On paper, Mortal Engines possessed more than enough ingredients to find success. An adaptation of a popular YA novel that was clearly designed with franchise potential in mind, the concept boasted shades of a dystopian, post-apocalyptic and steampunk universe all at once, virtually guaranteeing a visual feast.
It also came packing plenty of pedigree behind the camera, with Peter Jackson’s name slapped all over the branding. Not only was the Academy Award winner’s status as producer used as one of the focal points of the marketing push, but he co-wrote the screenplay with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, the award-laden dream team behind The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Mortal Engines was first announced in 2009 with Jackson eying the director’s chair, but by the time the movie finally made it to the big screen, Christian Rivers was making his debut instead, having been a key part of Jackson’s creative group dating all the way back to 1992’s Braindead, working on all of his subsequent features as a storyboard artist, visual effects supervisor, second unit director and more.
Sadly, however, the finished product was pretty terrible and found itself being widely panned by critics, with the pic going down in the history books as one of the biggest box office bombs ever, as Universal lost up to a reported $175 million on a flop that made just $83 million at the box office and wound up with a 26% Rotten Tomatoes score. However, four months after troubling the Netflix Top 10 most-watched list, Mortal Engines is back again, proving you can’t keep a good dud down for too long on the most popular streaming service around, and cult classic status might now be within reach.