Thursday, June 22, 2017

An account of an audition for Mortal Engines as an extra

Here's an amusing look at one Wellingtonian's description of how his audition was for the Mortal Engines movie as an extra.

Sounds pretty standard!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Does the title 'Mortal Engines' really refer to William Shakespeare?

What is the meaning of 'Mortal Engines' title?

What is the meaning of 'Mortal Engines' title and its Shakespeare reference?

The title of the book by Philip Reeve and movie produced by Peter Jackson is indeed a quotation borrowed from William Shakespeare's 'Othello'.

Yes, Philip Reeve is referencing the Great Bard himself.

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

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

Reeve uses this phrases 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.

The larger predator cities consume smaller cities for their resources. Physical resources are used for fuel or re-utilised. Humans living on the captured cities can be enslaved or eaten.

It's basically a play on Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest concept from his natural selection theory.

The main theory of Municipal Darwinism is a predator and prey cycle; if the bigger town is faster than the smaller, the smaller town will be eaten.

But if the smaller town is faster than the bigger town, the bigger town risks running out of fuel and thus losing it's prey or even facing attack itself in a reversal of fortune.

While in the context of the book's universe this form of Darwinism has existed for 1000s of years since the 'Sixty Minute war', it's a zero sum game which refers to the fact that the society that engages of Municipal Darwinism is not actually a sustainable means of living.

All the cities' engines are indeed mortal as eventually there will be nothing left to consume and they will fail and die.

Readers familiar with Reeve's work will know that he's a bit of a literary magpie and nicks the odd line from a song here and there or a book or line from a classic play to liven up his books. He does it really well - so well we suspect that a lot of the younger readers he has will miss many things he does!

Extra for Experts: Reeve's played a similar naming trick with the 'A Darkling Plain' sequel. Those words are taken from a poem called Dover Beach.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

We have a hunch Jihae is singing the Mortal Engines theme song

I had an idle thought while listening to some Jihae (as you do when you know she's playing Anna Fang in Mortal Engines) that she should probably do a theme song for Mortal Engines as most Peter Jackson productions seem to tack on a song in the credits - one or two may have even won Oscars!

So I posted this thought on twitter:

Notice anything?

That's right Jihae herself liked it. Well, if she's managing the account herself she did.

Either way, is this a subtle confirmation that yes, Jihae is involved in some capacity on the soundtrack?

It really should be a no brainer - Anna Fang is going to be a HUGELY POPULAR character as along with Hester, she's a bit of a book readers fan favorite, so why not have the actress who is already an accomplished singer, belt out a tune?

And this gets us wondering - who is composing the music for the movie? An old favourite of Peter's or someone new?

So who do I collect on my bet with?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Imagine Stalker Anna Fang singing this Leonard Cohen cover!

Here's stalker Anna Fang singer Jihae offering her version of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah:

Imagine Anna Fang merrily singing that as she as she flies the Jenny Hanniver!

Even though this next video is an add for some beauty product, it gives you a real idea into what makes Jihae tick, and I can sure see why she was cast as the tough Anna Fang for Mortal Engines.

What was the Sixty Minute War in Mortal Engines?

sixty minute war mortal engines

What was the Sixty Minute War?

The Sixty Minute War was a global battle that took place hundreds or thousands of years before the events of the Mortal Engines Quartet and the Fever Crumb Series.

The name conveys that the war took only an hour to begin and end - this was due to the speed and efficiency of the weapons of mass destruction used.

This is because of the way nuclear war scenarios work. And also why that to date, no nuclear weapons have been used to attack another country. Say Country A decides to wipe out Country B. B can detect the launch. They have time to understand that even though their country is about to be wiped out, they can get their own bloody revenge on Country A.

So they will launch their their own missiles at Country A ensuring that it is destroyed too. This is called mutual self destruction.

While the Soviet Union played brinkmanship games with the US (think the Cuban Missile Crisis) no country has crossed the line as they know there's a large chance that they will lose everything themselves.

So in the book and movie of Mortal Engines, there was of course a 'cold war' between various nations that directly led to the war's start. The mutual self destruction concept played out and when the first strike was launched, the other nations responded in kind.

And once the arms were deployed, some from the land, some from orbiting satellites in space, the so called 'war' was over and done with in an hour.

This was the classic doom's day scenario leading to a desolate Earth where most of humanity was destroyed.

Two of the weapons were known as the MEDUSA, which features in the first novel and the second, ODIN, is first featured in the third novel of the Predator Cities Quartet, Infernal Devices.

If you think this concept from Philip Reeve's book was interesting, check out his theory of municipal darwinism.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Who is running

As far as I can tell, this wee site,, is proudly the only website out there in the big land of the internet that's focused on the forth coming Peter Jackson produced Mortal Engines movie.

We are not party to the movie in any capacity but we did attended every street parade in Wellington for the premiere of each LOTR movie so we're good there...

There's certainly no formal or official online presence other than author Philip Reeve's personal site and some guff to sell his wonderful books.


If you do a 'Who Is' look up on you'll see the URL Registrant Contact Information is that of Universal City Studios.

Who are they you might ask?

They are normally referred to as Universal Pictures and they are one of the production companies associated with the movie!

So, we imagine that soon enough, the official movie site will be rolled out across The Hunting Plain with this URL.

Before the trailer? We have no idea when that's happening

Friday, June 9, 2017

Want to earn 2 hundy a day on the set of Mortal Engines?

The hunt is still on for extras to be in Mortal Engines.

Straight from the Trade Me website, here's your chance to be famous .....





