'Mortal Engines' Bombs at Box Office, Projected to Lose More Than $100 Million

Post-apocalyptic adventure Mortal Engines is looking like a costly flop for Universal Pictures.

Mortal Engines opened to $7.5 million domestic and $42 million worldwide. The film cost $100 million to make and could lose as much or more for the studio after promotional costs are tallied.

Mortal Engines entered the market in a competitive holiday season. Animated films have been on top of the box office in recent weeks, with Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch giving way to Ralph Breaks the Internet. Now Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse has taken the top spot in its opening weekend. Many fans are already looking ahead toward the release of Mary Poppins Returns and Aquaman next week.

There are also signs that the dystopian YA genre is struggling. The Hunger Games' success sparked a lot of interest among studios. Yet, the incomplete Divergent Series serves as a warning about the genre’s viability. The novels that inspired Mortal Engines aren't particularly popular in the United States, and the high concept behind them is a hard sell in advertising.

The film also lacks major star power. Universal may have expected producer Peter Jackson’s name to carry more weight given his association with The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. If so, it seems that hasn't worked out as planned.

Reviews have not been kind to the film. It has a rotten Rotten Tomatoes score of 28 percent. The critical consensus on the site claims, “Mortal Engines has no shortage of eye-catching special effects, but lacks enough high-octane narrative fuel to give this futuristic fantasy sufficient cinematic combustion.” Users have been more kind, giving it a 61 percent, but it still only has a 3.5 out of 5 average rating. That seems to suggest Universal shouldn’t expect positive word of mouth to save the film.

Set hundreds of years after the apocalypse, Mortal Engines follows a woman named Hester Shaw. She’s on a quest to avenge her mother by bringing down London, one of the mobile predator cities that now roam the Earth.

Mortal Engines is directed by Christian Rivers and with a screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Philip Reeve, which is the first novel in a quartet. The film stars Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, and Stephen Lang.

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Mortal Engines is now playing in theaters.