How Mortal Engines became the new John Carter of Mars

Wednesday, December 19, 2018
why mortal engines bombed


Have you seen John Carter of Mars?

Did you see it at the theatre?

We didn't and frankly, we saw it only when it was on Netflix a while back.

And we loved it!

It was a fun movie, with a lot to like. It was great for me as I learned that the books it was based on by Edgar Rice Burrows were a huge influence on the first Star Wars.

Expectations were high yet it underperformed to those expectations. Ultimately Disney had to do a 200 million dollar write down, making it a financial disaster for them.

So that's the legacy of what is really quite an enjoyable film.

Now Player Two has entered the game.

Peter Jackson, money spinner for the studios, got his hands on the rights to Phil Reeve's Mortal Engines novel a decade ago and has quietly bided his time to get it made following the saga he went through making The Hobbit trilogy.

So, now we have the Peter Jackson produced, Christian Rivers directed film made by the same team that made King Kong, Lord of the Rings, the Lovely Bones and The Hobbit plus twenty years of experience doing visual effects for many Hollywood films.

Plenty of Oscar winners amongst them.

What could go wrong?

Well, Mortal Engines has tanked just like John Carter did.

So much so, given that it was a high profile effort like Disney that it will become just as infamous.

How did this occur?

There are several things that can go into this answer, most of it subjective.

The first is that starting a new franchise like this is a gamble. With great risk can come great reward and Universal Studios backed Peter Jackson to deliver them buckets of cash.

The risk in this case is there was not an already established and well baked in fan base.

Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit had been in popular culture for 50 odd years.

Transformers has been around since the early 80s.

So they will get bums on seats, pretty much no matter what.

You get the idea.

Mortal Engines?

It was a well-received novel which had a smallish but not worldwide fan base. Sure, it did well enough for Reeve to do three excellent sequels but the average Joe and Janette had probably not heard of it.

So convincing people to see a film about a book where a giant city roams a scorched Earth looking to eat other cities is a big task.

So let's hand over to the Marketing department.

One of the reasons the film failed was arguably it was marketed quite poorly. And if that's the case, the blame falls on Universal and not Peter Jackson.

While we praised it publically, the first Mortal Engines trailer was utter garbage. Other than showing how huge and daunting a prospect London is, it just * felt * bad. Something was off on it. There was a lot of exposition and it felt like it was Hunger Games, Twilight or a Maze Runner Clone.

Movies of which time and the audience have moved on from .

So, many people dismissed it off the bat.

At the time we felt there was too much focus on Hester and not enough on what we KNEW would be the drawcard, that of Stephan Lang's Shrike. On seeing that character's absence we knew they were holding Shrike back which we figured was a mistake based on what we were seeing.

When the second trailer came, Shrike was there, looking pretty menacing as a zombie-like Terminator.

However, the impact was lost.

Shrike should have been played up big time. The marketing could have been a play on the HUNT FOR HESTER by SHRIKE not some damn generic love story we'd seen before.

If PJ and company had not played it safe with Hester's scar, they made have had another way in. Would people have been curious to see a movie about a hideously scarred character?

hester scar comparison
What could have been and what was...
Maybe?

Either way, the generic Hester (played by a talented but basically no-name actress) was not enough to pull in viewers.

Nor was the talented Robbie Shehan as Tom.

Hugo Weaving is a talented actor and has appeared in many a popular film but is he actually a box office draw as a stand-alone actor?

I don't believe so.

Don't get me wrong, he's fantastic and did a great job as Thaddeus Valentine but people don't line up to see Hugo Waving films. They line up to see films he's in...

So basically I'm saying there was a lack of star power present in the marketing to draw the casual moviegoer into seeing the film, especially when they'd been presented a fairly uninspiring first trailer.

Arguably the second also gave away the film's plot... and it also featured some garbage about joining a 'rebellion'.

Hmmm, that sounds familiar...

Was this a Star Wars movie?

Actually, it turned out to be and it seems a lot of people had a problem with this...

Now let's just state at this point we loved the Mortal Engines film. We knew what it was going in so expectations were set.