A large number of background Extras for filming June - July this year in MIRAMAR, WELLINGTON






Successful applicants may be required for anything from 1- 12 days over the next two months.
The working day is 12 hours and may include overtime.
The day rate before overtime is $200


This Extras Casting Call is open to anyone who falls within the application requirements above.

*Please note that this is an application process and not an offer of work.

Applicants for this position should have NZ residency or a valid NZ work visa.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Incredible Hester Shaw cosplay with full face make up and prosthetics

Full scar effects Hester Shaw cosplay

Check out this amazing Hester Shaw cosplay. Using full prosthetics, a truly horrific version of Hester has been created. What imagination. One wonders if Christian Rivers is prepared to be as bold as this effort with his movie production. We suspect the on screen Hester's scarring will be toned down from this amazing look!

Here's the description of Hester's face from the book:

"A terrible 23 scar ran down her face from forehead to jaw, making it look like a portrait that had been furiously crossed out. Her mouth was wrenched sideways in a permanent sneer, her nose was a smashed stump and her single eye stared at him out of the wreckage, as grey and chill as a winter sea."

Not a bad effort re-creating that eh?

The make up designer Anna Langham who achieved this work wrote on Instagram:

"This entire look was sculpted by myself and covers from forehead to chin eyebrows are pieces weaved and stuck with Snappy G glue. The scar runs from forehead to jaw and therefore the nose, left eye and mouth had to be recreated. I absolutely LOVED Prosthetics @bathacademyofmediamakeup and it is something I wish to continue working in for a very long time. I painted the piece using light washes of silicone paint and illustrator palettes and worked hard and created a realistic and natural skin texture and colour which would match Tegan's neck and normal skin tone. "

full face make up hester shaw cosplay

Anna also noted that:

"My full face Prosthetic modelled by the wonderful Tegan. I worked for 2.5 weeks on this piece. It is inspired by my favourite book character #hestershaw from #mortalengines. I have been dreaming to design and create a look for her ever since the age of 7 and this is my hand crafted Hester scar."

We suspect Anna has a fine career ahead of her. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Philip Reeve confirms Shrike is called Shrike and NOT Grike in the movie!

You may have read an article we wrote a few weeks ago that considered the name of Shrike from Mortal Engines and why it was changed to Grike for the American publications of the Predator Cities Quartet.

We also pondered if the movie production would go with Grike or Shrike.

Well wonder no longer! The author of Mortal Engines Mr Philip Reeve recently came to NZ to have a look at the filming of the movie (and do a cameo part!) and he got to have a play on set and today he posted this on his Twitter account:

shrike vfx head box

It appears to be the box which Shrike's head is kept in! Which also means Shrike is named Shrike and not Grike! Not word yet on who is playing the green eyed killer!

It also means American readers may get horribly confused when they first see the movie as they are quite likely to believe the abomination that Kit Solent became is called Grike with a solid G!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Frederick Hama cast in Mortal Engines

freddy hama mortal engines.
Kiwi actor living across the ditch in Sydney as announced he's been cast in Mortal Engines:

Hama hasn't given too many details other than he's been booked for three weeks work and this will be his first trip home in 17 years! Hama is a graduate of the Wellington based acting school, Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School so in a sense, he's finally come full circle to film in Wellington.

His IMDB page shows he's had limited screen time but a notable gig on The Navigator.

Congratulations Frederick, sit back and have a well deserved home brew.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Infernal Devices by Philip Reeve book review

infernal devices book coverI do my most of my book reading on the bus to work and back days a week.

And I recently finished the third novel in the Predator Cities Quartet, Infernal Devices.

So here's my thoughts, direct from the Number 3 to Karori bus.

First of all, when I first read Mortal Engines, I reviewed it.

When it was Predator's Gold's turn, I didn't review it. Not because it was a bad book (it's great and perhaps even better than the first) I just didn't feel the world needed me to add yet another review to the pages of the internet.

But Infernal Devices kind of compels me to do so.

And I think I know why.

It's kind of 'same same but different' as the last two books and I think it's that 'difference' I'll explore.

Let's begin with saying (as I did in my Mortal Engines review) - I'm nearly forty, think Transformers and Star Wars are the best franchises around and i like to think I'm a rock god when I play the old six string. Which means I have nothing in common with teenagers and the drama that age bracket brings.

I've already kissed the girl (and I liked it).

So, was I ready for more Hester and Tom dramatics? Yes, I was.

And then author Philip Reeve turns the whole series on its head and makes the story mostly about their daughter Wren and what a nice surprise.

While Lee Childs may churn out story after story about Jack Reacher, it's nice to see that even though Reeve had built up a steam of success with his first two novels, he wasn't about to sit back and coast on that success.

So Wren then.

A classic moody teenager, sick of her mother, tired of her dad. A girl that just wants to have fun.

Sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.

After a thrilling opening where we see Hester's murderous and raging emotions brought to the fore, Wren is kidnapped by the Lost Boys (the one's introduced in Predator's Gold) which sets forth the adventure.

Many familiar characters from the prior two novels come into Wren's realm but in different contexts to that her mum and dad met those characters. And that's the different part of same same but different. Professor Pennyroyal gets to play the Mayor, Shrike and our  immortal beloved Anna Fang get to terrorise everyone in different ways but all the while, this novel feels perfectly see in the world of Mortal Engines.

Reeve's style is exactly as the prior novels with a handily paced set up, some nice clue dropping as to plot developments and as with the prior two novels, he brings the various plot arcs to a very nice and tidy conclusion.

If the book lacked anything, I wanted to see more of Hester Shaw in action. The psyche of that character as a broken human is a fantastic observation.

On its own as book, it's a handy read and fairly self contained but enjoyed more if you've read the prior novels.

Wren is nicely set up as a character that we can only presume will turn up in A Darkling Plain and some of the broader, more global elements and themes will pass over quite nicely as well setting up what we are sure will be a grand conclusion to the quadrilogy.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Someone in New Zealand is running round handing out free copies of Mortal Engines.

mortal engines gift copy

There's a group of book fairies running round in New Zealand leaving copies of Mortal Engines on park benches as presents for would-be-readers to find and enjoy!

What a fabulous idea.

Turns out this is some kind of happy movement to share books around the entire world. You can learn more about The Book Fairies at their site.

If you didn't manage to find your own copy of Mortal Engines, there's plenty on offer at Amazon.

Friday, May 26, 2017

London Traction City Concept art from the Mortal Engines Movie

Peter Jackson released concept art for Mortal Engines and we have to say we're pretty impressed. It's a picture of the protagonist (or is that antagonist) Hester Shaw in wearing her famed red scarf starring at the giant traction city of London in the distance. Except it's not that distant as the city is ginormous!

Hester shaw concept art Mortal Engines

While Hester is cool and all, it's the city that we think is the most intriguing. We're not sure every part of what is seen in the design is the whole of London or it's parked up next to a mining town that it's about to eat. Possibly not though as it has some air ships about to land on it.

Here's a close up of the city taken from the above image.

london traction city mortal engines concept art

You can see some pretty awesome detail in there. I kind of liken it to the tower of Minas Tirith from the Two Towers which Peter Jackson's production team made with such attention to detail. The same can be said of the detail that's gone into this design.

One can only wait and see what the actual design of London and the other traction cities will be like.

And we wonder just where Tom's museum is on that thing....

Just some chairs on a set in Mirimar, Wellington, New Zealand!

Philip Reeves recently made a secret trip to NZ to hang out on the Mortal Engine's film set. Here's a sneaky picture he took, meaning it's the first thing to come from the set!

It's the chairs that Hera Hilmar and Robbie Sheehan sit in while waiting for the turn in the sot light.

tom and hesters chairs on mortal engines set

Curiously, Peter Jackson released concept art of Hester Shaw so it looks like things are starting to seriously get into gear for the movie.

So the real question is when do we get the trailer!?

First official Mortal Engines concept art released of Hester Shaw and London

mortal engines concept art of hester shaw and london

Peter Jackson has released the first official piece of Mortal Engines movie concept art!

It features our gal Hester Shaw observing the traction city of London from a distance.

The image does a great job of trying to convey the scope and size of London. Hester is standing far away, yet the mechanical beasts still seems huge.

At the top of London stands Saint Paul's Cathedral and under it, Medusa!

Sharped eyed observers will note the flying devices around London's clouds. One looks to be an air-balloon based vehicle, the other triangular one look more like a bird or kite.

We wonder if this picture depicts Hester as she's about to make her way onto London to carry out her assassination plan. We love that scarf and jacket combo Hester is working, it really complements her red hair!

Jackson posted this picture to his Facebook page without comment so there's no word on who did this work.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

How does Mortal Engines end? Who dies?

who dies in the end of mortal engines

Beware this posts discusses the ending of the novel of Mortal Engines - and given the ending of said book, most of points covered will very likely take place in the movie.

You have been warned.

So how does the book end?

There are many moving parts to the plot of Mortal Engines. There's basically two story arcs that interweave a bit before they collide right at the end.

The first is the story of Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw and how they meet Anna Fang, encounter the Shrike, discover a few secrets and return to London.

The second in the story of the people on the Traction City of London, notably the relationship between Katherine and Thaddeus Valentine and the Mayor of London City, the great jerk of a guy, Magnus Chrome.

Just what is the big secret?

These story arcs collide in much the same way that Batman collided with the Joker in The Dark Night. Something about when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object...

So to cut to the chase, here's what happens in the ending of Mortal Engines. 

The Medusa weapon is revealed to the people of London and with it Mayor Chrome's intention is to use the weapon to destroy the defenses of the Anti Traction league and for his city devour all of the settlements sheltered behind them.

Young Katherine learns from Valentine that the weapon was originally found by Hester's mother, and that he had killed her to steal it for London. 

He also admits that Katherine was likely Hester's half sister. Disillusioned, and horrified by the destructive power of the weapon, Katherine and Bevis conspire to plant a bomb on Medusa to try and stop it from being used again. 

Thaddeus Valentine is revealed to have infiltrated the league disguised as a monk, and despite Tom recognising him and attempting to sound the alarm, he succeeds in crippling their entire fleet of airships which means the plans to attack London by airship are thwarted. 

Valentine duels with and kills agent Ana Fang, before escaping in his own airship, The Thirteenth Elevator to return to London. 

Tom and Hester take Ana Fang's ship, and fly it back to London in the hope of stopping Valentine and the MEDUSA themselves. 

Katherine and Bevis are caught in their attempt to bomb MEDUSA, but the historians guild come to their aid, battling with the City Engineers. 

Tom and Hester arrive, and the latter attempts to fight her way to Valentine in order to avenge her mother, but is captured. 

Tom is attacked by Valentine's personal airship above London and shoots it down. 

Bevis is killed in the fighting action but Katherine reaches Saint Paul's Cathedral with her bomb. 

Inside, she sees Hester brought before Valentine. When he attempts to kill her, Katherine jumps in the way and is fatally wounded by her own father. 

Katherine then falls onto a keyboard, interrupting the firing sequence of MEDUSA, and causing it to malfunction to much so that it looks like it's about to blow up.

Hester leaves with Tom in the Jenny Hanover while Valentine chooses to stay behind in London. 

The MEDUSA weapon finally misfires, destroying most of the city. 

Hester tries to comfort a grief stricken Tom as they fly away in the airship, apparently the only survivors of the explosion.

Magnus Chrome is dead.
Valentine is dead. 
The Engineers are dead.
The brave Historians are dead. 




Thus the ending of the novel is that EVERY BODY but Tom and Hester die.

In a sense, there's a certain kind element of dramatic irony at play. The book tells us in its title that the engines are mortal, as are the humans as it's a reference to Shakespeare. And what was the Great Bard famous for?

His tragedies. 

Bleak as heck ending. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Turns out, the first line of Mortal Engines was inspired by the 1984 novel

pencil sketch of London City in Mortal Engines

I had an idea on the possible inspiration the first line of the Mortal Engines novel and asked the author Philio Reeve about it and eventually got a surprising answer!

Update Two:

Philip Reeve followed up again to my question with an awesome thought:

"I guess it's really based (though not consciously) on the opening line of 1984 (It was a..cold day in April & the clocks were striking 13')."

I read 1984 in one sitting the first time I read it and I will never forget the last line where the character is happy for he 'loves Big Brother' but could I remember the first line? No, and it turns out to be amazingly clever.

Big thanks to Mr Reeve for being so forthcoming!

Update One:

I asked the author himself and with a single word he shot down my theory! I love how in the modern world, I can create a fan theory and then hours later, Mr Reeve kindly shoots it down!

Original piece:

Here's the first sentence of the novel Mortal Engines:

It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.

When I first read it, it was immediately captivated. I'd heard the novel was about giant mechanical cities and some kind of 'Mad Max style' adventure for kids but I had no idea of what the book was really about. This line was brilliant as it pulls the reader into exactly was is happening, to whom and gives a sense of time in that the North Sea has dried out.

What happened there? Philip Reeve has got me hooked with the first line. That hasn't happened I don't think since I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Great stuff.

But the line seemed immediate familiar to me, as if I'd read it before. I couldn't place it and I moved on, keen to see what this chase was all about as I'd heard it was some crazy Mad Max style adventure for kids... 

And then the other week at work, we did the daily quiz that comes with the newspaper. It's a team thing we do each day. It's great fun.

But to my point, one of the questions was, what is the famous opening line of  Edward Bulwer-Lytton's novel Paul Clifford?

I took a stab in the dark and said "it was a dark and stormy night" and I was right!

Kind of.

Curious I looked up the book and saw this was the whole famous opening sentence:

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

Purple prose indeed.

And then it struck me. And, as if you didn't already perhaps know yourself - I realized it's VERY similar to Reeve's line in Mortal Engines. Did Reeve borrow it for inspiration?

Let's break it down:

ME: "It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring"
Paul Clifford: "It was a dark and stormy night"

Well the first four letters are the same and the sentence is describing the weather. So it's fair to wonder if Reeve was inspired by this line which has become such a cliche that this writer can use it to correctly guess a quiz answer!

Philip Reeve does plenty of name dropping and puns and references in his books, so it's with no real surprise he's cleverly done this but if you're not convinced, re-read the words again. The subject of each sentence is the city of London!

Now, this is just a theory I have. I can't find any discussion about this idea on the internet anywhere, so it's just an idea.

It's a shame that this line probably won't be used in the actual movie. Unless there's a narrator who explains what's going on we will most likely only be treated to the visual version of London city chasing some hapless prey.

I personally can't wait to see how the city looks.

I think given it's gonna be up there on silver screen with Peter Jackson's name attached it's going to have to be HUGE, way bigger than it's usually depicted in fan art - the perspective will need to be established quite well.

Fun Fact: Edward Bulwer-Lytton coined the phrase ""the pen is mightier than the sword" which is funny because if any one had asked I would have said it was Shakespeare. Speaking of the Great Bard, it blew my mind when I learned  that Shakespeare used the words 'mortal engines' in Othello....

City of London drawing care of Callum Gillies

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The House that Jack Built (or is trying to...)

Set Design for Screen at Wimbledon College of Arts student Jack Pratt has successfully launched a crowd funding exercise for a Mortal Engines Animation Project.

Here's his pitch:

My name is Jack Pratt and I am a third year student studying BA (Hons) Set Design for Screen at Wimbledon College of Arts.

At Wimbledon I study all aspects of the artistic process that goes into the creation of projects for the screen, such as film, tv, music videos etc. and, in my final year, I have the opportunity to bring that all together into one, large project. For this, I have chosen to adapt 'Mortal Engines' by Philip Reeve into a short stop motion animation teaser trailer.

'Mortal Engines' is set in a dystopian future, in the aftermath of a nuclear war that as devastated the earth. Cities move around on gigantic tracks and airships roam the skies. The story follows a young boy named Tom Natsworthy, who lives aboard the traction city of London, and Hester Shaw, a girl from the 'out-country' seeking revenge for the death of her family.

Check out the whole pitch.

Here's the animation so far:

Jack Pratt University Project - Making of update from Jack Pratt on Vimeo.

Let's hope Jack delivers!

Mortal Engines still casting?

This advertisment spied on NZ's most popular commerce site, Trade Me suggests there may still be some roles to be filled for the production. It's part of a broad call for talent and given they think Peter Jackson is directing Mortal Engines, they might not know their nose from their elbow:

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

LOTR artist John Howe reveals he is a concept designer for Mortal Engines

John Howe raven design sketch

Peter Jackson and Christian Rivers are sure keeping things 'in the family' with the production of Mortal Engines.

Famed Lord of the Rings movie concept designer John Howe has revealed that he recently spent 9 weeks in Wellington, New Zealand drawing designs for the Mortal Engines film.

If you were wondering, Howe is considered to Lord of the Rings as Ralph McQuarrie is to Star Wars.

While doing promotional work for his Paris art showcase at the Galerie Arludi, he's been quoted by Premiere as saying:

Premiere: You've worked on Peter Jackson's two trilogies and on the first film, The World of Narnia. Why did not you work more for the cinema?

Howe: "Because I was not asked ... There I have just spent nine weeks on the preparatory drawings of Mortal Engines in New Zealand, the new production of Peter Jackson. The world of novels is extraordinary, very astonishing. It's steampunk, it gets me out of my usual battlements."

Bear in mind, that's a Google translation from French!

Here's some more on working Howe with Christian Rivers:

Premiere: How did you work with Jackson on Mortal Engines ?

Howe: "I have not seen it ! Finally, just ten seconds, he went into the office ... He said, "What are you doing here?" The Hobbit is over! " (Laughs) I worked mostly with the director. I had a rather limited role. I had to explore an environment in nine weeks, that is very little time. I was doing concept sets, parts of the world of Mortal Engines. I can not tell you what. Sorry."

So no details revealed but it sounds like he's probably been doing landscapes and structures (depending on how one defines 'environment' we guess) but it's great to know that the production is using the talent that helped make Lord of the Rings such a wondrous realm.

This statement also gives a great insight into how Peter and Christian are working together - Peter is clearly letting Christian get on with making the movie and making his own decisions, giving him his own breathing space.

It's actually probably a lot like how Jackson produced District 9 but Neill Blomkamp was allowed to find and realize his own vision.

I could be wrong but I think this is also the first time someone officially connected with the production has mentioned the word 'steampunk' in regards to the design and look of the movie. Jackson certainly said nothing about it when he announced the movie.

Check out this book, Myth and Magic: The Art of John Howe if you want more insight into JOhn's design work and why he was picked by Peter Jackson to help with LOTR. 

Here's the promotional poster for Howe's exhibition.

john howe poster for exhibition

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Peter Yea's concept art of 'The Great Hunting Ground'

mortal engines huntung grounds design peter yea

Student artist Peter Year has drawn some fantastic Mortal Engines imagery.

He describes is endeavors simply as "Piece of work in comic book style depicting scene from Mortal Engines (2001) by Phillip Reeve. Work completed for Final Year Project at Teesside University."

Yea has put in some great effort. Here's his initial (hand drawn?) sketch of The Hunting Grounds - where readers of Mortal Engines will know, the Traction Cities like London roam, looking for prey.

sketch mortal engines peter yea

And that was then given the digital conversion treatment:

Peter is clearly a bit of a Mortal Engines fan as he has done a fair bit of work. Here's his version of the moment Shrike and Tom Natsworthy mortally faced off:

tom attacks shrike peter yea

And here's an awesome version of the Medusa Weapon being fired. You can almost imagine Yea's drawings being turned into a cartoon series!

medusa weapon being fired mortal engines

Saturday, May 13, 2017

If Peter Jackson is not directing Mortal Engines, who is?

Christian Rivers' cameo in Lord of the Rings

Who is directing Mortal Engines?

The short answer is Christian Rivers.

But who is he and why does Peter Jackson think him worthy of directing his production?

Christian first met Peter Jackson when he was just 17 years old and first worked for him on Jackson's splatter comedy, Braindead (It was re-titled to 'Dead Alive!' for American film viewers).

Rivers started out as a storyboard artist and became very involved with visual effects supervision, special effects technician. 

He won an Oscar for his visual effect achievements on King Kong. 

As Jackson's protege, he was destined to became a director and was duly announced as the helm of Jackson's remake of classic war film, The Dambusters. 

This project was sidelined (possibly due to the production demand of The Hobbit series and the delays associated with it) and Rivers then actually acted as second unit director on the Hobbit trilogy of films. 

Proving his worth, he was given the opportunity of a life time to direct a big budget movie, Mortal Engines.

Fun fact: Christian had a cameo as an armored soldier in Lord of the Rings, that's him above. We speculate that he will cameo again in Mortal Engines!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

When in time is Mortal Engines set?

hester shaw concept art

How many years after the Sixty Minute War does 'Mortal Engines' take place?

Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic world, ravaged by the so called "Sixty Minute War", which caused massive geological upheaval and the destruction of humanity.

The earthquakes, volcanoes and other geographic instabilities that ravage the Earth destroyed it’s heritage, knowledge and just about every other reference point of history.

This means that the characters found in the Mortal Engines books no longer have an idea of what year it is, or for how long the Earth has been a desolate and desperate place.

The books reveal that many hundreds of generations have developed and much knowledge of the Sixty Minute War has failed to be passed on between. Most things about history and time have been forgotten.

Other than the Traction Cities, the world has had to start from scratch again.

Given the time it would take to forget everything and for time keeping to simply stop, the Mortal Engines book is set many thousands of years after the Sixty Minute War.

Philp Reeve’s ‘The Traction Codex’ has addressed the issue without giving definitive numbers:

“After the Ancients destroyed themselves in the Sixty Minute War, there were several thousand years in which nothing much happened. These were the Black Centuries. The great civilizations of the Screen Age had been utterly swept away, and humanity was reduced to a few scattered bands of savages’

In the end, it’s not the actual number of years that is wholly important. The key concept to understand is that sufficient numbers of years have passed the society that exists now has no connection to the past. It does not have a system of government (other than each Traction City being self-governed).

It does not have supermarkets that do home delivery and it does not have Google Fibre nor Star Wars.

None of these things exist.

So, we don’t think you would be wrong in estimating that Mortal Engines is set some 5000 – 10000 years after the war. Anything less than 5000 feels light due to the time needed for humanity to basically forget itself.

Monday, May 8, 2017

What is 'Municipal Darwinism' in Mortal Engines?

municipal darwinism mortal engines

What is the concept of 'Municipal Darwinism' in the Mortal Engines movie and book?

Municipal Darwinism is the 'technological ecosystem' by which most of the world works in the Mortal Engines novel and movies.

It's basically a play on Charles Darwin's survival of the fittest concept from his natural selection theory.

But you need to add the twist that it's a zero sum game, meaning there can be only one winner. Think of the concept as 'there's always a bigger fish' from Star Wars. Every fish is looking to get a meal but in the end, only the biggest fish will survive.

But what does the biggest fish do when there is no food left?

There in lies the rub and the point of the book.

So how does this play out in the books?

The traction cities are the municipal part of the concept (or conceit as we see it). They are organized communities that follow their own laws and customs. For instance the city of London follows an Elizabethan hierarchy of structure. In General, the larger 'predator cities' look to consume smaller cities for their resources. Physical resources are used for fuel or re-utilised within the city.

Humans living on the captured cities can be enslaved or used as a source of protein and eaten.

That's right, eaten.

The main theory of Municipal Darwinism is a predator and prey cycle; if the bigger city or town is faster than the smaller, the smaller town will caught and then be eaten.

But if the smaller town is faster than the bigger town, the bigger town risks running out of fuel and thus losing it's prey or even facing attack itself in a reversal of fortune.

Such situations make Jeremy Irons so proud...

While in the context of the book's universe, this form of Darwinism has existed for 1000s of years since the 'Sixty Minute war', it's a zero sum game which refers to the fact that the society of Municipal Darwinism is not actually a sustainable means of living.

The meaning of the title of Mortal Engines is that all the cities' engines are indeed mortal as eventually there will be nothing left for them to consume and they will fail and die. Indeed, the title 'mortal engines' is a direct reference to a quote from William Shakespeare's Othello.

And in part, that's the irony about the book's ending.

One must bear in mind that not everybody believes in this concept.

There are many people living in hills and islands that choose to not live the traction city 'lifestyle' and they determinedly seek to form self sustaining cultures.

And there is of course, the whole Anti-Traction League thing at play...

The Anti Traction League hates these cities. They can see the end game and that it ultimately means death for all. That's why they seek to sabotage and destroy the big cities, knowing if they can stop their spread, their own territory would be safe.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Kiwi actress Frankie Adams is up for a part in Mortal Engines

frankie adams has been cast in mortal engines movie

The Expanse's Frankie Adams has been cast in the Mortal Engines movie

Ex Shortland Street and Kiwi actress Frankie Adams is up for a part in the Mortal Engines film production.

frankie adams cast in mortal engines
Adams is going from strength to strength at the moment. Starting out as a character who was a 'whiny brat' on New Zealand's only Soap Opera, Shortland Street, she's a two season veteran of The Expanse sci fi show and had a sweet role in local Kiwi production 'One Thousand Ropes' in 2016.

This will be Adams's first live action role for a Peter Jackson production but her work with The Expanse as tough a nails Roberta 'Bobbie' W. Draper should have her in great shape for this sci-fi movie!

Adam's recently played a motion capture role as the Boulan Empress in Luc Besson's new film, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planet. The work was done at none other than Jackson's Weta Workshop!
Adams is of Samoan heritage and stands at 180 cm tall.

Friday, May 5, 2017

References to gods and religion in Mortal Engines

In the Mortal Engines book series the popular religions of our world, such as Catholicism, Islam, and Judaism do exist.

They have been lost to thousands of years of time.

But time does echo in the strangest of ways. 

Given humanity seems to have a need for religion as a way to explain things, it's with no surprise that the humans that live in the era of Municipal Darwinism have created new religions. 

Even if they think Mickey Mouse and Pluto are gods. 

Yes, that's right.

 Due to some mistranslation and interpretation about the gods of the 'Ancients' who lived before the 60 Minute War, the people of London's traction city think that Disney's greatest icon is indeed a god.

They have plastic statues of Mickey Mouse and his dog Pluto.

False gods if there ever were!

But who is the real god of London? 

Nicholas Quirke.

Now who is he?

First referenced in the Mortal Engine novels, his character appears in the Fever Crumb Series as 'Nicolas Quercus'. He is remembered in the time of the Mortal Engines Quartet by the name of Quirke and regarded as a God by decree of Mayor of London, Magnus Chrome.

Taking the iconography (?) of Christmas Trees at Christmas, the people of London have 'Quirekemas trees' which have shining lights on them, just as humans do to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Thus Quirkemas Day is to celebrate the man who was responsible for beginning the Tractionist Era post the 60 Minute War.

Municipal Darwinism

So we can't talk about Quirke without talking about the concept of Municipal Darwinism. This way of life for traction cities has taken on an almost spiritual life path and borders on a being a religion of its own.

Indeed for its followers, it is considered dirty and wrong to set foot on bare earth, and "unnatural" for cities to be stationary. While it's not a core religion, it's a fundamental part of the mentality of Tractionists and it drives their very existence. 

Letters to Clio

In Greek Mythology, Clio is the daughter of Zeus. Considered the 'Muse of History.

In the first novel, Katherine Valentine visits the Temple of Clio on London to try and make sense of the things she has learned about her father and the Mayor. Clio was personal resonance for Katherine as Thaddeus Valentine's villa is named "Clio House" for the goddess.

Amusingly, the characters in the Mortal Engines series often taken her name in vain as they swear in frustration.

Godess of Death 

As Tom lies probably dying in a Predator's Gold, Windolene whispers so as not to alert the Goddess of Death to Tom's misfortune.

Street of Ten Thousand Deities Gods of Ice

The Margravine of Anchorage city, Freya Rasmussen prayed to these gods.

Sky Gods

Doctor Oenone Zero passed by Temple of Sky Gods, the Golden Pagoda of the Mountain Gods, the Apple Goods and the 'silent house' of Lady Death. She ended up saying a praying to Jesus, 'a god nailed to a cross'. Refer page 157 of Infernal Devices.


Phillip Reeve freely mentions things from our realm in our books. Poskitt is referenced as as a god in Predator's Gold. This is a reference to Kjartan Poskitt, a friend and the author of books that Reeve has illustrated in the past.

Saint Paul's Cathedral - does this mean there's Christianity in Mortal Engines?

If the old religions are gone, why was Saint Paul's Cathedral retained on London for so long? No one really knows. It was there for thousands of years before it was turned into the housing base for the Medusa Weapon by Magnus Chrome.

There's no apparent reference to it being used for religious or Christian purposes by the citizens of London.

Infernal Devices ultimately reveals that Christianity has actually managed to perservere, mostly in Africa. Dr Zero / Mrs Naga prays to a christian god so in Reeve's world, the key elements of that religion have survived.

The Guide to the Traction Era by Philip Reeve suggests that the people of Zagwa once strongly followed a faith called Wakunkite but this was eventually superseded by Christianity.

London drawing by Tim Denby.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Just who the hell is Sophie Cox?

Sophie cox mortal engines movie


Sophie Cox in an Australian actress who has what is hopefully her BIG BREAK with a role in Mortal Engines.

Other than a couple of Episodes in the long run soap opera Home and Away this is Sophie's first movie gig.

What better way to start your silver screen career than in a Peter Jackson production!

Here's Sophie hanging with Sheehan and some good company!

No word yet on what part Cox is playing, however it's Not Hester and it's NOT Katherine Valentine.
Anyways, we wonder if she's playing Historian Clytie Potts? Maybe Moira Plym? A pirate?

Cox's acting CV describes her as a graduate of Queensland Uniiversity with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting and during that training she's taken a turn at several theater roles.

These included Masha Prozorov in Three Sisters, followed by her role as Portia in Julius Caesar directed by Jennifer Flowers, as Juanita Howard in Splendor in the Grass, The Director in Mnemonic and Linda Washbrook in A Chorus of Disapproval.

We look forward to her screen debut!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pop Culture and other references that Philip Reeve made in the Mortal Engines series

cultural references made in Mortal Engines

References to pop culture, rock and roll, real world history and other curious accounts found in Mortal Engines book series.

Philip Reeve makes some pretty cool references to our world in his world of the Mortal Engines. Taking a leaf from our modern times, Reeves inserts a whole lot of  references to pop culture, rock and roll, real world history and other curious people and places.

Often he makes puns and plays on words with song titles and names things for place names or animals. The Shrike is named after a bird for example.

It's amusing as there wouldn't be too many 14 year olds who reading the book today who would know that the 'My Shirona' airship was a very popular hit known as 'My Sharona' by a band called The Knack!

Here's a list of such references we've found in Mortal Engines.

We've probably missed a boat load... I actually started this list as I could have sworn he made a Beatles reference but I've yet to find it...

The real question is how many of these will make it into the movie?

This post will be a work in progress. I've probably missed many things!

The first novel, Mortal Engines


  • Let's start with the name of the novel. "Mortal Engines' is a reference to Shakespeare's Othello. It's about how the life of a man or woman is obviously has its limits. It also ties into the novel's theme of Municipal Darwinism
  • Here's the full My Sharona reference "Now boarding at strut 7, My Shirona out bound for Arkangel". My Sharona was the biggest (and some might say only) hit for the band 'The Knack'. Indeed it was the biggest hit of 1979 around the world, when Philip Reeve was 13 years old (Page 95).
  • The name of the MEDUSA weapon is a reference to the Gorgon with the stony gaze which if any one stared into it, they would be immediately turned to stone.
  • Disney's Mickey Mouse and Pluto are referred as being some kind of venerated deity where statues are made of the mouse in his honour. It's a nice nod to the argument that commercialism is the real god in this modern era (Page 7).
  • The language Airsperanto is a playful reference to the 'made up' or constructed language known as Esperanto (Page 179).
  • Valentine's '13th Floor Elevator' airship is a most likely a reference to the American band 'The 13th Floor Elevators' who were a popular psychedelic group in the late 1960s. Have a listen to this trippy song. Reminds me of The Troggs crossed with The Animals..... (Page 16)
  • Hester's mother is named Pandora. Pandora's Box is a tale from Greek mythology where all the evils of the world were kept in the box. When such box is opened, those evil's escape and wreak havoc. Why using the name Reeve is suggesting that the use of the MEDUSA weapon spells trouble for all involved. It's a moment of foreshadowing.
  • Doctor Twix, a researcher in the Guild of Engineers, is probably so named for the chocolate bar. 
  • The town known as "Dunroamin'" is a handy reference to houses that people often call when they retire. As in, they are done roaming. Like traction cities roam. 
  • Pete's Eats is a famous cafe in Wales where the mountaineering community frequent (page 154).
  • At page 155, Katherine notes a menu is offering a burger called a 'Happy Meal'. Sounds like the great Golden Arches of MacDonalds survived the 60 Minute War.
  • "Sea of Khazak" probably comes from the country Kazakhstan which is next to the Caspian Sea.
  • Lady of 'High Heavens' is an ironic name as Chudleigh Pomery's wife was certainly no angel. High Heavens is oft referred to as s place where angels live (Page 95).
  • At page 89, Motoropolis is a play on Metropolis in that it's a moving city. It's probably NOT a reference to Superman.
  • Beefeaters are the soldiers who act the Mayor Chrome's personal body. In our more modern times, the 'Yeomen Warders of Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress the Tower of London', known around the world as Beefeaters, are the official guardians of, yes you guessed it, The Tower of London in the UK. 
  • There are few new references made in Part Two as Philip gets on with wrapping up the story. 


