A brief history of Municipal Darwinism by Deputy Head Historian Chudleigh Pomeroy

Wednesday, January 22, 2020
chudleigh pomery mortal engines

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MUNICIPAL DARWINISM By Deputy Head Historian Chudleigh Pomeroy

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This was a wonderful early essay written by Philip Reeve which gives a bit of further insight into the world of Mortal Engines. It is written from the point of view of Chudleigh Pomery, a character from the first Mortal Engines novel. 

It's probably not considered canon but serves as a fair idea of how giant traction cities came to roam the globe!

Pomery was wonderfully played by veteran British actor Colin Salmon, shame he wasn't in the film much!

If you want to learn more about the stories that happened during the times the essay refers, check out Reeve's prequel series which starts with the novel Fever Crumb.

This work used to be on Reeve's own site but was found at The Way Back Machine. All rights, Mr P Reeve.




(Re-published by kind permission of the Guild of Historians.)

1: The World After The War


After the Ancients destroyed themselves in the Sixty Minute War, there were several thousand years when Nothing Much Happened.  These were the Black Centuries.  Mankind was reduced to a few thousand individuals; scattered bands of savages who hid in cellars and caverns to escape the plague-winds and the poisoned rain, and survived on the canned goods they managed to dig up from the ruins of their ancestors' great cities.  It was a savage age, when life was cheap, and most people would happily have sold their own children for a tin of rice pudding.

Even when the ash-clouds thinned and the sun returned, bringing new growth to the scorched earth, humanity was still beset by famines, pestilence and other types of unpleasantness.  Vast upheavals and rearrangements of the Earth's surface were underway.  Whether these were due to the lingering effects of the mighty weapons which the Ancients had used in their war, or were merely a natural process, we cannot know.  

What is certain is that mighty new mountain ranges arose (the Shan Guo uplands, the Deccan Volcano Maze and the Tannhauser Mountains being the prime examples).  At around this time, among other great changes, some violent storm or convulsion in the planet's crust caused the western edges of the island called 'Britain' or 'Uk' to sink beneath the Atlantic, while the North Sea drained away entirely, leaving Britain attached by a land-bridge to the rest of Europe.  (This was one day to have great consequences for a miserable, ruinous city called London, which clung on, barely inhabited, to a place beside the muddy river Thames.)

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2:  New Shoots From The Ashes


Life in the Black Centuries was difficult, disagreeable and generally pretty short, and it would be many thousands of years before anyone had the time or inclination to set about building a new civilization.  In most parts of the world, all knowledge of the past had been swept away, and human beings lived little better than animals.  Indeed, some were not truly human at all, for lingering poisons from the war had caused mutant off-shoots of humanity to arise; chief among them the warlike Scriven and the sinister Nightwights.  (Not only that, but a race of semi-intelligent gulls haunted the Atlantic coastlines, and in the north herds of mammoth-like 'hairyphants' once more roamed the tundra!)

In Africa, however, where the plague-bombs and orbit-to-earth atomics had not fallen so thickly, a certain amount of learning had been preserved, and it was here that the first flowers of civilisation began to bloom afresh.  The so-called 'Spring Cultures' of Zagwa, Ogbomosho and the Tibesti Caliphate eventually grew into great trading cultures whose merchants and missionaries helped to restore civilisation to the rest of the world.  As millennium followed millennium new societies arose in Europe and South America, as well as in the remnants of India and China and among the Thousand Islands of the Pacific.  Some fell by the wayside, and we know little of them now beyond their names - the Raffia Hat civilisation, the Ash Boundary Culture, the Slate Bowl People.  Others, like the great culture of Shan Guo and the Mountain Kingdoms, have endured into modern times.


guild of engineers mortal engines


3: Of Nomad Empires and the Dawn Of Traction


In none of these new societies did anyone attempt to match the technological achievements of the Ancients.  Most, indeed, prohibited science and the building of complex machines, which they blamed for the disaster of the Sixty Minute War.  Some, such as the Zagwans, persecuted anyone who tried to preserve scientific knowledge, and destroyed whatever vestiges of the Ancient World they could find.  We can only guess at the loss to historians which such vandalism has caused!

