These Mortal Engines fan designed posters are incredible

Saturday, September 8, 2018
mortal engines poster

As part of the slow turning of the wheels to promote the Mortal Engines film, Talent House ran a competition to encourage artists to turn their skills to designing a Mortal Engines poster. Here's a selection of my favourites.

Peter Jackson was expected to pick a winner himself personally but in a classic bait and switch, now some dudes and dudettes and Universal will be doing it. So expect a winner that suits movie promotion needs and not something awesome....

hester shaw poster

hester faces london poster

mortal engines london poster

london tracks poster mortal engines

Hester Shaw Mortal Engines movie poster

london meeting hester shaw

Ian McQue's Mortal Engines Concept Art Design

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Artist In McQue has had a bit to do with Mortal Engines. He recently helped out with the redesign of the Mortal Engines book covers, including the new Anna Fang short story collection, Night Flights.

Seem's he's quite the fan of Philip Reeve's books as he draw this one before he even had an official connection:

Here's some more ME related sketches and doodles by McQue:

mortal engines inspired sketch

traction city sketch ian mcque

Here's an early draft for the redesigned cover of Predator's Gold:

predator's gold concept art book cover

Will there be a Mortal Engines movie sequel?

Saturday, August 11, 2018
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, there has been no formal announcement of sequel plans.

Making a Hollywood movie blockbuster is no mean feat. 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?

Oscar winning scriptwriter and long time 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.

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

The trailer was nothing to write home about in terms of feel or giving one a sense of 'instant classic'.

While London looked fabulous & Anna Fang feels absolutely murderous overall, it felt somewhat underwhelming.

As we get closer to the film's released date, we can expect the hype to build and some real marketing to begin. Hopefully it features the reveal of Shrike, the giant zombie / robot played by Stephen Lang.

I suspect a lot of the movie is going to hinge on how bad ass that character is.


The glorious concept art is by the talented Nik Henderson.

Hester and friend?

hester attacks shrike concept art

This concept of Hester and Shrike about to face off is absolutely incredible! Found on bowolfskin's Instragram, I think they are the author. The colours, though soft, feel so real and that sword just feels pretty dangerous!

Some scars never heal Pt 117

Friday, August 10, 2018
hester shaw fan art

The very talented Loles Romero (lolesillustration on Instagram) has had a crack at their version of Hester Shaw. They had this to say "Hi! I recently did this illustration of the upcoming movie 'Mortal Engines'. The movie looks good!".

Feels like Hester is a wanna-be Clint Eastward self styled train robber?

Tom Holkenborg AKA Junkie XL talks about the Mortal Engines film score

Tuesday, August 7, 2018
mortal engines composer

Film composer Tom Holkenborg has had a rich vein of form in the last decade scoring for movies such as Mad Max, Batman V Superman (Wonder Woman theme), Tomb Raider, Dead Pool and the forth coming films Alita: Battle Angel and Mortal Engines. 

Tom took a turn on Score's podcast in which I think this is the first time he himself as actually publicly confirmed that he has composed the score for the Peter Jackson production. 

Somethingorother at the Mortal Engines Discord Server have transcribed some of what was said for your reading pleasure:

Tom: At Christmas, it’s in the same week as Alita comes out (This is a mistake, it comes out the week before) which is Robert Rodriguez directing and James Cameron producing movie. But what’s interesting for me working on these two movies, working with these directors and producers, is I have the freedom to really explore all these new things which is really really great. And it feels also to me like a new time period, like where you are growing into a new level of what you’re capable of, and better combinations of styles and elements, and that’s always great to feel, that you grow as a composer or as a musician in general. 

Host: I think that you also are working with two filmmakers who actually exemplify the visual aspect of what we’re describing. They use both computer generated imagery, and actors, parallel to synthesis and orchestra. So you are working towards a new way of making art. 

