1,000 years from now. Earth
has regressed. The voiceover
at the beginning says that it took all of 16 minutes for “The
Ancients” to blow everything up, and leave only a few survivors.
The weak ones perished, the hardy ones got together and built
cities. Portable cities, with
a strange technology that is steam engine meets transformers.
In this arid part of the world, people don't even live on land any
more, but on top of these giant machines that move like tanks over rough
Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) is a survivor, but she's herself to one
of the little engines, that's about to get swallowed up by a big engine.
The big one calls itself London, and tries to decorate itself with
some remnants of the glory of the The Ancients' version of London, but
alas, the museum is mostly filled with burned-out trinkets like unusable
though, they'll find a bit of old technology which just might have some
usefulness. The mayor/leader
of the portable city, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), has secretly
gathered some of this old technology in order to construct an ion cannon
that will give him a weaponry advantage over his opponents.
When he takes over smaller engines, he tries to assure the new
immigrants that they will all be treated with respect and dignity.
This, after they're lined up, told to leave their possessions to
pick them up later, and that they will be “temporarily” separated from
their children. (Yes, the same
thing the Nazis told the Jews in the camps.)
Hester Shaw has a personal reason for wanting to get close enough
to Mr. Valentine to do him harm, but her effort is thwarted by a city
employee, Tom (Robert Sheehan), who is also very interested in relics from
the past, but he is also one of the residents who's been deceived by the
slippery Mr. Valentine.
Enter a rebel warrior, Anna Fang (Jihae), who's not only a
resistance leader, she's also a pilot.
The aircraft looks like an unusual combination of ballooned-out
wings and some sort of gas engine, with attached machine guns.
The technology seems to be somewhere between World War I and World
War II. The guards, too, seem
to be equipped with pistols rather than automatic weapons, so futuristic
weapons technology has not progressed past the early 20th
century. However, there don't
seem to be countries or nations in the old traditional sense.
And the only children around are briefly glimpsed in straight
lines, in uniform. The basic
problem, as usual, is scarcity of resources.
So the conflicts are in how the resources are distributed.
There's a scene where the cheering populace is standing on a
balcony overlooking a military triumph.
It looks like great fun, until it isn't.
Kind of like the reports of people from Washington, D.C., riding
out in their carriages to view the first Battle of Bull Run.
They soon learned that war isn't a spectator sport.
Speaking of borrowings, there's some un-original-looking borrowings
from the “Star Wars” saga, from faceless storm troopers to “I am
your father” to blasting into the core of the Death Star.
With the rest of the film being so original in its particular bleak
vision of a dystopian future, these obvious borrowings are a
disappointment. The romance
between Hester and Tom is never very convincing.
And the bad guy isn't really evil enough for us to revel in his
demise. It's got some fun
computer graphic images of rolling cities, but the story line lacks verve,
vivacity, and vigor.