In the northern part of Europe, however, certain remnants of the old world were revered, as we can see in those so-called machine-shrines where, in the depths of the Black Centuries, people prayed and made sacrifices to the battered computer-brains, toasters and automatic drinks dispensers they had found among the rubble of Ancient settlements.  Slowly, cultures arose which did not just worship the old machines, but tried to make them work again.  

The Blue Metal Culture, the Electric Empire with their earthenware batteries and strange electro-magnetic helixes, and the mysterious Pyramid Builders of the High Arctic were among them, but all were eventually swept away by natural disasters (the frequent Ice Ages of the period 10,000 to 3,000 BT), or by the rise of the Nomad Empires, rowdy hordes of barbarians who used whatever technologies they could find or steal in their endless wars with one another.  

They built armies of 'Stalkers' or 'Resurrected Men', and their mobile battle-platforms and 'traction fortresses' have been seen as the fore-runners of the Traction Cities we live upon today. One of these Nomad Empires was the Scriven, a mutant race from the high north, famous for their speckled skin and spectacular cruelty.  As their numbers dwindled and the climate grew cooler they were gradually driven south and east out of their old strongholds in Siberia and found their way at last to London, a squalid trading-post in eastern UK.  

They conquered it easily, and ruled it for almost two hundred years.  They were eccentric and tyrannical, yet under their rule London began to thrive again.  Merchants and scholars were drawn to the city by the relics from the Ancient world which scavengers dug up in great quantities from the soil around it, and vast advances in knowledge and technological prowess were made.  

The Scriven even set up the Order of Engineers, a fore-runner of our present-day Guild of Engineers, to study and re-use the things they found.  But the Scriven line was growing weak, and eventually, they were overthrown in their turn during a bloody rebellion led by the self-styled 'Skinners Guilds'.  There then followed a brief period of independence for the city, before new nomad conquerors swept in from the north.  These new arrivals called themselves the Movement, and their arrival marks the beginning of a new age; the Traction Era.  For they were led by the genius who would transform our city, the immortal First Helmsman Nikolas Quirke.

When the notion of Traction Cities first came to him, none now can say.  Some legends that as a young man travelling aboard his nomad Traction Fortress he was visited by a dream in which he saw an entire city moving across the face of the earth.  Others claim that the idea had first been conceived by the last of London's Scriven rulers, Auric Godshawk, and that Quirke merely inherited it, but few people nowadays believe that.  Whatever the origin of the plan, Londoners soon came to see its wisdom - especially when it was pointed out to them that a mobile London need not just flee its enemies; it could conquer them, and use their raw materials to make itself larger, stronger and faster-moving!

Over the following few years the city was torn down and rebuilt in the form of a gigantic vehicle, based on the linked and extended chassis of the Movement's Traction Fortresses.  These were dangerous times, for while all Quirke's energy and resources were employed in the rebuilding of the city his nomad rivals in the north hatched plots and alliances to overthrow him and take the city's riches for their own.  The most serious of these crises was the Northern War, in which many rival bands of nomads joined together and drove south to attack London with Stalkers, armoured mammoths and their own traction fortresses.  But Quirke's genius defeated and obliterated them, and London moved north to devour their former strongholds.

Today's Londoners would scarcely recognise the city on which their ancestors first set forth.  Far smaller than modern London, it rolled on wheels instead of tracks, it had no jaws yet, and its three tiers were protected with armour and ringed with cannon and catapults.  It looked more like a giant-sized version of the nomads traction fortresses than a city.  But in the hundred years that followed it was to eat most of the richer settlements in UK, and the raw materials it took from them were used to expand the base-plate, construct the first tracks and add a further four tiers were added to the city, bringing the total to the seven on which Londoners live today.  

Also at this time we see the beginnings of the Guild system, with the groups responsible for each aspect of London's movements clubbing together to protect their own interests and educate their children in their own fields of expertise.  

