Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Themes of the Mortal Engines movie

themes of mortal engines

While Mortal Engines was written as a Young Adults sci-fi novel, the themes to be found within are very universal and in many cases not just for youths but for anyone who's ever loved anyone else, been forced to do things they did wish to do or simply wondered what would happen if the world went to hell in a hand basket.

The concept post-apocalypse novel has been around for years and some truly classic works have been published. My personal favorites include The Postman, The Day of Triffids and the more modern The Road by Cormack McCarthy.

Generally these kinds of books are set in some post atomic meltdown scenario but they are not really about that. When all is boiled down, these books are about humanity, the human character and the desire to sustain that character.

And Mortal Engines is no exception to this.

Outwit, outlast, outplay - survival of the fittest?

A central theme of this post-apocalyptic / dystopian book is the destruction of that world's way of life (that which existed before the 60 Minute War) and the subsequent struggle of restoring civilization and technology and reclaiming that element of lost humanity.

In Mortal Engines this reclamation works on two levels - our two protagonists Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy come to an understanding within themselves and each other about who they really are and in more broad terms, the book signals the end of the concept of Municipal Darwinism and a return to more 'humane' modes of living - this of course plays out in far greater through the following three sequels.

And that all sounds very romantic but when we are talking about the survival of cities, we are talking about the concept of survival of the fittest.

Let's explore this by taking a step back and considering the book's title. Mortal Engines.

If you didn't pick it, it is a quotation borrowed from William Shakespeare's play 'Othello'.

The full quote from Act III, scene iii is said by the character of Othello himself:

"And O you mortal engines whose rude throats / Th'immortal Jove's dread clamors counterfeit..."

It serves as a commentary on the book's concept of 'Municipal Darwinism'.

Municipal Darwinism is the 'technological ecosystem' by which most of the world of Mortal Engines works. While Shakespeare is referring to humans as being mortal engines, Reeve's turns the two words on the head of what Shakespeare meant and gives it a double meaning.

In theory, eventually the giant traction cities will have nothing left to consume and will die, thus proving to be mortal. The other is Shakespeare's - that regardless of your 'level of humanity' (such as that found in Tom Natsworthy) you will still die because you are mortal.

That's some heavy stuff for a young adult book!

Social Classes and Structure

Social class systems can kind of look like a wedding cake, especially the Victorian model. The lower class is the largest by measure of population size, and each higher class gets smaller and smaller until you get to the fabled 1% at the top, looking down on everyone.

It's basically the same in on the great traction city of London. Reeves actually describes it as looking like the tiers of a wedding cake, with the smog-filled lower layer powering the city, and with gleaming white buildings at the top, where the ruling class lives.

It's a deliberate theme of movie - those at the top of the cake, wield power over those that support them and actually enable them.

Let them eat cake indeed!

Family and lovers

In Mortal Engines, Tom Natsworthy has no family. 

Hester's family has been murdered by Thaddeus Valentine 

Katherine Valentine loves her father, Valentine.

The Shrike loves Hester and wants her to live with her forever as a Stalker. 

Bevis Pod is in lust with Katherine.

As we mentioned above, while this book is set in a dystopian world where giant cities eat each other and the best mode of transportation is by air balloon, all the action revolves around humanity. And at it's most basic condition, humanity is family. 

Mortal Engines covers it all. 

The love between Tom and Hester. How Hester's mother and father were murdered by Thaddeus Valentine so he could get his hands on the Medusa Weapon. The Shrike, even though he has died and was brought back to life, had at one time spent so much time with Hester that he feel in love with her and wanted to live with her forever (in a wholesome way...). 

Young Lust is an Aerosmith song but it must have been playing over the loudspeakers somewhere in London because it's every where in Mortal Engines. Tom thinks Katherine is a bit of all right for a while till he meets Hester. Katherine thinks Bevis is a bit of alright. Teenage Kicks indeed. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

In what order should I read the Mortal Engines book series?

You may have heard that Mortal Engines is a four book series (sometimes referred to as the Predator Cities Quartet) and then there were three prequels to the first book also written.

It sounds a bit like Star Wars eh?

And many many way's Star Wars is the answer.

To quote the author of the books, Philip Reeve, he says they are "they’re best read in the order they were written".

So that means being your reading adventure with Mortal Engines, then go on to Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain. Those stories focus on Hester and Tom and the Traction City Era.

Then, if you thirst for more, hit up the prequel novels which are known as the Fever Crumb trilogy. So in order one reads Fever Crumb, A Web of Air and Scrivener’s Moon. These books go back to the very beginnings of the Mortal Engines world.

Only the tale end of Scrivener's Moon touches on where London will begin to take its place under the banner of municipal darwinism.

Reeve's ties each set of books together but it's probably best if you get the references direct from the Mortal Engines series first. 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

List of people from Lord of the Rings who have acting roles in Mortal Engines

List of lord of the rings connections to mortal engines

It figures that given Christian Rivers is directing the Peter Jackson produced Mortal Engines, there will be plenty of Kiwi and other actors and actresses who will be given a chance to get in front of the camera.

Here's a list of names we know so far that have a role of any size in Mortal Engines - the criteria being they had on screen time in Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit trilogy.
  • Hugo Weaving plays Thaddeus Valentine. He played Elrond in all three LOTR and turned up in the Hobbit as well.
  • Megan Edwards was Mrs Proudfoot in The Fellowship of the Ring
  • Mark Hadlow played Dori in the Hobbit trilogy.
  • Nathaniel Lees played Ugluk in The Two Towers.

We are also picking that Christian Rivers will be on list if he cameos as he had a small part in The Two Towers

Mrs Proudfoot from LOTR has a role in Mortal Engines

megan edwards to have a role in mortal engines

Megan Edwards, who many a Lord of the Rings fan will recognise as Mrs Proudfoot from The Fellowship of the Ring, has garnered a wee role in Mortal Engines.

Bold Artist Management actually made the announcement on March 7:

We can finally announce that our long time client, Megan Edwards, will join the cast in the feature film "Mortal Engines".

So there we go, another Kiwi connection to the movie. 

According to IMDB Megan is a Gemini and is 1.63 meters tall!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Who wrote the Mortal Engines movie script?

If Philip Reeve wrote the book, who wrote the Mortal Engines movie script?

First up, Reeve did not write the script. He sold the filming rights to his works to Peter Jackson's production company we think in approximately 2008. Since that time he has had extremely limited involvement in the production of the movie.

So who then wrote the script for the film?

Enter the Oscar winning trio of Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson. The threes have written the scripts collaboratively for most of Jackon's filming career since the original Lord of the Rings movie. If you also weren't aware, Jackson and Walsh are married.

Boyens has written all the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies with Fran and Peter and also has a credited hand in King Kong, The Lovely Bones and of course Mortal Engines.

NZ On Screen notes that "Boyens studied English and History at Auckland University, and worked in theatre as a writer, producer and script editor. She also spent time as director of the New Zealand Writer’s Guild. Boyens first became a Tolkien fan as a child. When she came onboard to help the writing team on The Lord of the Rings, she had already read the trilogy seven times."

After doing some TV work in the 1980s, Walsh met Peter Jackson in the mid-80s, while he was in the final stages of making his feature debut and kiwi classic Bad Taste. She and Jackson were among the quartet of writers on his puppet follow-up Meet the Feebles.

On the collaboration between the three, Jackson has said about the working relationship

" It's a lack of respect though, too. The worst thing when you're collaborating is when you have to be polite, when you have to say, 'Well that's a good idea!' Whereas we can just say, 'Come on, that's stupid!' As a collaboration, that makes it so much easier. You can just be honest and no one gets offended. You respect, you have trust and it leads to a lack of respect, which is also very healthy."

The New York Times once summarised what each team writing member brings to the party in "Ms. Walsh has a knack for conveying emotion, Ms. Boyens excels at structure (and line readings), and Mr. Jackson is the visual genius."

