Mortal Engines

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Not recommended under 13 due to graphic violence and frightening themes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mortal Engines
  • a review of Mortal Engines completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 10 December 2018.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 8 Not recommended due to graphic violence and frightening themes.
Children aged 8–13 Show to children under 13 with great caution (length may also be a concern for younger viewers) and with parental guidance.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Mortal Engines
Classification: M
Consumer advice lines: Science Fiction themes and violence.
Length: 128 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

After quantum weapons destroy most of human civilisation, people are forced to survive on moving cities that stalk the desolate earth in search of weaker cities to attack and raid for resources.  When the mysterious Hester (Hera Hilmar) boards the mega-city of London, she attempts to kill Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), the poster-boy for the city’s rejuvenation project.  After her plot is foiled by the well-intentioned but ill-fated Tom (Robert Sheehan), they are forced to join together to uncover Thaddeus’ plan and stop him before he destroys them all.  This becomes all the more difficult when a terrifying bionic-human bounty hunter, Shrike (Stephen Lang), escapes his ocean prison to hunt down Hester.  With the help of other like-minded fugitives, the duo race against time to stop Thaddeus’ plans for world domination, before it’s too late.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Death (including parents); love; friendship; revenge; class warfare; family; natural and man-made disasters; children as victims; war

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:     

  • Several instances where characters are punched and kicked (blood is shown).
  • Thaddeus is stabbed in the stomach, but survives (blood is shown).
  • Thaddeus pushes Tom off a ledge at a great height - he survives.
  • Several instances where characters are shot with guns and killed (blood is shown) .These are often quite graphic sequences.
  • Several instances where characters are threatened or attacked with knives and bladed weapons. Many are killed fairly graphically (blood is shown). For example, a bad character attempts to attack another character with a chainsaw-type weapon, but is stabbed in the forehead with a shoe-blade and dies.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Hester has a facial disfigurement in the form of several deep scars on the side of her face. This may disturb young children.
  • A monstrous half-man-half-machine (Shrike) is likely to frighten children under 13. He is skeletal in appearance with bright green machine eyes. He screams and speaks in a terrifying and unearthly way.
  • A flashback sequence shows numerous creepy disembodied doll heads and broken dolls. This may disturb young children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • In a flashback, Hester’s mother Pandora is slapped in the face by Thaddeus, before he stabs her fatally in the stomach.
  • Shrike hunts Hester throughout the film. He is very frightening and terminator-like in his tenacity. Many people are hurt at his hand and all sequences with this character are disturbing.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • Thaddeus accidentally slices Hester’s face with a knife. She cries out in pain (blood is shown).
  • A resistance pilot is forced to fatally crash their plane into a machine gun turret. This scene may disturb those under 15.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Shrike wants to convert Hester into a bionic-person. He shows her the metal skeleton he has prepared for her.
  • The film explores theme of mass human extinction due to quantum weapon use. Such existential themes may disturb teenage viewers.

Product placement

  • Sunbeam.
  • iPhones.
  • Twinkies.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • An auctioneer of slaves says that a woman’s high bid on Hester is “enough to make me self-pollinate”. This is said in a suggestive and sleazy manner, and is clearly intended to imply sexual activity.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • In a flashback, Thaddeus open-mouth kisses Hester’s mother.

Use of substances

None of concern.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Damn
  • Bloody
  • Bastard

In a nutshell

Mortal Engines is a film adaptation of the apocalyptic young adult novel by Philip Reeves, which combines elements of Mad Max, Terminator, and the world-building of Lord of the Rings, to create an enjoyable film for older children and adults alike.  Mortal Engines does well to keep the plot moving and the action flowing, made all the more watchable by the superb effects that viewers have come to expect from Producer Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings).  Unfortunately however, its paint-by-numbers approach to young adult apocalyptic story-telling may leave some older viewers disappointed, particularly as the film feels much longer than its 2 hours and 8 minute run time.  Older children (over 13) are likely to enjoy this movie, but may find much of the action and violence mildly disturbing.  This film is not appropriate for those under 13, due to the graphic nature of the violence, and the frightening and existential themes.  Parental guidance is therefore recommended for viewers under 13.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Teamwork
  • Love and friendship


This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as.

  • Violence, even when it may seem justified for the greater good.