All the Guilds met together in council to decide on the city's future course and likely meals.  

The Navigators who were responsible for steering it, and the Merchants who helped fund it quickly came to dominate the council.  

Historians, while lacking political power, were greatly respected, for they had already begun to create the London Museum, one of the greatest centres of learning about the past since the fall of the Ancient world, and the means by which many Old-Tech devices have been rediscovered, and restored to every day use.

(It is interesting to note that London's engineers had very little power at that time.  Despite the fact that it was their skills which kept London moving, they were divided into small groups; the Designers, Axle-Strengtheners, Wheelwrights, Cog-Cutters, Power-Teams, Duct-Managers etc, etc. 

It would still be several more centuries before they achieved the dominion over London affairs which they presently enjoy.

traction cities concpet art
 

4: The 'Traction Boom'


As London increased its size and speed, and started to look hungrily at larger settlements on the far side of the old North Sea, other cities began to copy its lead, either in order to escape London's jaws, or in the hope of emulating its success.

  At first Londoners were indignant at what they saw as this poaching of their great idea.  But Quirke-ite thinkers it thus.  The Great Quirke, they said, has brought about a new phase of history.  From this time on all civilised people will wish to live aboard towns which move.  Those that are strong and swift will eat up those which are slow and weak.  And in this way the affairs of men will come into harmony with the natural world, where the fittest survive.  The theories of the Ancient philosopher Chas Darwin had recently been re-discovered in the library of one of the towns London had eaten, and the new system was quickly labelled Municipal Darwinism.

  There then followed the period known to vulgar people as the 'Traction Boom', during which cities and settlements of every size were compelled to 'go mobile', or to face being eaten up by others which had.  Some added tracks like London's, other experimented with inflatable wheels, systems of rails, or even, in the case of the short-lived Pogo-city of Borsanski Novi, some large springs.  Others, meanwhile, rebuilt themselves as rafts and took to the seas.  Some, like Airhaven and Kipperhawk, became airborne, taking advantage of developments in aviation.  Even the mountains can now be gnawed asunder by specialised mining towns in search of ore.  Even the icy polar wastes are traversed by cities, and the floors of the oceans have become the hunting grounds of submarine towns like Pacifica.  

Can it be long before Airhaven is joined in the sky by hunting cities, perhaps ones capable of ascending to the very fringes of space?  

The Ancients, as anyone who has looked up at the night sky will know, built homes and observatories in orbit.  It is not inconceivable that cities may one day evolve to hunt there, too.  Like life, our cities adapt to exploit every environment.

As Municipal Darwinism spread, the static cultures soon began to wither away.  Today they survive only in mountainous regions, such as Shan Guo, where the warrior-monk Batmunkh founded his Anti-Traction League.  In Africa, the degraded remnants of the Spring Cultures still protect their heartlands against mobile towns, but even with the League's help, their territories grow smaller every year.  

Despite such League atrocities as the sinking of Marseilles, most people believe firmly that moving cities are the future, and that Municipal Darwinism will triumph.  Indeed, most city people nowadays imagine that it is barbarous and even unhealthy to set foot upon the bare earth.  In years to come, the only thing left of the old way of life will be a few precious relics, preserved in places like our London Museum.



↠ The first line of Mortal Engines was inspired by the novel '1984'

Wednesday, January 1, 2020
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 immediately familiar to me, as if I'd read it before.

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 also 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

If you've seen the movie, you'll know how it borrowed so many beats from Star Wars. Here's 501 moments of Star Wars trivia!

↠ 35 Easter eggs, facts and trivia the Mortal Engines movie

Saturday, December 7, 2019
trivia about mortal engines

Mortal Engines film facts and trivia


Everyone loves nuggets of gold about how movies are made, the secrets that are well hidden until the movie is made and some good old trivia. Just look at Star Wars trivia, everyone loves that!

Here's what we've learned about the making of the first Mortal Engines feature movie, including a few well placed Easter Eggs that IMDB may have missed...
  1. Mortal Engines is the first feature film directed by Christian Rivers. At one point he was going to direct the remake of The Dambusters however that project was put on the back burner.
  2. The first of Philip Reeve's novels to be turned into a movie. Railhead next?
  3. Filming took mostly place at Weta Studios in Wellington's suburb of Miramar in New Zealand. This is where Peter Jackson and Richard Taylor and co have based themselves for 20 years making films such as Braindead, King Kong and The Frighteners.
  4. Peter Jackson purchased the film rights from Philip Reeve in 2001 and has quietly worked on the movie ever since.
  5. This is the first film written by Peter Jackson (with his usual partners Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyle) that he has not directed. First-time helmer (and Jackson protege) Christian Rivers has the directing duties.
  6. Produced by WingNut Films, the same company Jackson uses everytime he makes a movie.
  7. Katherine Valentine is seen holding a book about the Sixty Minute War written by Nimrod Pennyroyal. This is a great Easter Egg as Pennyroyal is actually a pivotal character in the series that enters the fray in the first sequel Predators' Gold. Given Pennyroyals books are usually works of fiction though marketed as nonfiction, it's quite likely this book is a complete nonsense.
  8. Actress Hera Hilmar has been cast as Hester Shaw.
  9. The trailer made its debut with The Last Jedi
  10. The name of the movie comes from a line in William Shakespeare's Othello
  11. Mark Hadlow has a role in the movie. His first acting connection with Peter Jackson was in the Hobbit trilogy so it's clear Hadlow is a trusted and respect actor within that circle. He plays Orme Wreyland.
  12. The pin Chudleigh Pomeroy wears is the one that Bilbo Baggins wore in The Fellowship of the Rings.
  13. Rivers deliberately steered away from the movie looking like Mad Max. "We didn't want it to be post-apocalyptic dystopia so, we didn't want it to be 'Mad Max.' We didn't want it to be 'Hunger Games' or 'Divergent.' That's kind of a bleak, dystopian sort of film, you know? It needed to tie to our world." Funnily enough most reviews seemed to compare it to Fury Road!
  14. Look carefully for modern artifacts in the Museum and keep an eye out for the Despicable Me - Minions! They are in a section called "Deities of Lost America". In the novel the humans have mistaken Mickey Mouse for a god. Due to ownership rights, the Minions have been subbed in.
  15. 63 sets were built in Jackson's studio at Miramar, Wellington. These included the London GUT (Great Under Tier), Shrike’s workshop, Pomeroy’s museum, the slave market, and St. Paul’s Cathedral (in which MEDUSA is housed).
  16. The production received a rebate from the New Zealand government to recognise it had created a lot of employment opportunities and training for New Zealanders.
  17. Hester Shaw has two eyes in the film whereas in the book she only has one due to being sliced with a sword by Valentine prior to the start of the novel. The book made Hester face very ugly with a grotesque scar which was toned down for the movie.
  18. Author Philip Reeve and his son were cameo extras in the film. They filmed their parts when Reeve made a secret trip to New Zealand in May 2017.
  19. Singer Jihae is playing Anna Fang, a key figure of the Anti Traction League. The theme song Jihae sings is a cover of Vera Lynn's 'There'll Always Be An England.'
  20. Hester and Tom shared a Twinkie between - the joke beign Twinkies can last forever. 
  21. The opening scene is striking similar to the opening of Star Wars: A New Hope.
  22. Jackson first started trying to make Mortal Engines in 2008 and would have directed it had the saga of The Hobbit's production being held in limbo not got in the way. 
  23. Liam Vogel was the official second unit director, however, Peter Jackson jumped in every so often. 
  24. Noted Lord of the Rings concept designer John Howe worked on the movie. 
  25. The legal entity of the production was a company called 'Squeaky Wheels'. 
  26. 'Squeaky Wheels' was also the working name of the movie and it was shipped to theatres as such. 
  27. The novel originally started out as a short story called Urbivore. The concept of moving cities came directly from that.  The story was notable for having a male aviator called Fang - the name clearly carried over to the Anna Fang character. The word urbivore stuck with Reeve as he used in to describe a giant city in A Darkling Plain
  28. The Shrike character name was inspired by Max Shreck from the Nosferatu film. When Reeve learned the film 'Shrek' was coming out, he amended the name. Shrike is so named for the bird that kills its insect prey by spiking it on thorns and other sharp plants.
  29. The opening chase of Salthook and London is closely modeled in concept on the opening of Star Wars.
  30. Salthook has been renamed Saltzhaken for the movie.
  31. The electronic screens around London show wanted posters that features Peter Jackson’s face. This is presumably his cameo. 
  32. The film has a different ending from the novel. Surprise!
  33. Tom Holkenborg who wrote the score said of it "I think I found a balance between the brutality of Mad Max while honoring the orchestral writing that made the 50s great."
  34. When London's public address system warns "Be aware, children may be temporarily separated from parents.". This is a deliberate real world reference to American politics where immigrant families where separated as a matter of policy under the Trump administration.
  35. Peter Jackson brought the rights to the film in 2009 meaning it took nearly 10 years to get the film on screen - you can thank The Hobbit for being turned into 3 films for that!
  36. Just chipping some of the greatest Darth Vader quotes from Star Wars here!