The other thing you said that’s really interesting is you said they both allow you an amount of freedom. Isn’t it amazing that the directors who are the top of their game are the ones that allow you freedom where it’s the young ones that are the most nervous, ‘I don’t know if the composer should do this’ ‘I don’t like that’ ‘Is that right’ The guys that they hire an artist and I’m sure you get notes and there’s conflicts on certain things, but it’s just wonderful to hear they give you freedom. 

Because you think wow a guy who’s that big, James Cameron or Peter Jackson, they’re going to have specific ‘you do this, don’t vary from my idea’. It’s wonderful to hear you say you have freedom.

Tom: Well I have been very blessed actually, to be honest, because I always get a lot of freedom. What usually happens with me is that they let me develop the initial concept of what the score is, the themes, the sound, and I make these really elaborate pieces that I sent to the directors and they give me feedback. 

What I usually would ask is ‘do you recognise your movie in this?’ and with one or two exceptions they embrace immediately the concept that I come up with. And so that’s what I mean by creative freedom. Now when it comes to actually scoring a cue to a scene, that’s where the director becomes very important in guiding you to what he’d like to see and what is important for him and what is not important for him. And like I said I’ve been very lucky to have been able to work with directors and studios who are very open minded and even if they were not happy with stuff they were always able to very easily let me see what they would like to hear there, and what was important in the storytelling. 

And because I really noticed that I liked films so much that I tried to make that transition into film from 2000 on or so, we can chat about that a little later, but what I really understand, from the beginning, was that if you are going to be good at this, you’ve got to be a filmmaker. You can’t just be the music guy. That’s very important. 

Host: You’ve just articulated what makes the greatest composers. And I learned this from someone I know you’ve worked with and we’ll talk about in a minute.

Check out the full pod cast, the ME discussion begins at the 34 minute mark. 

I like Shrike

shrike fan art by Ronaldo Santana

Here's a sweet fan art version of Mortal Engines favourite stalker, Shrike.

Designed by Ronaldo Santana, this version really captures the darkness of the character.

Some scars never heal - a great fan art poster of Mortal Engines

Sunday, August 5, 2018
Some scars never heal indeed.

This is the best poster I have seen thus far:

some scars never heal fan poster

Fine artwork design by mr.juandalf. Nice work!

Model of the 'Shield Wall' of Batmunkh Gompa

Tuesday, July 31, 2018
There's some real talent in NZ, and Graceybones proves it with her vision of the Shield Wall which protects Batmunkh Gompa!

shield wall model mortal engines

Graceybones had this to say on her project:

"Here is one of my finished projects from polytechnic last semester, it's a concept model I designed of the shield wall from the book Mortal engines. Built using laser cutting, 3D printing and kit bashing. Had a blast making it! The book is being made into a movie which is coming out in December, can't wait to see what their wall turns out looking ­čĄô I love this stuff! Can you tell?"

We sure can!

shield wall model for Mortal Engines

Ian McQue's draft version of the Mortal Engines cover is AMAZEBALLS

Thursday, July 26, 2018
Draft Mortal Engines book cover by Ian McQue

This is a DRAFT version of the new Mortal Engines book cover by Ian McQue. It is simply superb.

Ronan Rafferty chats about his role as Bevis in ME

Thursday, July 19, 2018
ronan raftery actor

Star on the rise Ronan Raferty has done an interview with MajorSpoilers as part of the promotional rounds for Mortal Engines.

Raferty plays Bevis Pod, a key supporting character that has a lot of heavy lifting to do with Katherine Valentine.

Here's a few quotes from the interview:

Can you talk a little bit about working with Christian Rivers, and what he, as a director, is like and how he’s helping you with your performance and how he’s shooting the movie?

RR: I love working with him. He’s very detailed, very well-prepared, but also quite flexible. He loves ideas in the moment from anybody. It doesn’t really matter. Wherever an idea comes from, if it works for what he’s trying to make it, then it goes in. If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.

But yeah, obviously, he comes from a more technical background, but he’s incredibly intuitive with every character’s emotional journey and with how actors work and with how the technical side works and how those two aspects of filmmaking have to come together perfectly to make a good film. He’s, I think, a brilliant leader from that perspective.

How closely involved is Peter Jackson and how have you been working with him?
RR: Peter is mostly working on second unit with stunts. So, as I said, I haven’t really gotten to that stage in my film, so I haven’t even been on set with him yet. Yeah, but we talk and he’s obviously one of the writers, so we talk about things like that. And he’s around. On main unit, he’s more of an offset presence on that. His influence is there, of course, but Christian is very much our director and everybody’s loving that.

But it’s great to have someone like Peter as a producer and as a writer, and on second unit, where all of the fun, big stuff that he has kind of made his name with. It’s great to have him on that side of things. I can’t wait. My first day with that is tomorrow, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Leila George mentioned that between Katherine and Bevis there’s kind of a realization about the class structure and how Bevis comes into it with a little more of a chip on his shoulder. How do they kind of learn from each other and cooperate despite that?

RR: Yeah. We do, at it from totally different perspectives, but she’s less aware, I think, at the start of the divisions between the class, and he’s hyperaware. So I mean the influences are there very quickly. Once they both realize that they’re both good people from two different worlds, those barriers, as in the real world, those barriers really do start to fall away.

It’s the only way to get through, to overcome any kind of prejudice is through communication. Absolutely. Yeah. I can’t talk about it because it’s so intuitive to us on set, but I think it’s their bond that allows them to see through each other’s past and the fact that they do become close quite quickly, which makes it not a big leap for us as actors to forget about a lot of that stuff and just begin to focus on the present.

Follow Ronan on Twitter

leila george
Leila George plays Katherine Valentine

Ian McQue's full cover of Night Flights

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
If you've been living under a disused traction wheel, you may gave missed that legendary concept designer and artist Ian McQue has recently drawn new covers for the first four Mortal Engines novels and the new shorty story collection about Anna Fang, Night Flights.

He has now released the full cover art in all its majesty!

night flights cover by Ian McQue

If you've seen the recent Han Solo movie or played Grand Theft Auto, you've probably seen some of Ian's work!

Philip Reeve explains the stories of Anna Fang in Night Flights

Thursday, July 5, 2018
anna fang drawn by ian mcque

Here's author Philip Reeve giving us the inside scoop on how the new short story collection Night Flights came to be - serving as a promotional tie-in for the forthcoming Mortal Engines movie, the novel gives the coolest character in the series a very strong back story.

Over to Philip:

The original idea was just to re-publish an existing story, Traction City, with a lot of new illustrations. But while I was in New Zealand last year I talked to Jihae, who plays Anna in the Mortal Engines movie, and it made me realise we need More Anna Fang. So I thought a group of stories about her, at different points in her life, might be a more interesting idea. It would have been nice to do five or ten, but I was busy writing Station Zero at the time, so I settled on three. 

Here’s a brief description of each. I’ve included some of Ian’s pictures, but only as thumbnails – you really need to see the book to appreciate them in their full glory.


The first of the triptych is the story of how Anna Fang escaped from the slave-holds of Arkangel by building her own airship. It’s a tale which was referenced several times in the Mortal Engines quartet: Anna mentions it to Tom in the first book, and we hear it from Stilton Kael’s point of view in Predator’s Gold. 

But both of them are unreliable narrators who have twisted the facts to reflect better on themselves (or maybe in Anna’s case just to cut a long story short). Now, for the first time, the truth can be told… I’d written and cut various versions of this from various books in the quartet, so it’s nice to find a home for it at last.


An earlier version of this story was published as Traction City, a World Book Day book in the UK back in 2011.  It’s been fairly heavily rewritten to place Anna at the centre of events. 

It’s set about twenty years before Mortal Engines, after Anna’s escape from Arkangel but before she joins up with the Anti-Traction League, and most of the action takes place aboard London, which is dragging itself over what’s left of the Alps in search of fresh prey on the plains of Italy. 

Little do most Londoners realise that they have picked up a very sinister stowaway…


In Mortal Engines, Anna mentions in passing one of her previous missions, to the island of Palau Penang. 

