'Mortal Engines' could be the biggest flop of the year

Ben Arnold
·Contributor
Mortal Engines (Credit: Universal)
Mortal Engines (Credit: Universal)

Peter Jackson’s new movie Mortal Engines could lose more than $100 million at the box office, which would likely make it the biggest movie flop of the year.

The adaptation of Philip Reeve’s dystopian YA novel opened in the US last weekend to a startlingly poor $7.5 million.

This is added to its overseas haul to make just over $40 million, which is likely to give executives at Universal Pictures and its other backer Media Rights Capital something to think about over Christmas.

For perspective, Aquaman more than tripled Mortal Engines’ take, making $126 million this weekend alone.

But with a reported budget of between $100 million and $150 million, and then a similar amount on top for marketing and advertising, things are looking bleak for the movie, written and produced by Jackson, and directed by Christian Rivers.


Rivers has worked as a visual effects supervisor and unit director for Jackson since the first Lord of the Rings movie, but this is his debut effort helming a full-on feature.

The loss will likely top previous 2018 champ Robin Hood, which was in line to be biggest bomb of the year, having come up some $30 million short of its production budget, and many more tens of millions from its overall costs.

It hasn’t helped that the movie, which stars Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar and Stephen Lang, has taken a critical panning too.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw called it ‘steampunk Star Wars, with a bit of low-octane Gilliam and Gaiman on the side’, offering it two stars, while Variety reckoned it to be ‘unwieldy, baffling, exhausting, and unintentionally hysterical’ in its plot.

Reeve, the book’s writer, however, seemed to love it.

He tweeted: “Christian Rivers has done a fantastic job – a huge, visually awesome action movie with perfect pace and a genuine emotional core…There are many changes to the characters, world, and story, but it’s still fundamentally the same thing.”

It’s out now across the UK.

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