Will there be a Mortal Engines movie sequel?

Thursday, November 21, 2019
mortal engines concept art nik henderson

Is there going to be a Predator's Gold sequel to Mortal Engines?


While Peter Jackson and company are keen on doing Mortal Engines sequels and the movie has had a fair bit of praise, there has been no formal announcement of sequel plans. Star Wars on the other hand...

Making a Hollywood movie blockbuster is no mean feat. Just ask the quotable Sith Lord Darth Vader.

If it were easy to do so, every good story about space aliens driving trains would be turned into a film. So, to convince a studio executive to plump up some cash for an untested 'Intellectual Property' is a mission and a half.

It's why sequels are so popular, they are cash cows with less risk than something untested. Look at Marvel's Ironman, it's had like 16 sequels already...

So, when it comes to the Philip Reeve novel, Mortal Engines, no studio exec is going to take a punt on a book about giant cities driving around eating each other.

Unless Peter Jackson is attached to write and produce it.

So, that's the angle the studios are taking. Jackson and his NAME have been tasked to get Mortal Engines across the line.

Given the novel has three sequels and three prequels, there's a mapped out path that a movie sequel can take (Predator's Gold etc) but will ME get one?

Film producer Peter Jackson said:

“As for whether we go ahead or not with the others, it’s not in our hands,” said Jackson. All we can do is to make the very best film for Mortal Engines that we can. And I’m certainly confident that we’ve done that. I don’t know how we could made anything better than to be made to be honest, you know, based on that book. So we’ve done our job and now it’s really a case of making the film and seeing the audiences show up.”

SO GO SEE IT AGAIN ;)

Oscar-winning scriptwriter and longtime Jackson associate, Philipa Boyens had this to say when asked about the possibility of a second film:

"I certainly never sat down and I know Pete did sat down and thought of this in terms of a sequel–you know, sequels. I mean, we’re just, like, get this thing working first. And then think about what may happen."

"But, mostly, this has to work as a film. This may be the only one. Who knows? I hope not because I think it’s a–I think the story just keeps getting better and better. And I want to see the other traction engines now that I’ve seen in this one.

I want to see Panzerstadt. I want to see Arkangel. I want to see these ones that are bigger and meaner."

Boyen's 'has too work' as a film comment is telling and I think it almost has a double meaning. Obviously, ME needs to be a good film, one that viewers enjoy watching. But it also has to work for it's success. It needs to perform at the box office.

Big time.

I don't think ME will get a second sequel if it just does OK. It will need to perform all around the world, especially and obviously in the United States. Shame it has bombed and not covered costs.

So will Mortal Engines be a success and earn a sequel? This author is personally worried.