Casual filmgoers were hooked on the promise of a "Peter Jackson" movie which in many minds probably meant they were supposed to see something as good as District 9 or Return of the King.

Sorry folks, you got ... Mortal Engines with some Star Wars plots thrown in.

And this for some reason upset a lot of people. It was criticized for borrowing ideas from a movie that famously borrowed ideas from many other movies.

Go figure, the film crowd is a fickle thing.

So of the movie? Critics hated it.

They savaged it.

But what of the people who saw the movie as movie goers? 

This is where the film suffers. It's a kind of love it or hate it film. This is based on my following of assessments of the film by people on Twitter for the last two weeks.

Interestingly, a lot of comment was of people who went in cold, with no expectations was they really enjoyed it.

That said, some people simply thought it was a turd.

And that's OK.

This does, however, add up to the movie having a lower positive word of mouth than other critically panned movies have had. Tom Hardy's Venom was trashed by critics yet it did wonders at the box office - fans loved it, so it had good word of mouth - an established fan base sure helped too.

So poor word of mouth will have harmed the movie's chances.

We sure tried our best.


The timing of the film's release was curious 


The release of Mortal Engines in early December seems smart for a Tent Pole Peter Jackson production.

Except it went up against what is probably one of the strongest December release schedules in many a year.

Aquaman, with a built in fan base featuring a hugely popular actor.

Bumblebee, built in fan base featuring a hugely popular actor.

Mary Poppins Returns, with a built in fan base featuring a hugely popular actress.

And SPIDER MAN!

So four films which many people will prefer to see over a film they have never really heard much about.

The studio will have known this, and recognised this 6 months ago yet they did nothing. This means they were accepting that the film would fail well before the final cut was done.

Think about that. 

All this adds up to a distinct box office failure which is a shame because, like John Carter, Mortal Engines is a fun film, that many people would likely have enjoyed if they had given it a shot.

Will there be a sequel? Given this film's failure to make bank, we can be fairly confident that the idea is as dead as London's engines.

5 ways the Mortal Engine film borrowed from Star Wars

Sunday, December 16, 2018

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 flys 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!

Will there be a Mortal Engines movie sequel?

Tuesday, December 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 and the movie has had a fair bit of praise, 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?

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.


-

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?

Review of Mortal Engines

Thursday, December 6, 2018
shrike mortal engines movie review

Review of Mortal Engines 


This review of the Mortal Engines film is long, over opinionated and full of unnessary concern about how The Last Jedi played out.

Deal with it.

Oh, and spoilers.

Making movies is a risky game of kind. For the studios, it's a numbers game. The successful movies fund and offset the duds. Sometimes you throw some celluloid at a wall to see what sticks.

But no movie is going to get a green light if it's a gonna be a dud on delivery.

So at the face of it, Mortal Engines being a love story set against the background of a post-apocalyptic Earth where some of the remaining humans live on giant traction cities that eat other for precious resources in some kind of zero-sum game called Municipal Darwinism perhaps does seems like it has dud potential (in the eyes of a risk adverse studio exec anyway).

Just throw that celluloid!

Anyways, Peter Jackson steps up to the plate along with his offsiders, Fran Walsh and Pippa Boyens so the royal they let him throw some celluloid.

I think this is a phrase I just made up. I'm copyrighting it just in case.

So anyways a trio from New Zealand that has more Oscars between them than most major Hollywood production teams stepped up.

And so, with a bit of American cash and some Kiwi splash, yet another Kiwi Oscar winner, Christian Rivers, was unleashed to direct the adaption of Reeve's YA novel.

And when the first trailer was released this author truly feared a dud was on the cards. We didn't say this publically (yeah, we know but wanted to support this film) but it looked like a cool idea with a wrong color palette that got zapped by a taser on acid.

Or something.

Details slowly came out which suggested promise and finally, we saw Shrike we were feeling a lot better about things.

Was a story about giant cities eating each other with Sir Peter Jackson's name splashed over it going to get a leg over the other hordes of films released this month (Mary Poppins, Aquaman, Bumblebee) or would it be a one and done?

