Ralph Potts reviews the Ultra HD Blu-ray release of Mortal Engines, an adventure set in a post-apocalyptic world where cities ride on wheels and consume each other to survive.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Universal - 2018
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 128 minutes
Genre: Adventure

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1, French/Spanish Dolby Digital Plus 7.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Stephen Lang, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery
Directed by: Christian Rivers
Music by: Tom Holkenborg
Written by: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Region Code: A,B,C

Release Date: March 12, 2019
"Some Scars Never Heal"

“Visionary filmmaker Peter Jackson presents a startling new adventure unlike any you’ve seen before. Hundreds of years after our civilization was destroyed, a new world has emerged. A mysterious young woman named Hester Shaw leads a band of outcasts in the fight to stop London – now a giant predator city on wheels – from devouring everything in its path.” – Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

My Take:

Based on the award-winning book series by Philips Reeve Mortal Engines takes place hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event and, follows a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), who is determined to right a wrong perpetrated upon her years ago by Thaddeus Valentine, an ambitious and volatile leader of the city of London — now a giant, predator city on wheels that in order to survive, must devour and absorb smaller cities.

Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head, in order to stop Valentine from carrying out his diabolical scheme to create a weapon of mass destruction capable of laying waste to everything in its path.

I am not familiar with the book series but, generally tend to like post-apocalyptic type films and stories with strong female characters. Mortal Engines as a concept in terms of its setting and lead character design had potential but, unfortunately, the weak tea of a plot just doesn’t pass muster. The idea of whole cities rolling around on wheels was kind of lame and the subplot involving the vengeance sought by Hester is poorly developed. She as a character had excellent potential but, the lack of focus on the various elements surrounding who she is and how she came to the point she is currently at is lacking.

I liked the idea of her relationship to the Shrike character but, found its handling within the narrative’s construct to be a letdown. There is a cache of secondary characters that seemed necessary initially but, never have any impact on the proceedings. I liked Tom and Hester together and felt that their relationship was the story’s highlight however, given the nature of the plot, that wasn’t enough to carry it. Hugo Weaving’s “Valentine” didn’t have enough skin in the game to make for a meaningful villain.

The film’s production elements were solid and when there was action, I enjoyed that aspect of the film. Mortal Engines certainly isn’t the worst film of its genre to come down the pike but, it felt like a misfire that due to various reasons, relegates it to the category of forgettable.

Replay Value: 2.5 Stars

Parental Guide:

The rating is for sequences of futuristic violence and action.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 96
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
  • HDR: Bright Highlights: 
  • HDR: Expanded Color: 
  • Resolution: 
  • Visual Impact: 

Dolby Atmos Rating: 94
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Level of immersion: 
  • Soundstage integration: 
  • Audio object placement: 
  • Effectiveness of Atmos platform: 
  • Entertainment factor: 

Mortal Engines comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

Mortal Engines was shot digitally, derived from an 8K source, and rendered from a 4K DI for its presentation in Ultra HD.

The 1080p transfer looks solid and this Ultra HD rendering takes it up a notch with a discernible increase in detail, and emboldened highlights, both light and dark. Mortal Engines is a visually dazzling film that benefits from the enhanced resolution and emboldened contrast. Primary colors are scant but are beautifully rendered when present.

Intimate details can be seen, both in wide-angle and close-up perspectives, imparting a discernible increase in depth/dimension. The extensive use of CGI imparts some innate softening. I didn’t find it compromising per se, but I wouldn’t describe the overall nature of the video to be razor sharp.

The use of HDR is spot on, driving the story’s use of moody visual cues offset by gleams of light that illuminate dark environs, like the hidden stairwell leading up to the church on London, or the crater like tracks where Tom and Hester seek shelter after being ejected from London. The beams of energy emitted by the massive weapon and the ensuing firefight during the finale stood out in stark contrast to the gradational blacks, grays and sepia, that make up the film’s dystopian world at night. The film’s plethora of shadow laden environs offer increased resolve in terms of interstitial details that promote depth of field. Blacks are inky without compromise to fidelity.

Stylistically speaking, Mortal Engines isn’t the type of film that is going to dazzle with its use of eye scorching dynamism or vivid color. There is no question that its Ultra HD presentation appears faithful and makes for a distinct improvement when compared to the 1080p Blu-ray rendering.

Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

* The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

In comparing the DV and HDR-10 renderings I ran the same scenes using my reference Panasonic UHD player (in DV) and Oppo UHD player (HDR-10 only). The title looked terrific on both formats with respect to the reproduction of HDR. I found that the DV presentation offered slightly better delineation of color and that the rendering of the finest details in shadows was a toss-up. Inevitably you can’t go wrong with either but, if pushed, my preference was the Dolby Vision presentation.

Dolby Atmos:

In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the active variety that focused on thematic atmosphere. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of ambience, panning fills and discrete effects. This is done well when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. The music score is subtly mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements while underscoring the story’s various plot points. While this mix doesn’t make constant use of attention-grabbing audio object placement, I found myself completely involved when it mattered and found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity: 
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail: 
  • Color Reproduction: 
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression: 

Audio: 100
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics: 
  • Low frequency effects: 
  • Surround Sound presentation: 
  • Clarity/Detail: 
  • Dialog Reproduction: 
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA

Mortal Engines comes to Blu-ray Disc from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

This film has an intentionally stylized visual design that works aesthetically well for the film’s theme and setting. The color range is limited to shades of gray, teal and black with splashes of crimson, blue, sepia, and a variety of secondary hues. Fleshtones hold up fairly well and don’t appear unnatural. Uneven light and shading are prevalent. Contrast is spot on which empowers whites and grays without washing away detail. Whites are punchy and grays are multi-staged and deep. I found the quality of the video to be high. It’s cleanly rendered with plenty of subtle refinement and delineation that enhances depth and reveals fine detail in objects, clothing, and physical features. Blacks are gradationally revealing which combines with excellent detail in low light and shadowy backgrounds to provide a strong sense of dimension. All in all, this is an excellent high definition rendering that looked great on my large screen.

The lossless 7.1 Dolby TrueHD (Atmos Core) soundtrack has solid dynamic range, detail rich clarity and makes excellent use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The music score, coupled along with the integration of discrete and ambient sound effects, plays an intricate role in this active surround mix. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment makes for a notably enveloping surround experience. Low frequency effects can be room energizing as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the low-level bass associated with the action-based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and clearly renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction and balance within the front soundstage. I thought this audio presentation made for an entertaining home theater experience.

Bonus Features:
  • Disc 1: Mortal Engines Ultra HD Blu-ray
  • Disc 2: Mortal Engines Blu-ray
  • Welcome to London (Five-Part Making Of):
    1. Building the Beast
    2. Levels of London
    3. The Smallest Details
    4. London Museum
    5. Medusa and St. Paul’s
  • Feature Commentary with Director Christian Rivers
  • End of the Ancients
  • Character Series (5 Segments)
  • In the Air
  • Film New Zealand
  • Digital Copy
Final Thoughts:

Based on the award-winning book series by Philips Reeve Mortal Engines is a middling genre entry that suffers from a poorly conceived script and lackluster direction that while not unwatchable, ultimately left me wanting. It comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment in this Ultra HD Combo Pack featuring an excellent Ultra HD video rendering (which includes Dolby Vision HDR) that makes the most of the source material, solid high definition video, engaging lossless surround sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive sound mix, and a worthwhile supplemental package. Mortal Engines isn’t a great film but, it may be worth checking out, if for no other reason than to experience it on Ultra HD Blu-ray/Blu-ray.
Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:
JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems