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Saturday, June 23, 2018

What are all the easter eggs in the Museum of London?


The Museum of London in Mortal Engines is quite the curation.

Thousands of years have passed since the 60 Minute War which as Chudleigh Pomery points out 'took humanity to the brink of extinction".

Those who remain, scavenger the Earth for its relics and hidden secrets. Old tech proves quite useful for making armies of the undead and well a little device called Medusa...

Many a trinket and treasure has found it's way to the London Museum as curated by the Guild of Historians, led by Thaddeus Valentine.

Here's a few things that the Mortal Engines film reveals as being in the museum.

In the novel, we know that statues of Mickey Mouse and Pluto get a look in. Given those two are Disney characters and Mortal Engines is a universal production, the Minions have been swapped in.

The Minons can be found in the 'Deities of Lost America; section of the museum and we'll see Stuart, Kevin and Bob from the Minions spin-off movie.

We also see:
  • Smart phones
  • Video game consoles
  • CD (I might be wrong but I think in Predator's Gold the Margraeve wears a necklace of CDs)
  • Televisions both flat screen and tube. 
  • Projectors
We presume the Whale makes an appearance...

Mortal Engines is actually littered with references to pop culture.

chudleigh pomery - mortal engines historian

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Junkie XL confirmed to score Mortal Engines

junkie xl - tom holkenborg -mortalengines

If you thought it was time for a little less conversation about the Mortal Engines film, you'd be wrong.

It would seem the guy that brought Elvis back from the dead is scoring the soundtrack to the film.

While I haven't seen an official source, there's plenty of internet whispering and the IMDB now says it's happening, so Junkie XL it is then.

Indeed, our friends at The Sheehab gave us a tip (and proof) that Conrad Pope conducted the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra playing Tom Holkenborg's score so it seems pretty legit.

 Pope was involved with the Hobbit's Desolation of Smaug soundtrack so it all makes sense.

So who is Holkenborg person and why do they get to team up with Peter Jackson and company to make some sweet music together?

Junkie XL brought Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation into the world in 2002 and it was a world-wide smash.

Having had a fair bit of success under that name in the first half of the new century, Holkenborg then turned to composing for the movie industry with scores on a variety of films which include Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Kingdom of Heaven and the Justice League.

He is arguably most well known for his score of Mad Max: Fury Road. Which you just know is going to fuel comparisons between that film and Mortal Engines.

His next big release is Battle Ange Alita.

And what of the name?

"I called myself Junkie XL from the point of view that once you're completely overworked, you never want to go there again. The 'XL' stands for expanding limits; broadening up your vision."

Monday, June 18, 2018

Philip Reeve discusses the influences on the Mortal Engines books

valentine kills anna fang drawing

Mortal Engines author Phillip Reeve had such a good time on during his last Q&A (The Reevening) with the the great fans that lurk on the Mortal Engines Discord Server that he readily agreed to go another round of questions and answers.

As before, this is a selection of ME related discussion, there's plenty more Railhead and the like on the Discord.

Phillip Reeve sure is a good bloke! Questions in bold...

Crow-Caller kicked the Reevening 2 off with:

From Mortal engines to Larklight to Railhead, your worldbuilding has always been an inspiration to me. Is there any particular approach you take when writing? Beyond an initial idea, how much planning do you do? What is your process like, if you have one, for world making?


Good question...

I tend to start off with an image and mood I'm after. Then I just start writing with very little planning, going as fast as I can, writing all sorts of scenes which probably never get used, and slowly the world starts to come into focus. I like to keep them very expandable, so that things I notice in real life can find their way in: I don't start out with a firm set of rules or a map, I prefer to let the story help to create the world as it goes along.

So in Mortal Engines, for instance, Mr Shrike suddenly turned up, and I had to work out what he was, were there any others like him, if not what had happened to them, etc. And a bit of the world's history took shape around him.

In Railhead I had this whole galactic empire set-up sorted out, and some of the planets, and then the idea of the trains which link the different worlds came quite late, and the whole thing had to be rewritten around them - but the feel of the world was already set.

Actually, the mobile cities came quite late in Mortal Engines, too...

I basically faff around for about a year, and then the big central image arrives which makes sense of it all!

Epiphany Continumm chipped in a comment in reference to the cities:

wow, really? they're there in the original Urbivore short, which i assumed was a very early iteration

No, it started out as a sort of post-apocalyptic thing; the airships were there, and a sort of proto-Hester. When I thought of the cities it seem,ed such an obvious idea that I was afraid someone would beat me to it before I could write the novel, so I banged out a short story as a way of staking my claim. (I'm mortified that it's still available in some form, but that's the internet, I guess - nothing's ever gone!

Of course, you could argue that the early versions without moving cities were actually a different book, and I just used bits of it in M.E. But to me it felt like the same project.

A discussion on UFOs sighted in Reeve's Dartmoor led to this comment:

I've vaguely thought about doing a UFO book - kids in the 70s faking a close encounter for some reason. It would be a historical novel, based on history I lived through!

Hello!! Your books are full of brilliant, distinctive character names that seem to get stuck in my head e.g. Threnody Noon, Arlo Thursday, Pewsey & Gench. How do you go about choosing names for particular characters? And which of your characters do you think has the best one?

Prof Pennyroyal has an old flame called Minty Bapsnack which is a name I'm rather pleased with.

It's usually about finding the right sound, and the right rhythm. Some names just come instantly, others you have grope around for and they change many times. Some are real names - Pewsey and Gench both came off of gravestones in Brighton Cemetery. Others are places - Natsworthy is just up the road from me here on Dartmoor, Hester was originally Hester Shaugh, after Shaugh Prior, another Dartmoor village, but it's best to have names people can pronounce, so she became Hester Shaw.

I'm always noticing names, or colliding two words and finding they make a name. It's the most enjoyable bit of the job!

Oh, and airship names I usually take as an excuse to insert a 'found' name - a line of poetry, the title of a song or book - its the same with trains in Railhead. I don't expect people to get them all as references - and if you do recognise them, I don't think it adds anything - it's more a way to give some texture to the world. Our own world is full of references (street names, pub names etc) so it's a way of replicating that process in my made-up world.

I think it was the ugliness and curtness of Shaugh which made it appeal. And I used to think Hester was a kind of hissy, unattractive name, but after writing about her for all those years I've come to like it.

Re. airship names, there's a SF novel by M John Harrison called The Centauri Device which I read when I was a student, and it has great spaceship names - The Strange Great Sins, the Atalanta in Calydon - such a change from the usual Enterprise, Liberator, whatever. So I always tried to emulate those. And I guess Iain M Banks read it too...

[ed note - we love the reference to the Liberator from Blake's 7!]

Did you originally write ME etc. by hand? I've seen you write "putting pen to paper" a few times and it made me wonder...

Yes, the early drafts were in notebooks - usually pencil rather than pen. I didn't own a computer then! The final drafts were mostly typed, but I still sometimes write longhand.

We’ve heard “Mortal Engines Quartet” “Predator Cities” and “The Hungry Cities Chronicles” to refer to the series as a whole. Which do you prefer? Also, which book cover designs are your favorite for the series?

Aaaargh, the proliferation of series titles has been incredibly annoying! I've always called it the Mortal Engines Quartet, I think the other names are rubbish. My first US publisher wanted to call the 1st book 'Hungry City' and when I refused they consoled themselves by using that as a series title. 'Predator Cities' was an a later attempt to link the books together. The result is that nobody knows what the series is called, including me.

David Wyatt did some fabulous covers, but they were used with a strange outer cover with a hole in, so they were hard to read and kept getting damaged. His covers for the Fever Crumb books are great, too; they've just been used on new UK paperback editions. I think DW's ones are closer to my vision, but the D Frankland covers are lovely, and by far the most popular.

What are some of the most memorable fan interactions you've experienced?

It's mostly pretty much like this, to be honest - nice people wanting to talk about the books. It's very civilised!

The first time I met people who'd dressed up as characters was good - I've met a few Hester's and Shrikes now. And sometimes there's someone whom something in the books has really touched , something they've found very personally helpful or moving - that's lovely, but I'm never sure what to say - people bring their own stuff to the books often.

Thing is, if you've read the books a couple of times in the last few years, you probably know them much better than I do! I've been off writing new things, I haven't exactly forgotten M.E., but the details are starting to get hazy, the way you start to forget a house you once lived in - some things are very vivid, others just kind of go...

A very simple question: Shrike VS Grike: Do you know what happened? Why the Americans decided his name simply had to be changed?

Yes! Apparently, there's a character called The Shrike in some SF books by Dan Simmons. (Oh, thank you, Jenny Haniver!). I'd never heard of them - I got it from the bird - and there's no copyright in names - it's like The Master in Dr who and The Master in Buffy I guess - but the US publisher was worried about it and asked me to change it, and since time was very short and I was busy with serious real- stuff at the time I just went 'Brike? Crike? Drike? Frike? GRIKE, that'll do.' I always wished afterwards I'd put up more of a fight because it's led to endless confusion, but hey ho.

(He was called Shreck originally, I guess that would have been worse.) I think I heard something about the Shrek film coming out and changed it for that reason - I can't remember.

(He was named after Max Shreck, the actor who played Nosferatu in the Murnau film.) oh, Murnau, that came in useful, too...)

Our note: Max Shrek was also the bad guy in Tim Burton's Batman Returns. 

