Mortal Engines

Taking a stroll through London.

A thousand years in the future, when the population has been decimated by war and society is starting over again, the hot new trend in municipal planning is “traction cities,” where entire towns are built on massive machines that travel on enormous tank treads, roaming the countryside like pirate ships. (They’re small as “cities” go, maybe the size of a couple city blocks — still, pretty big to be out rolling around Europe.) This is “Mortal Engines,” adapted by Peter Jackson and friends from the first of Philip Reeve’s four Young Adult novels, directed by first-timer Christian Rivers with all the enthusiasm of someone who’s getting his big break and can’t do anything about the boring script his producers handed him.

On the good ship London, a feckless young apprentice named Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) teams up with justifiably angry Irish lass Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) to bring down the sinister Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), a London leader who killed Hester’s mother in his quest to find a legendary weapon that could make London even more of a giant, deadly bully than it already is. There’s a resistance made up of people who understand that “traction cities” are unsustainable (they require incredible amounts of fuel), giving Tom and Hester a group to join.

They’ve created an awesome world here, with cool sets and steampunk devices — like a teen version of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” But the story is wholly unremarkable, composed of the generic beats you’ve seen in other YA adaptations, and the characters are all forgettable. There’s not a single noteworthy performance in the bunch, not even from Hugo Weaving as the villain. Like the rolling city of London, the movie is a gigantic, lumbering waste of resources populated by nobody interesting.

C (2 hrs., 8 min.; PG-13, fantasy action violence.)