Palau Penang anna fangCombined with an idea that came up while Jeremy Levett and I were brainstorming predator towns for The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines, it sparked off this, the only completely new Mortal Engines story I’ve written since Scrivener’s Moon. Anna is older in this one, much closer to the Anna in Mortal Engines and an intelligence agent for the Anti-Traction League.

One of the problems of working up a throwaway remark into a full-length story is that it shows up the paucity of my original research. Is ‘Palau Penang’ meant to be modern-day Penang? I dunno – it was just the first name that sprang to mind when I was setting up a cheap’n’cheerful raisin/sultana joke, it never occurred to me that I’d be actually setting a story there twenty years later. 

After much fussing over atlases, I decided that it MIGHT be some much-altered future version of Penang and, equally, it MIGHT NOT. (Palau Penang means ‘the island of the areca nut palms’ I think, so it could well have been applied to another island by the time of Mortal Engines.) 

Wherever it is, Anna’s mission there leads her into dangerous waters and an unexpected alliance.


All these stories are – hopefully – linked seamlessly together by the conceit that they are incidents Anna remembers while stopping at Airhaven on her way west to investigate London’s mysterious movements on the night she first meets Tom and Hester. 

When I was writing Mortal Engines she seemed like an enormously important character, but once I’d trimmed the manuscript down into its final, published form she had surprisingly little page-time. I hope these stories will work on their own for people who may not know Mortal Engines, or know it only from the movie. 

But I also like to think of them as a sort of expansion pack, restoring some of the lost AF backstory which I lopped out twenty years ago. If you’re re-reading Mortal Engines you could try stopping when she first appears, reading Night Flights, and then carrying on, with a bit more of Anna’s background coloured in.

Order Night Flights from Amazon. It's out in the UK now, and North America in September.

Mortal Engines Cast and Crew featurette

Thursday, June 28, 2018

PJ and the crew including director Christian Rivers talk about how they made Mortal Engines in this promo featurette.

There's a little bit of extra footage in there that wasn't seen in the trailer.

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

Saturday, June 23, 2018

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
  • An aged McDonald’s sign
  • Skulls of a T-Rex and Triceratops
  • Skateboards
  • Washing machines
We presume the Whale makes an appearance...

Mortal Engines is actually littered with references to pop culture.

chudleigh pomery - mortal engines historian

Junkie XL confirmed to score Mortal Engines

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
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."

Philip Reeve discusses the influences on the Mortal Engines books

Monday, June 18, 2018
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?



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.

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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.

Leila George on 'Dog' not appearing in ME

Friday, June 8, 2018
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.

swim suit leila george bikini

Jackson understandably keen to make the Mortal Engines sequels

Thursday, June 7, 2018
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

Peter Jackson explains the choice for Hester Shaw's scar

Wednesday, June 6, 2018
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!

Ways the Mortal Engine movie is different from the book

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

How the film is different from the book

To get a movie of a book made and onto the silver screen, the narrative of the the plot more often than not needs to be changed.

This is for reasons of time, storytelling and pacing.

Because let's face it books and films are very different mediums and while people can get really upset that their favourite parts of their most favourite books don't get included in the movie, the reality is most changes are necessary.

Some characters get cut out of the script completely (Think Tom Bombadil in Lord of the Rings ) or two or more characters get morphed into one. Even whole endings can change, such as the Watchmen's Giant Squid ending being changed to Doctor Manhattan talking the fall.

Scriptwriters Philipa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson, having won an Oscar for their adaptation of The Return of the King, know a thing or two about taking original works and getting them up on the silver screen.

For instance the character of Faramir in The Two Towers had to be altered.

Here's what Boyens had to say about it:

"If you're trying to up the tension, you don't have your main characters captured by someone who sort of interrogates them, but, not really, who then offers them a cup of tea and says, 'I'll do anything I can to help you.' It's death on film. And it's not just the effect that the character out of the book has on Frodo and Sam's journey, it's the effect that character has on the Ring.