The scene in Infernal Devices when Oenone goes to the chapel where the lines from Eliot's Little Gidding are carved into the wall has always been a favorite of mine; it has remained vividly in my mind ever since I first read it. What made you choose those particular lines from that particular poem for the scene and for Oenone's code words?

I was in Canterbury for some event around the time PG came old, and I wandered into the cathedral, and those lines were on a little etched glass panel on the wall. I didn't know where they were from, but I found them incredibly moving (and still do).

My son had not long been born at that time, and I'd just come through quite a serious illness, so life and death etc were much on my mind, in a more serious way than they had been when I wrote the earlier books. 

So I wanted to use them, but they were too long for an airship name, so they became the code that reprogrammed Shrike - I thought they were quite unlikely lines to quote in the middle of a huge sci-fi action sequence, which of course made them appeal even more!

Is there any music (specific songs, artists, or albums) that inspired, or you associate with, the Mortal Engines books?

Well, there are loads of song titles which become airship names, but I don't think they were running round my head while I was writing - if I had any music in mind it was more likely something orchestral - Wagner, Beethoven, something huge and German.

With other books the association has been much stronger. Here Lies Arthur has this kind of scuffed, stripped-down language that was partly inspired by Tom Waits.

And when I was starting Fever Crumb and trying to decide what made my Elizabethan-level post apocalyptic London different from just plain Elizabethan London I thought of the weird electronic howl which opens David Bowie's Diamond Dogs, and he became the presiding god of that city (hence the pub names)

Who would you say influenced your drawing style? Are there any particular artists you enjoy and have tried to emulate?

When I was about 13 I discovered Brian Froud (who went on to design Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal) and also Alan Lee (who designed LOTR) and they were my heroes for the next few years, I loved Froud's stuff particularly. But I quickly found lots of other illustrators - there was a bit of a fad then for large paperback books collecting the works of SF and fantasy illustrators, I had quite a library of them. 

And, as with writing, you nick bits from one and bits from another, and slowly your own style emerges - later on I discovered 'real' artists, too - the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, Picasso - But most of my published illustration work is humorous stuff and cartoons, I doubt you can see much of any of them in it!

Is pineapple on pizza good, or bad? Is blue cheese good, or bad?

Pineapple on pizza is OK, though not my favourite. And blue cheese too - a bit of Stilton goes down all right. Pineapple is best cold and pizza is best hot, so it's an uneasy alliance. Flavourwise it works, it's the temperature thing that's a problem.

Do you think any other cities survived the 60 min war in the USE. Like raft cities on the west coats?

Hmmmm...

Yes!

I think it's actually highly unlikely that the US is a 'dead continent' - however badly knocked about it was, it would have been re-seeded with plants and animals by the time of Mortal Engines. So I expect Valentine and other explorers have missed a lot of thriving low-intensity settlements and secret airbases.

I was thinking of secret airbases full of pirate airships etc, but who knows - maybe there are whole underground societies which went into deep bunkers when the bombs started falling and are still waiting for the all clear.

I think I just invented the 'Dead Continent' idea because I didn't want to have to deal with Traction Chicago, Traction New York etc - it would have made the book too big. But as the series progressed, yes, it's not an idea that makes much sense - it's clearly a Traction Era myth, ripe for overturning.

It's been a pleasure! Thanks for having me.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Phillip Reeve's BBC interview on his Mortal Engines set visit


Mortal Engines writer and Dartmoor's favourite adopted-son, Mr Philip Reeve was interviewed by David Fitzgerald of the BBC about his recent Mortal Engines film set visit in Wellington New Zealand.

Claiming to be "just the writer" Reeve was full of praise for the actors who 'acted their socks off'.

Reeve explained to DJ David how it was very strange to see the movie sets inspired by a book that had he written.

Reeve noted that given he finished writing the several books many years ago so he was able mentally leave them behind so he didn't feel too much ownership of what he saw. 

He joked that the production crew were amused that they had never worked with a living author before as the 6 Lord of the Rings movies were written by Tolkien. This made me wonder what happened with The Lovely Bones author, Alice Sebold? Turns out she was a 'friendly bystander'.

When questioned whether New Zealand's amazing scenery would be featuring in the movie, Reeve explained that most of the exteriors were being created digitally. We imagine however that director Christian Rivers has surely sent out some production units to grab some mountains from somewhere....

The interview then turned to Reeve's more current book series that starts with Railhead and continues with Black Light Express, the inspiration for those novels (he found his attempt at a story on spaceships was boring) and that trains are actually good places for thinking on!

Reeve also talked about Hugo Weaving and Patrick Malahide being in the movie which Fitzgerald seemed quite surprised about.

The interview made us wonder whether Reeves had sold the filming rights to Railhead...

 Update: Here's a transcript some very keen person made.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Leila George on 'Dog' not appearing in ME

white wolf

In the novel of Mortal Engines, Katherine Valentine has a pet wolf called Dog. A gift from her father as a young cub, Dog was Katherine's constant companion.