While we gave it a fairly enthusiastic review, some critics have savaged the film. Honestly, it makes me cry into my pH tested kombucha.

If you've seen the film and read the book, you'll know that a key plot point of the final book will have to be resolved in a clever way, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and hope we get to see the Predator's Gold novel developed for the big screen.

The Netflix Option for Mortal Engines



Mortal Engines is such a sprawling saga, there is no reason why it cannot be turned into a television series that is featured on a medium such as Netflix. There's plenty of ways to scale back the CGI and make it more of a story about the people rather than a CGI gorefest.

Having the Mortal Engines show on Netflix would allow for the story to develop at a longer pace, offer more room for character development and allow for many side stories as well.

You could even start with a prequel show about Anna Fang, yes, that would be excellent - you could base the character arc on the story points in the novels and the Night Flights short story collection.


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The glorious concept art above is by the talented Nik Henderson.

You know what would have been crazier than a Predator's Gold movie sequel? If the Star Wars sequel was not Empire but Splinter of a Mind's Eye?

What is the MEDUSA weapon in Mortal Engines?

Thursday, October 31, 2019
medusa being fired from London

BOOK AND FILM SPOILERS BELOW

How does the Medusa weapon work in Mortal Engines?

MEDUSA.

In Mortal Engines, MEDUSA was the ancient Old-Tech super weapon that the Mayor of London city, Magnus Chrome tried to use to breach the Shield Wall.

Magnus intended to use the Medusa weapon against the Walk so that he could take London City through to the fertile hunting grounds beyond the wall.

But what exactly is the Medusa and how is it used?

Does it make you turn to stone if you look at it too long?

MEDUSA is a 'ground-based' weapon.

It is stated in the Mortal Engines novel as taking up the whole of the inside of St Paul's Cathedral, where the Guild of Engineers had rebuilt it under complete secrecy.

Philip Reeve described as having a huge, metallic hood shaped 'like a cobra's hood'. It fires a beam of energy (either sourced from outside the real universe, or the cities generators), resembling a "cat-o-nine-tails", at targets up to two hundred miles away.

The firing coordinates are input via a control panel at the base of the firing mechanism.

In the Mortal Engines novel, the Medusa was never actually used as intended.

It was accidentally destroyed by Katherine Valentine who was mortally wounded during her noble attempt to sabotage it. She succeeded somewhat - the Medusa was unable to be fired by Magnus Chrome but it did over heat, blow up and destroy the city of London with it.

The resulting explosion killed most of the thousands of people living in the city, many of them innocent.

Medusa weapon concept art from Mortal Engines
A concept idea: The Engineers prepare Medusa for firing

So where did the MEDUSA  weapon come from?


The weapon was originally deployed in America during the infamous Sixty Minute War, the one which turned planet Earth into a post-apocalyptic wasteland from which the traction cities eventually evolved from. This is not to say the Medusa was the only weapon used that caused the destruction. The satellite systems known as ODIN  also wreaked a fair amount of damage.

Many thousands of years after the great War, London secretly made archeological expeditions to the Dead Continent and gathered the pieces of Medusa from an old Brothal base and re-assembled it inside the St Paul's complex.

In a key plot point which echoed a generation,  Thaddeus Valentine (working for Magnus Chrome)  had years before the events of the book, sort to obtain the computer control system of the Medusa. A fabulously complex item of technology even by the standards of scientists from the pre-war era,

Valentine tracked it to being in the hands of Hester's parents, found them and killed them. During this horrible moment, he also scarred Hester with his sword, both physically and of course mentally.

So what is the plot of Mortal Engines in relation to Medusa?


Katherine Valentine spends most of the first part of Mortal Engines trying to figure out what MEDUSA is. Then, when the city of London is being chased by the city Panzerstadt-Bayreuth the roof of St Paul's Cathedral lifts up and destroys the predator city with a blast of pure energy from the weapon.

The successful use of the weapon serves as proof of concept to Magnus Chrome and it further adds to his resolve to breach the Shield Wall.