No word if Peter and the Gang will be doing the second film in the series, Predator's Gold but one can imagine that the plot lines are slowly been drawn out.

Fun fact - Mortal Engines is the first film these three have written together were Peter has not directed the movie himself. 

Thursday, April 20, 2017

James Bond actor cast in Mortal Engines

Cast of mortal engines

Sorry for the click bait, we couldn't help ourselves.

Three times James Bond actor Colin Salmon, Rege-Jean Page (of Roots fame) and Game of Thrones actor Patrick Malahide have joined the cast of the Mortal Engines movie.

We know that Colin Salmon is playing Chudleigh Pomeroy, the deputy Head Historian of London.

Perhaps Malahide is up for Magnus Chrome? We have no idea. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

What is the ODIN weapon used Mortal Engines' 'Infernal Devices'?

ODIN firing in mortal engines

The Orbital Defence Initiative (known as ODIN) is an orbital satellite weapon that was engaged during the life ending Sixty Minute War that scorched Earth and turned into into an apocalyptic land, desolate and dead, save for a few land masses.

The ODIN  device is featured in the third and fourth books in Philip Reeve's Hungry Cities Quartet, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.

ODIN was constructed during the arms race between the American Empire and Greater China.

It and the MEDUSA device are the only super weapons known to have survived until the final events of the series, although there are several references to other orbital super weapons in the books (for example the Diamond Bat, Jinju 14, and the Nine Sisters).

Have you ever played the video game Gears of War and used the Hammer of Dawn? The ODIN is exactly like that but is able to do vastly more damage. And in that sense Call of Duty also employed a system with the same name.

If you wanted to compared it to a real world initiative, Ronald Regan's infamous Strategic Defense Initiative programme is your reference point. That programme was often derided and compared to as Star Wars though, so there's that.

ODIN is more powerful than the MEDUSA and is able to hit almost any target on the surface of the Earth. Reeve's novel implies that ODIN was an American satellite as the code for controlling the satellite was discovered on American submarine.

How does the ODIN weapon work?

ODIN is an energy weapon which converts the energy of a small nuclear weapon into a directed beam of incinerating energy (a weapon concept similar to the Strategic Defense Initiative's Project Excalibur).

This has the power to destroy entire cities (both traction and static) and can cause volcanic eruptions if targeted at the right spot.

Its beam can be seen from very long distances away.

Oddly, it seems to interfere with the mechanical minds of Stalkers. Only Shrike's Old-Tech Stalker brain has the mettle to withstand this, although he goes into a fit-like state and it is hinted he is saved by Dr Oenone Zero. Anna Fang is unaffected's Striker is also conveniently. All other Stalkers whoever lose their power when it is engaged.

How did the codes for ODIN come from a submarine?

The 'Tin Book' is a codebook for controlling ODIN. It was originally found and copied from a US Military document recovered by the refugees of the original Anchorage from a submarine,

In terms of the book's plot, it is stolen by the Lost Boys and, later, Brighton. It then falls into the hands of the Stalker Fang, who memorises its contents and then leaves it to be destroyed on Cloud 9.

If you want the rest of what happens with the weapon, read the books!

Is the ODIN satellite system self aware?

If you've seen the odd Terminator movie you could be forgiven for wondering about some loose parallels between the Skynet computer system that overtook the world in Terminator and the ODIN device.

This is because ODIN appears to indicate signs of intelligence.

When it is rebooted, it queries its new position and briefly searches for its old masters, and notes the vast difference in geography since its last awakening.

It can also zoom onto an individual's face on the Earth although the picture is grainy.

It can change its orbit when directed to target all over the globe.

This, as well as the Stalker minds found among old-tech (and Shrike) seems to suggest that robots had, by the time of the Sixty Minute War, achieved sentience.

However, I reckon you could make an argument that some of those tricks are merely a computer system following programming commands and boot up procedures.