For this reviewer, one who is closely attached to the books, the associated lore Reeve has built up through short stories and prequels and the fans, I can't quite bring myself rate it as a "That will do pig, that will do" but I can sneak in a "The battle of Helm's Deep is over; the battle for Middle Earth is about to begin."....

By that I mean, where's my damn sequel already?

I look at this film like I look at Transformers movie where giant robots kick each other in the head or giant Yeagar rise up out of the sea to kill everyone a la Pacific Rim. You accept it, buckle in for the ride and enjoy it for what it is.

Which is:

Some. 

Big. 

Dumb. 

Fun!

If you look at Mortal Engines as a concept any other way, you're probably going to end up feeling like the hordes of fan boys and girls who hated The Last Jedi.

Because this film is not about a box of err... Roses.

What are you looking at Dear Reader?

So after all these words, what of the damn movie?


It's probably the most spectacular train wreck of a movie that I've ever seen. And I saw the Transformers sequel twice.

THIS MEANS I LOVE IT!

That said, I'm pretty sure the haters are gonna hate, hate, hate, but the players...

The players will turn this major motion picture by a Hollywood studio into a cult film.

I'm certain there will be legions of book readers out there who have turned each page with fear and trepidation as to what would befall Tom and Hester next, who will want to see what it looks like when London calls and when they do, their mortal hearts will be happy.

So what of the movie then?

The Love Story


The story of Mortal Engines is often pitched as a Young Adult love story (of an inverse kind) but this movie has aged the characters into their mid-twenties so the love story that evolves is more natural in a sense but it certainly feels like Tom Natsworthy and Hera Hilamr didn't stay up all night together drinking Steinlager and working on their characters before they began rolling film.

Or pressing play on the record button or however they do it these days.

Both are clearly excellent actors but the relationship feels stilted (even despite the plot point of it)  - that's presumably what happens when you change the character dynamic of Hester by not making her the ugliest girl on any traction city... They sure took the feral out of that girl.

But by the ending of the movie, it's a believable enough relationship and leaves that nonsense with Rose saving Finn at the end of The Last Jedi in the sands of Crait...

The Heroes


You know how in Stranger Things, the guy that sings Sledgehammer sung Heroes by David Bowie?

That should be Anna Fang's theme song. Despite some hokey one-liners, the casting of Jihae is a triumph of the film.

In the novel, Fang was inspired by Han Solo from Star Wars and in this film, she treads those boards as a badass so well, she may as well star in the next couple of prequels...

Time will tell on that.

There's many a supporting player in ME that can be classed as a hero too.

Chudleigh Pomery (superbly played by Colin Salmon)

Yasmina

Captain Khora


Nihls, oh Nihls.

All just great characters and well played by the actors.

They all have a chance to shine and do so very well - indeed Fang's Anti-traction league team are possibly one of the most underrated crews to have flown in an airship in recent times.

Anna Fang, naturally gets a special mention in dispatches all of her own


In the novel, Anna Fang is a mysterious bad ass.

Sensing a fine character in the making, Peter Jackson kept her as less mysterious but upped the ante in the bass add department.

The character is great fun.

It was wonderful to see the books' Jenny Hanniver come to life. Piloted by Fang, the airship is a central part of all four original novels so it was great to see it in action, even if it's now powered to be as fast and deadly as an F14 Tomcat.

Jiahe's delivery of a few lines is pretty loose (which heads into Star Wars' I hate sand territory) but if you can get past that, you'll see Anna Fang is one of the hearts of the movie that pumps along quite nicely, especially with a triple powered shotgun in hand...

magnus chrome and valentine mortal engines


The Villains


Mrrrrr Anderrrrsooon.

That was my proper introduction to Hugo Weaving as the Agent in The Matrix.

A Lord of the Rings alumni, Peter Jackson and team clearly love working with the man and why wouldn't you want to when he can turn on a dime as Elrond or Agent Smith and become this horrible, horrible man.

Have you seen The Lovely Bones where Transformers alumni Stanley Tucci plays a horrible child killer? Every scene with Tucch was in felt like I was being violated by the mere force of his acting.