Predator's gold 


  • Professor Pennyroyal tells the tale of an adventure aboard a ship called the Allan Quartermain. Quartermain was the main character of a a series of novels where Quartermain was an adventurer who found King Solomon's mines. Sharon Stone was in the movie. It's an allusion of sorts to what Penny Royal himself has claimed to be - an adventurer, finding strange new lands having thrilling adventures along the way. Page 30.
  • Machine Wash Only and Allow Twelve Days for Delivery were names of people Pennyroyal supposedly met. They are of course lines commonly found on washing instruction tags and are standard delivery terms respectively. Page 32.
  • We all know what 'Zip Code' stands for right?
  • The traction city of Wolverinehampton is a playful reference to Wolverhampton, a city and metropolitan borough found in the West Midlands of England.
  • Phillip Reeve refers to 'Poskitt' as a god. He's actually referring to Kjartan Poskitt.  Reeve has illustrated his books previously.
  • On page 157 an airship is referred to as being named Smaug. This is of course the name of the dragon from JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit. 
  • The Lost Boys that work for Uncle are so named from Peter Pan's Lost Boys.
  • We suspect the character Windolene Pye's name comes from the popular window cleaning product.
  • The airship named Graculus is probably named for the bird. 


Infernal Devices


Pop culture references worth mentioning are few and far between in this third novel of the series.
  • Reeve's hilariously calls an airship, 'Visible Panty Line'. Such things are not generally not welcomed by fashion conscious women.
  • A royal reference and pun is made to  Lady Diana, Princess of Wales when Reeves mentions a song called Harpoon Aria from an opera called Diana, Princess of Whales. 
  • The Lost Boys and their belief "Uncle Knows Best" is a reference to George Orwell's 1984 novel where 'Big Brother knows best'. Side note - Philip Reeve's confirmed for us that the first line of the original Mortal Engines novel was inspired by 1984.
  • Penny Royal's Airborne Park is called Cloud 9. Cloud Nine is often considered to be a happy state of emotion or experience of euphoria or a magical place. 
  • Nabisco Shkin's 'Shkin Corporation' is a play on words in the sense that they sell slaves i.e. they deal in human skin. 

A Darkling Plain


  • The title 'A Darkling' Plain is a reference to the poem Dover Beach.
  • The name of Ford Anglia must be a nod to the classic car made by Ford
  • At page 289 the clerk of the front desk of the hotel refers to himself as Lego while he contacts Duplo. Those both being brands of plastic brick toys for building.
  • Napster Varley, is the trader who buys Lady Naga and tries to sell her to the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft. His name is could be both a play on Napa Valley, a famous wine producing area of California and also a reference to Napster, the infamous file sharing service that Metallica got shut down. 
  • While discusing Stalker Anna Fang's state of mind with Fishcake, Popjoy refers to the 'ghost in the machine' as being Anna's lingering memory. The concept is a critique of the concept that the mind can exist without the body. More closer to Philip Reeve's heart is the fact that The Ghost on the Machine was the name of The Police's fourth album.

Concept art of the Medusa Weapon being opened above Saint Paul's Cathedral by artist Jaekyung Jaguar Lee.

Friday, April 28, 2017

What is the meaning of the title "A Darkling Plain" from Mortal Engines?

'a darkling plain' book cover by Philip Reeves

The meaning of A Darkling Plain comes from a poem called 'Dover Beach'

I'll admit that when I'd first learned of the title, A Darkling Plain, I had no idea what it meant. It actually reminded me of something out of The Dark Crystal movie or some kind of evil spirit. But of course, that's not what author Philip Reeve meant it the title.

Just as Reeve borrowed a quote from Shakespeare's Othello play for Mortal Engines, the title of A Darkling Plain is borrowed from Matthew Arnold's famous poem Dover Beach.

Here's the excerpt from the poem:

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

This part of the poem is reasoned to be referring to the Peloponnesian War.

This relates to the novel in several ways. The characters are indeed swept about, often against their will, by the "ignorant armies" of the Green Storm and Tractionists, on the "darkling plain" of the Great Hunting Ground. But just as the key result of the Peloponnesian War, a unified city if Athens was born, so too many clashes are resolved one way or another in A Darkling Plain.

Reeve references his choice of title himself towards the end of the book when the character Nimrod Pennyroyal writes a book within a book titled Ignorant Armies.

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.