Magnus' plans are ultimately foiled when MEDUSA system overloads with energy and explodes, obliterating most of London with it.

The movie version plays out quite different - Medusa is actually fired on the wall before it is destroyed by Tom.

Here's some points on how the book is different from the movie.

Concept art of Medusa being opened above Saint Paul's Cathedral by Jaekyung Jaguar Lee. Medusa firing art design by Peter Yea.

5 ways the Mortal Engine film borrowed from Star Wars

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Star Wars was a key influence on the Mortal Engines movie


When doing promo work for Mortal Engines, director Christian Rivers spoke of how the movie was pitched when they shopped it around the studios.

What does it look like they asked?

Rivers said this:

"I drew a triangle on a piece of paper, and the three points of the triangle were Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Mad Max. It is in our future after an apocalypse. But we don't want it to be all rusty, and f***ing grim and bleak. We wanted to have a technology and a scale that sort of could be Star Wars-esque. But we also wanted it to have a sort of a charm and a sort of cultural character to it that could be like the Harry Potter films."

After seeing the film (here's our glowing review), we think that triangle might have been lopsided in favor of Star Wars because Mortal Engines is quite strong with the Force!

Here are a few key references and plot points that the Peter Jackson production borrowed from George Lucas's films.

SPOILERS

  1. Valentine's big reveal to Hester that he was her father was during a duel where the stakes were life and death is straight from the playbook of The Empire Strikes Back where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke's dad.
  2. When Tom Natsworthy becomes an 'aviator' and flies into the heart of the engines of London and fires a blast at a key part of the engine, well he would make Lando Calrissian proud because he and Wedge Antilles pulled that move destroying the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi.
  3. The whole, racing against time to destroy London before it fires on Batmunkh Gompa's shield wall is basically the plot of the last third of Star Wars: A New Hope. i.e. Destroy the Death Star before it destroys the Rebel base. Admittedly, Star Wars inspired by the Gregory Peck film, The Guns of Navarone for this idea. 
  4. The opening chase where London runs down a smaller, fleeing traction city, is a retread copy of the opening of Star Wars when Darth Vader's Star Destroy is chasing Princess Leia's Correllian Corvette, the Tantive IV.
  5. The author of the novel, Philip Reeve freely acknowledges he based Anna Fang on Han Solo

Don't get us wrong, just as George Lucas borrowed from a million movies to make his own sci-fi film, it's fine for Mortal Engines to do the same of Star Wars! All that was missing though was Jabba The Hutt!

While we are at it, check out trivia for The Rise of Skywalker and The Mandalorian.

How Mortal Engines is a cult classic

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

How Mortal Engines can become a cult classic film 


If one can call a movie that had a rumored US 100 million production budget a cult classic, Mortal Engines is destined to become one.

But what is a cult classic?

It can be a film that is popular or fashionable among a particular group or section of society.

It wasn't just passed over once when first released, instead, people keep coming back to it, they celebrate it. 

Think Dune, Rocky Horror Picture Show, the original Mad Max, THX-1138, Eraserhead, The Big Lebowski, The Princess Bride, Barbarella. Blues Brothers, Pulp Fiction and Plan 9 from Outerspace.

Not only is it that the film has a following, but it might also be that it didn't necessarily have an immediate and accepting audience. There may be an element of subculture appeal.

Steampunk is a subculture right?

Enter Mortal Engines.

This film will be remembered as a flop for producer Peter Jackson and director Christian Rivers.

Which kind of helps the 'ignored by the world at large' movie thing.

But it will also be remembered for some amazing things contained in the movie.

The batshit insane concept alone is enough for this film to be remembered but the CGI of London was something that had never been done before.

It was a completely original vision that had been rendered to the screen by the Jackson production team.

It will be a cult classic because in many ways it is as corny as any corny film that been before. It's so earnest it parts the movie doesn't know how hysterically funny it is. But it has its charm and so it works.

It will also likely be a classic because it is forever tied to Peter Jackson so people will likely discover the movies for themselves for years to come.

Time will tell.

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