Weaving does the same thing here.

He's a fucking psycho yet he doesn't even know it. He thinks that he is the good guy in all of this.

Sure, he knows he's cut a few corners here and there or the odd young girl's faces or murdered his lover to get where he's going but he's done it all for London.

So it's OK then, you see?

Magnus Chrome, Mayor London. 

I expected good things but this was a kind of a by the numbers caricature of the character in a way.

Patrick Malahides's Chrome didn't feel like he was as dangerous as he did in the novel and the plot point change for this character doesn't help, but makes for a good movie.



mortal engines shrike green eyes

Shrike

Did you know a shrike is a bird that impales captured insects on cactus thorns? It's very helpful if you know this going into the film...

When you ask a man with the gravitas of Stephan Lang to play Shrike, you hope that this is a casting that will flow on perfectly into the sequel films...

And it is.

Shrike is perfectly played by Lang.

Judging from interviews with him prior to the film's release, he really got into the lore of the character (we suspect he read ALL the novels) and put his achting heart into a character that in many ways literally and figuratively has no heart (or does he?!)

Lang's green-eyed version of The Terminator is a chilling representation of what could be humanity's future: an embryonic cyborg where feelings might matter, but killing is a preference. Make no mistake though, this character is not a retread of a classic 1980's robot killer, it's a whole new take on love, which the film's ending sequences slowly reveal in a most poignant manner. It's like Peter Jackson has read the books or something...

I loved the look and feel of the character and the action sequences that featured Shrike are just bang on the money, and reason enough to see the film alone.

What about the look and feel of the movie?


Being a Peter Jackson produced film where all the elements of his empire in Miramar, Wellington, NZ have been brought to bear, you'd expect this film to be a CGI gore fest.

And yes it is just that, but frankly, that's probably why PJ wanted to do this movie as there has never been ANYTHING like this on screen before (Can all those people talking about Howl's Moving Castle now please quietly shuffle along?).

This movie's effects are arguably the best that Weta Digital have ever produced. I'm not an expert at all but I suspect they are certainly some of the most complicated, apes aside.

Let's talk London.

When London is framed as a hulking metal mass, the angles are so menacing. When starring up at the screen in the opening chase, I felt like I was about to get squashed by the damn thing.

How do you show and project a city that's 2.5 kilometers long chasing a smaller traction city? This is not Darth Vader's Executor ship in Empire that just sittings unmoving in space, this city needs contrast around it as otherwise how will you believe what you are seeing?

And: Holy Cow Batman >> when that city rolled by as I sat in my seat, I truly felt I was about to be monstered by 100000 tonnes of cold British Steel.

So, it looks great.

Shrike as a CGI motion capture is some fine work and gosh, the ending where the Medusa weapon comes alive is just magical.

Airhaven was a visual spectacle and seems like a fun place to hang out, despite it being a little too easy for robot assassins to turn up and try and kill everybody.

The soundtrack


The music of Mortal Engines is composed by Tom Holkenborg and it is simply superb. One of the things that has infuriated me about the development of Mortal Engines is the comparisons people make to Mad Max: Fury Road.

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

But they do now share a composer.

Holkenborg is clearly one talented composer. The film soars with his music as it needs and there's some crucial, heart breaking moments in the film where it feels like his music is the thing that is turning the dagger in one's heart.

So what's bad about it?


If we're to get critical for a moment, and remember, we are accepting this movie as just some big dumb fun!, the acting is pretty clunky in parts - have a think to some of the early Star Wars films and you're on the mark. Indeed, the film has some key plot points from Star Wars.

Some of Anna Fang's revelatory speech to Hester is a bit OTT

There's also several plot points that have been changed which have some drastic effects on the story - so much so that in the film premiere the author Philip Reeve had to pause to figure out what was happening.

This is basically to say, Mortal Engines the movie has a very different ending than the book, but it works, even if it sneaks a moment which allows Tom Natsworthy to pull a Lando Calrissian move out of the Return of the Jedi playbook cross with a bit of The Guns of Navarone.

