★★★½ Watched 9 Oct, 2020
The story is based on a young-adult science fantasy novel by Philip Reeve from 2001 set in a steampunk futuristic world where whole cities were turned into mechanized giants fighting for resources. There are 3 more books in the series which won a number of literary rewards.
The screenplay by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens (Lord of The Rings and Hobbit collaborators) starts a bit slow and disjointed, but the second half develops into an exciting fantasy adventure with first-class VFX by now famous Weta Digital (based in New Zealand), which reached the level of legendary ILM during the production of Lord of the Rings trilogy. I could feel the directorial influence of the producer/screenwriter Peter Jackson on his long-time collaborator (first time solo director) Christian Rivers in the design of sets and some scenes as well as camera shots (closing in on the character or a low 360 circling Steadicam shot).
The highlight of the film, besides some interesting battle scenes, is the main character’s backstory, which offers a psychological anchor not commonly seen in adventure movies. Unfortunately, it was a financial failure which means there will be no sequels.