of if he didn’t need to make blockbusters, but rather a real passion project.

Avatar image for mweller

Entire premise based on trailers, is a giant fantasy machine can destroy an entire city-slowly. Not exciting, we have nukes that can accomplish that instantaneously.

Avatar image for southsouthsac

Good! Bring on the next comic book movie or CG kids movie, thats all that we neeeeeeeed now!

Avatar image for bigdegs

Not unexpected. I knew it would flop just from the trailers.

That said, I actually thought it was a good watch, even with its many flaws. Keep in mind, I've never read the source material, so I was going into it completely blind.

Avatar image for cappy

@bigdegs: What did you like most about it?

Avatar image for masterfrankgrimes

Well, considering how badly Peter Jackson fucked up the LotR story altogether, not really surprised.

Avatar image for chopsbenedict

Im not sure what being 'LoTR' veterans really brings to the table. Thats fantasy, and has been widely acclaimed as some of the best fantasy ever for decades, so the source material was spectacular. The movies were great, still not perfect in my eyes because of the things skipped to make it more appealing to the masses (Bombadil is a big one for me), but of course I don't expect perfection. Phillipa Boyens and Fran Walsh were predominantly writers, while Jackson wrote and directed the LoTR, but how much credit is due to the people whose job is to take clippings from some of the best writing of all time? Most of the creative licence used in the movies are the worst bits, obviously some things need cutting for practical purposes, but replacing them with things like the whole Osgiliath sequence is nearly unforgivable to me.

While I am ignorant in that I havent watched Mortal Engines, it strikes me as a lowest common denominator splosions fest with at best a sci fi setting. Id be interested to hear more, but I get the impression the heart of any real science fiction story was excised and replaced with loud noises and expensive cgi

Avatar image for cappy

@chopsbenedict: great points. A few additional, i have a “feeling” the studio’s version of success and yours and mine are different. We want a deep, interesting story, they want a mass market hit accessible to everyone. So yeah, Peter Jackson has history if doing the latter, but not the former. LOTR was popular enough to appeal to mass market, but the source material on this one seems too hardcore sci-fi / fantasy nerd.

So the hardcore appeal of source material,and the director’s history of stripping out the things that appeal to hardcore audience seems it could have had a big impact.

Avatar image for ice12tray

That’s a shame. One of the first original ideas for a movie in awhile and it flops. Looks like we will be seeing only sequels and reboots for some time.

Avatar image for ballashotcaller

@ice12tray: Because marketing sucked.

Avatar image for Decoy77

@ice12tray: Yep this is why we see so many of them. Companies are afraid to put up the big money on something like this because of flops like this. But just watching the trailers it just looked bad to me so it doesn't surprise me at all.

Avatar image for lonewolf1044

Wow, paying to play when it supposed to make money, The directors sure f'ed up on this.

Avatar image for BahamutZERO

well it came out same weekend as Spider-verse. This theme reminded me of an anime called Chrome Shelled Regios though that has more mystical properties about it

Avatar image for mrdinghat

Shame really, thought the trailer looked good.

One for the rental list then, on a free week.

Avatar image for Doomerang

I just came back from seeing it. It's by far one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's one thing that the movie didn't make much sense if you didn't read the books (which I didn't, and honestly is a big no-no for a standalone movie). It's another that they opted to cut out scenes (at least from what I've read online from people) that helps explains the villain's goal, thus even the novel's explanation for the villain doesn't work for him. It's THAT bad.

It also has this obnoxious "West is bad, East is serene" vibe going for it, which is so heavy-handed that it makes the movie even more groan-worthy

Avatar image for pongman75

@Doomerang: Thanks for the info. I was wondering if I should spend my rupies on this, or just stay home, order pizza, and watch Maximum Overdrive with the wife. Probly gona get me laid because I saved money too! See what u did there? lol

Avatar image for lionheartssj1

@pongman75: Maximum Overdrive is an underrated movie.

Avatar image for jetxski

@lionheartssj1: You'll never catch me, Krabs! Not once I shift into MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE!! HIYA!!

I knew I should have gotten the turbo...

Avatar image for thecatsix

@Doomerang: Thanks for the mini review.

Avatar image for Doomerang

@thecatsix: No problem. I would recommend the movie on my enemies though, just to waste their times.

Avatar image for gamingdevil800

Kinda bugs me that the character in the book is so horrifically scarred which is why she always wears that face mask to cover it. Yet in the movie she walks around with it off and it isn't even what, at least I'd consider a horrific injury that you'd want to cover 24/7.

Avatar image for HOLYSHMUCK

Calm down everyone, it hasn't even opened in China yet. If it's anything like Pacific Rim, it will make beaucoup bucks there.

Avatar image for zmanbarzel

@HOLYSHMUCK: If it pulls in the same $110 million in China that "Pacific Rim" did -- unlikely, as "giant robots fighting monsters" is a much more universal idea -- it will still lose enough money to cost some executives their jobs.

Avatar image for blairstheman

Marketing must have been complete shit, as today is the very first I've ever heard of it... and im constantly on my phone or watching tv ?

Avatar image for thecatsix


You must not watch the NFL. I've seen too many ads for some movie I couldn't care a rat butt about.

Avatar image for mistervulpes


Wow really? I must say we didn’t get much in the way of buzz in the UK for this film. I’m in the city most days and saw no billboards, adverts etc.

Seems like a swing and a miss to mass market the family film about cities eating each other to people who just want to watch the game >D