Katherine Valentine - well played as a character but went simplynowheree in terms of plot, like you could cut the character (and Bevis) and have no consequnce to the ending of the movie, which is completely different to the ending of the novel. 

If you've followed this site, you'll know we lamented that Hester's scar was toned down from 11 to 4. We got over it and enjoyed Hera Hilmar's version of Hester for what it is. FUN. Not FERAL. FUN.

The verdict?

Mortal Engines is a fun ride, a visual treat to enjoy while you eat overpriced popcorn.

We rate it a strong 7.5 out of 10.

It features a lot of talent on screen and behind it. While it differs from the book in many ways, this feels like the best version of the world of Mortal Engines that we ever could expect to see on the silver screen. 

Christian Rivers has done a fine job on his first gig as director and should be commended for making a decent BIG DUMB FUN! film. 

Sadly it appears the movie is a box office flop, on the level of John Carter of Mars.

The Sheehab interviews Philip Reeve about his thoughts on the Mortal Engines film

Friday, November 30, 2018

Republished with the kind permission of The Sheehab, who are undoubtably & indisputably Robert Sheehan's best and biggest fans!

The Sheehab talks to the Mortal Engines Author Philip Reeve-Take Two


Last March Philip Reeve very kindly talked to us about his Mortal Engines books and his hopes for the film. We asked him at the time if he would talk to us again after he saw the film with whatever non-spoilery thoughts he could share. Thanks to Philip for sparing the time so soon after the premiere to answer our questions again.

How was the premiere and how did you feel seeing your book transferred to film?

PR: It was very fancy and on a huge screen - the IMAX screen at Cineworld, Leicester Square, so it was quite overwhelming.

Everyone looked extremely smart at the premiere, did you enjoy the evening?

PR: I was a bit nervous tbh, it’s not really my type of thing.

Hear you saw Mortal Engines twice. Do you think everyone should see it more than once?

PR: The first time was at the Premiere - it was on a massive screen & very spectacular,but I was slightly distracted by tracking the changes they’d made to the story world - it’s like an alternate universe Mortal Engines. I enjoyed it though!

On my second viewing I was able to ignore that and focus more on the details and the nuances, so think I liked it more. I spotted my cameo too, my son and I share the screen with Robbie (for about 0.5 seconds!).It was on a smaller screen, but it had Dolby Atmos sound which made me aware of how good the music and sound design is. Of course, everyone should see it as many times as possible.

You particularly mentioned Robert & Hera, Jihae and Stephen Lang as stand-outs in the film.They all seemed genuinely thrilled with the film and the story.That must be gratifying?

PR: Yes, I mean they are actors and I guess being excited about the project in Press Week is part of the job, but there does seem to be a genuine family feeling among the cast, I think they really bonded down in Wellington

Rob said in an interview that he thought he now knew who Tom Natsworthy was based on. Do you see much of yourself in Tom?

PR: Did he? I don’t know- Tom is just meant to be an ordinary person who’s caught up in the middle of this wild adventure with all these strange, extreme characters.I suppose I was imagining how I’d react in those situations,so there must be a bit of me in him.But there’s a bit of me in the others too, especially Hester.

Obviously we are all hoping for sequels to the film. If you had to summarise the film in a few words to encourage people to see it, what would you say?

PR: It’s a huge and exciting new world, lots of exciting action, but it has a heart, it’s surprisingly moving. Christian Rivers and his team have done an amazing job.

If you had to sum up your response to the film in one word what would it be?

PR: Phew!

Apart from the fact that Tom and Hester have been ‘aged up’ do you think Rob and Hera are good representatives of your Tom and Hester? Did you talk to them about their characters when you first met them on set?

PR: They’d already been shooting for about a month when I visited, so I think they knew their characters pretty well. The ‘ageing up’ doesn’t bother me at all- it’s their status that defines them, not their age, and that hasn’t changed. Tom’s still a lowly apprentice, Hester’s an outcast. They’re not the characters from the book and I wouldn’t expect them to be, but there are plenty of similarities.

Robbie is much more attractive than book-Tom, both in looks and personality, but he still managed to capture Tom’s awkwardness, and he’s very funny at times-little physical moments, a sort of earnestness.

There’s a bit where he puts himself between Hester and another character and says ‘I’ll handle this’ which is just perfect- because we know that a) he can’t handle it and b) Hester’s perfectly capable of looking after herself. He’s very loveable.

Two more things, when did you first fall in love with writing and would you be up for a cameo again in a sequel?

PR: I guess I was 6 or 7 when I first fell in love with writing. And yes, I’d do another cameo- I’m holding out for a full second next time!

Thanks to Philip Reeve for taking the time to talk to us again. Please go and see the film as many times as you like and remember he has several other books in the Mortal Engines series available to buy.

Philip Reeve enjoyed the movie of his book!


Which is great because imagine how one would feel if one hated it! And trust us, there's a tired road of book authors who hated what Hollywood did to their movies... so this is great news.

Here's what Reeve had to say of Christian River's version of Mortal Engines.

"Well, it IS. Christian, writer/producers Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and the rest of the (huge) team have done a fantastic job. They’ve made a lot of changes to the world, characters, and themes of the book, (and the weather is nicer) but it’s still basically the same story.

The opening twenty minutes or so are essentially what I wrote all those years ago, and even when it takes its own path later on there are lots of moments and images which come straight from the book (like the valley littered with smashed cities in front of the Shield Wall, and the glorious vertical city on its far side). 

All the sets and costumes seem to have been designed by people who know the books at least as well as I do. The effects are, as you’d expect, utterly convincing.

The film has a kind of family resemblance to The Lord of the Rings movies, as you’d expect, but it’s shorter than any of those (about two hours, plus credits). It reminded me of the original Star Wars too (no surprise there, the opening models ANH and Anna Fang is based on Han Solo - ED). 

It’s tremendously well paced; intense action sequences come at you pretty regularly but don’t hang around long enough to outstay their welcome, and they’re punctuated by quieter bits which are often surprisingly affecting.

That’s partly thanks to the actors, who are amazingly good. Robbie Sheehan is much more attractive and good-looking than Tom is in the book, so I hadn’t expected much resemblance, but somehow he still manages to suggest a bit of Tom’s well-meaning uselessness – there are some lovely bits where he manfully tries to put himself between Hester and danger, as if Hera Hilmar’s fierce, competent Hester needs his help. 

Everything Jihae does as Anna Fang is perfect. 

My only worry about Stephen Lang’s Shrike is that he might be too scary: he’s terrifying at times, but the flashbacks to Hester’s childhood are beautiful (and the fact that he does the opening narration is a cute touch for anyone who’s read all the way to the end of A Darkling Plain).

Hugo Weaving is great as a more villainous Valentine, Leila George and Ronan Raftery make a glamorous Katherine and a smouldering, non-bald Bevis. Colin Salmon is a great Chudleigh Pomeroy, Patrick Malahide is pure patrician class as Crome, and Sophie Cox makes a very chipper Clytie Potts.

Regé Jean Page, Menik Gooneratne, Frankie Adams, Leifur Sigurdarson are the gang of aviators we watched at work in the Gasbag & Gondola when I visited the set last year: the long days of filming have yielded only a few minutes of screen time, but they still manage to impress. I wish we saw more of them, but then I wish we saw more of all these characters – fingers crossed for some sequels.

Inevitably lots of scenes and characters from my version get left out completely, or reduced to a passing mention, but hopefully the film will send lots of people to the books, and they can find them there."

Having observed Mr Reeve in action of the last few years, we know he is absolutely genuine in his online dealings so what here's saying here is all his real views and not spin for the sake of promoting the movie. 

Reeve's working partner Sarah McIntyre, had a great time at the London Premiere!

That should go straight to the pool room!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018
mortal engines ticket signed by peter jackson


Lucky biamino7 got to attended the London Mortal Engines premiere tonight - and got her ticket stamped by NZ's favourite Hobbit, Sir Peter Jackson!

11 reasons why Mortal Engines could suck

Friday, November 23, 2018

If we're being honest with ourselves there's a few things that could go wrong with Mortal Engines. 