For the film, Dog as been cut as a character. Collider reports:

Fans of the books might be disappointed to learn that Dog, the white wolf animal companion of Valentine’s daughter Katherine (Leila George), was cut from the movie.

 “It was a sad day,” George recalls. “I knew about that in the second audition. I came in and I did the audition and they were sitting there like, ‘So, what do you think?’ I’m like, ‘Oh, I really, really love it. I mean, Dog, it would be so cool to have a wolf. I love wolves.’ They’re like, ‘Yeah, there’s no Dog.’ And so I was like, ‘Yeah, no, I hate the dog. That was a really good move.’” 

Hugo Weaving recommended having “dog hair all over the couch” in their home, but it was unclear if that made the final script.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Jackson understandably keen to make the Mortal Engines sequels

hera hilmar as hester shaw

Cinemablend has had the chance to chat with Peter Jackson about the the potential sequels to Mortal Engines - if you didn't know there are another three books that feature Tom and Hester and they get better and better.

NE ways, here's what NZ's cheekiest hobbit had to say about making more movies:

"You should [read all the books] because they actually get better and better. This is one movie where I hope it's successful enough that we get to do the other stories, because the other books are really... this story mushrooms in such unexpected ways in the future books.

So, I really hope we get to make those films. It's cool. It's a love story. It's an unlikely love story. It's about a young woman who doesn't really think that she will ever find love, and she finds it in a very unexpected way in the middle of this chaotic, strange world that we're in.

And I also just like the idea of seeing big cities eat other.

I think that is where we have an advantage where Philip Reeve didn't, because when he wrote the first book I don't think he knew he was going to write the other books. I think he wrote that one book as a story, and then through the fact that people liked it and obviously he thought he had more story to tell, he carried on. 

We have benefited, obviously, knowing now what's in the other books in the future. So there are little subtle things we're doing that will help us flow into the other.

They're not anything that changes anything much, but it's just stuff that because we know what is going to happen in the future with these books in the story we're able to plant little things here and there that will be helpful to us should we be so lucky to make more films."

I imagine the references will be nods to places and cities that appear in the other books

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Peter Jackson explains the choice for Hester Shaw's scar

hester's movie scar face

You may have noticed the outcry on the release of the full Mortal Engines trailer that Hester Shaw doesn't have a hugely abhorrent scar that crosses her eye as she does in the novel. For the book, this scar is central to the identity of character Hester Shaw.

Author Philip Reeve explains why he went this route in the book as he said in an interview:

"I didn't want it to be a little cosmetic scar - the Hollywood way of dealing with facial disfigurement is always to have somebody who's a bit messed up seen from one angle but is still gorgeous from most others."

He also recently wrote on his blog a piece on his thoughts. He made two key remarks:

"Among the scars which will never heal are my mental scars from having to field 1,000,000 angry comments about Hester’s shortage of physical ones. Actually, I think her scar is surprisingly impressive (it’s been beefed up considerably since I met Hera Hilmar on set last year)."

Classic fans.

And this is the telling bit:

"If I’d been in charge of the movie I would have wanted to extend the scar up across her forehead, and maybe given her an eyepatch – but that’s why I’m never going to be put in charge of a movie.

Beautiful faces are Hollywood’s most precious natural resource, and the studios are very reluctant to let filmmakers muck about with them: they may be in the business of turning money into light, but they want to maximise their chances of eventually turning that light back into money again.

So movie-Hester isn’t ugly, but she’s disfigured enough to believe she’s ugly, and I think Hera’s angry, intense performance will do the rest."

And that seems pretty fair.

There's been so talk on this issue though that a reporter put the issue to producer and writer of the film (and one of New Zealand's finest Hobbits) Peter Jackson:

“There are always going to be fans of the books who are not always going to be in agreement with the decisions we’ve made. The mechanics of the story that we’re telling is that this young woman is scarred and when you first see her, all you’re going to see it the scar,” he said.

"In order to work as a love story, which the film is ultimately about, the storytellers want you to notice the scar less and less by the time the film is over. "The make up artists, therefore, had to create a “delicate balance” as to what is most visually pleasing, while keeping the true essence of the film.

“You are empathising with Hester the character and the scar almost becomes invisible to your eyes. You want that journey for the audience, and if it was too strong, they won’t get to that point at the end”

Director Christian Rivers chipped in too:

“Even though there’s been some criticism for what we’ve done, we know that if she was really hideous and ugly to look at, then a great deal of people who would go to see the film wouldn’t sympathise with her.”

And that too, seems pretty fair.

The real irony of all of this is that in the second sequel to Mortal Engines, Infernal Devices, Reeve made a joke of Hester's scar in that it would be toned down for a movie!