You've just been desperately trying to establish that this is the most evil thing ever created, it's tearing apart the mind of your main character, it's reduced this other character to this miserable creature Gollum, and now you come along someone who says, 'I would not touch this thing if it lay on the highway.' You've just stripped the Ring of all its power."

Which should demonstrate she knows what she's doing.

The movie of course retains plenty of similarities with the book and indeed we're sure that many an English teacher will ask her students to do an essay which compares and contrasts the two mediums. Hey kids!

And so it is with Mortal Engines that the movie had to change a few things in the book.

Here's a few of the key changes and why they were necessary.

Hester's facial scar change

Let's start with the most 'cosmetic' change.

Hester Shaw is not ugly!

In the book she is described as "" whereas the movie softens this dramatically. Yes, Hera Hilmar sports a scar but it's nothing so horrid as one can imagine that Hester wears.

She even has two working eyes!

Anna Fang

Anna Fang’s (played by Jihae) introduction is considerably more action-packed than the novel. She has considerably more on screen time in terms of her 'book pages' time.

Tunbridge Wheels

To help streamline the story into a cogent 2 hour film the pirate town and what happens to Hester and Tom is cut from the film.


Katherine Valentine's dog called DOG is not in the film.

Of gods and banana?

Look carefully for modern artifacts in the Museum and keep an eye out for the 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.

The characters are older than portrayed in the novel

What's that saying about making movies, never work with kids and animals? This big budget movie needs to appeal to a broad audience, and while the novel is Young Adult, Christian Rivers needed to make his movie appealing to a mass audience. So while Tom and Hester are young, the actors playing them are not.

Jackson said of this change "We've changed the book a bit in places. We've aged it up. The book is written for quite a young audience, to some degree, you know? And I just don't think anybody wants to see another teenage dystopian movie any time soon. So, it's one of the reasons why we've aged it sort of up, and we cast it a bit older. Tom and Hester in the book are younger... We had made it a little bit more adult."

Captain Khora and Nils Lindstrom 

The book has small roles for these two friends of Anna Fang yet they have been fleshed out in the movie to give Shrike more time to beat them up!

Magnus and Thaddeus

In the novel Magnus Chrome is the over arching bad guy where Valentine does his dirty work. It would seem that Hugo Weaving's character looms larger of the film than Magnus Chrome.

Guild symbols

It would seem the movie characters do not have their respective guild symbols permanently attached on their foreheads like they do in the novel. Instead it appears they show their demarcations by use of symbols on their clothing.

Other points of difference

  • Salthook was renamed Saltzhaken
  • Anna Fang does not have red teeth
  • The Guild tattoos that feature on the foreheads o each member have been replaced with badges on clothing.

Mortal Engines is not Mad Max, it's just mad, Max.

Did you enjoy the new Mad Max movie teaser that came out last week?

It had a giant city chasing a smaller, traction city?

The new one directed by Christian Rivers?

Well, according to so many people on Twitter, the new Mortal Engines is a bit like Mad Max.

And therefore is 'discount Mad Max' or 'it literally looks like such a rip of mad max'.

I presume this in in reference to Fury Road, which was a fabulous movie and a sumptuous CGI delight of trucks and cars trying to crush one another.

That said:

The Mad Max I know is a biker gang terrorizing Max's family.

The Mad Max I know is a gang led by a flamboyant gentleman called Humongous.

The Mad Max I know is all about a pig killer.

The Mad Max I know is about a one armed truck driver who can kick it with the worst of them.

These are great movies, all visionary in various ways.

They are not about giant cities that roam the Earth looking for resources.

And they certainly do not look like what we saw in the Mortal Engines teaser trailer.

But so many people seem to have commented that it is.

We honestly wonder why this is?

If they are referring to Mad Max Fury Road, this is Mad Max Fury Road:

Which frankly reminds me of this guy from Rogue One:

Sure there's a big chase going in Fury Road and there's one going on in Mortal Engines, so that must be it right?

Well if anything, that teaser is basically a remix mix of the opening 2 minutes of one of the greatest scientific films of all time, Star Wars.

You recall how that goes right? A giant massive Star Destroyer rolls down the screen and it takes what seems like forever to show the scale of the thing. We then see it is actually chasing a small ship. Which it eventually captures and draws into itself.

Which is basically the teaser!

So instead of saying Mortal Engines looks like Max Max, would it be better to bitch and gripe that it rips off the start of Star Wars?

The truth is that for most people of a certain age (young twitter users who comment on movie trailers) Mad Max Fury Road is possibly their only reference point to a post apocalyptic event movie.

I'd wager most of them have not seen the original Max Max trilogy for a start. They've probably never scene, The Road, The Postman, THX 1138, The Book of Eli, Water World, Escape from New York, 12 Monkies, The Quiet Earth, Zardoz, Cherry 2000, Judge Dredd (Stallone version) or Planet of the Apes.

One could argue that Mortal Engines looks a lot like some of those movies. 

Or Not.

I passed comment on Twitter about this matter as any rapid fan boy that is hugely protective of THEIR story is wont to do so:.

And none other than the writer of the novels, Philip Reeve chipped in with his views.

We still don't see but hey, if the book's author gets it, maybe I should just chill out and get back to over-thinking the fact that Hester Shaw has two eyes... or wondering about Howl's Moving Castle.....

We hope the movie is more 'Helm's Deep on wheels'.....

Any way's Christian Rivers has specifically said "We didn't want it to be post-apocalyptic dystopia," director Rivers told us. "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."

And if you want to read without a sense of irony (?) Philip Reeve actually wrote up a review of Mad Max: Fury Road !!

We're also amused to see that Junkie XL, who did the Mad Max score, is composing the same for ME.

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

christian rivers directing colin salmon

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 as a story board artist (it was re-titled to 'Dead Alive!' for American film viewers).

christian rivers director 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. 

Rivers was  eventually 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. Also did a turn as a soldier driving a truck in King Kong. We speculate that he will cameo again in Mortal Engines!

Christian Rivers' cameo in Lord of the Rings

↠ Easter eggs, facts and trivia from the making of the Mortal Engines movie

mortal engines london

Mortal Engines movie 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...
  • 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.
  • The first of Philip Reeve's novels to be turned into a movie.
  • 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.
  • Peter Jackson purchased the film rights from Philip Reeve in 2001 and has quietly worked on the movie ever since.
  • 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.
  • Produced by WingNut Films
  • Actress Hera Hilmar has been cast as Hester Shaw.
  • Singer Jihae is playing Anna Fang, a key figure of the Anti Traction League.
  • The trailer made its debut with The Last Jedi
  • The name of the movie comes from a line in William Shakespeare's Othello
  • 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.
  • The pin Chudleigh Pomery wears is the one that Bilbo Baggins wore in The Fellowship of the Rings.
  • Rivers deliberated 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."
  • Look carefully for modern artifacts in the Museum and keep an eye out for the 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.
  • 63 sets were built in Jackson's studio at Miramar, Wellington.These included the London Gut, Shrike’s workshop, Pomeroy’s museum, the slave market, and St. Paul’s Cathedral (in which MEDUSA is housed).
  • 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.
  • 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 start of the novel. 
  • 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.
  • The song Jihae sings in the first trailer is a cover of Vera Lynn's There'll Always Be An England.
  • The opening scene is striking similar to the opening of Star Wars: A New Hope.
  • 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. 
  • Liam Vogel is the official second unit director however Peter Jackson jumped in every so often. 
  • Noted Lord of the Rings concept designer John Howe worked on the movie. 
  • The legal entity of the production was a company called 'Squeaky Wheels'. We suspect this was the working name of the movie too. 
  • 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. 
  • The Shrike character name was inspired by Max Shreck from the Nosferatu film. When Reeve learned the film called 'Shrek' was coming out, he amended the name.
  • The opening chase of Salthook and London is closely modeled in concept on the opening of Star Wars.Salthook has been renamed Saltzhaken.
  • The electronic screens around London show wanted posters that features Peter Jackson’s face. This is presumably his cameo. 

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