There's a lot of factors and variables why the movie could suck. I've put together a list of the possisble reasons why:

  • The pop corn could be quite expensive
  • Someone next to you could fart excessively and often
  • It's too loud
  • You go blind at its majesty
  • You have a heart attack
  • You get caught sneaking in MacDonalds
  • You have to take your mother in law
  • The movie projector stops working
  • It rains on the way to the theatre and you get your hair a little wet
  • The trailers go on a bit too long
  • You eat your expensive pop corn too quickly

Those who have seen Mortal Engines say it's epic!!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

mortal engines poster
There's been some nervous fans, sifting through the tea leaves trying to figure out if Mortal Engines will be any good.

This fear of failure was because the first trailer was a bit hokey and come across as a Young Adult film like Twilight or The Maze Runner.

Adapting a crazy book about giant cities roving the country side eating each other is a bit of a gamble in Hollywood so it's pleasing to see that early exit reports of those leaving preview showings of the film are very positive.

Here's what some lucky folks who have seen the film in previews have to say:

Richard Hill, a featured extra saw it with the Weta crew:

"I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of Mortal Engines today. It was epic, vast and very cool. It does not disappoint. See it in a good cinema, you'll be pleased you did!"

Dane Illfield got to see it in Sydney:

" But in short: the film is fantastic. It has a strong emotional core to back up the extraordinary visuals and cinematography. I'd also say it's the most original and creative film released this year"

Magnificant Giraffe posted on Reddit:

"I was really impressed with the movie. its pretty much a fantasy version of the Star Wars OT in terms of story yet i wasn't bored. the screenplay isn't brilliant but it was serviceable. the visual effects are incredible, when they fire the super weapon at the end it blew me away. All the Air battles were awesome too.

Overall id give it a 7.5/10, i'm really surprised by it and it should be seen purely for the visual effects (although the plot and character did interest me)"

Sonya chipped in on Twitter:

"Had a great night at Sydney premier of #MortalEngines last night- an epic ride!"

Henry had a diss at the advertising because he enjoyed it:

"Saw mortal engines and it is really good, the advertising does it a great disservice. Well worth a watch!"

Greg also thinks it's epic:

"So privileged to have seen the pre-screening of #MortalEngines and a very subtle homage to Bowie I slipped in there. Such an EPIC film - can't wait to see it again."

I've also read that Shrike is too scary for kids so that sounds great! I have not seen a bad word about said about the film by anyone who has seen it!

Sounds like everything is coming up Millhouse!

Why Stephen Fry should play Professor Pennyroyal in the Mortal Engines sequel

Monday, November 19, 2018
stephen fry gosford park

If you take the Mortal Engines novel as a singular book, it is a grand adventure set literally on the tracks of giant traction citites.

It sets up a world of wonder and opened up a realm of possibilties for future story telling and the success of Mortal Engines led to Philip Reeve being able to write a sequel, Predator's Gold

That book, steps up the action, steps up the pain and steps up the comedy gold with the introduction of Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal. 

On paper, this character is a cliched sterotype that any seasonsed reader can see a mile off. Except Reeve managed to imbue Pennyroyal with such a nagging charm that the character feels wholly real. 

Pennyroyal is a player, a book writer who talls tall tales about his adventures around the world. He makes himself out to be the hero when he's a coward. He makes himself out to be a the man of the world and in a fake-it-till-you-make-it style of living, he's been painting the town red. 

So should the Mortal Engines film be hit a genuine hit and give rise to a sequel, it would seem only natural that the good Professor should have a role to play. 

But who could capture this fellow? 

Enter Stephen Fry. 

Stephen Fry is a marvel. A national treasure in the UK, he's a sucessful writer, actor and all round good guy

And he would be perfect. 

He's got the charm, the confidence and the talent to play the part.

Did you ever see Fry as the dectective in Gosford Park? He was brilliant as the dectective with an ego writing cheques he his ego could never cash. 

If Fry channelled those instincts into Pennyroyal, the character would come to life.

The beauty of this casting suggestion is that Fry has an existing working relationship with Peter Jackon. He featured in two Hobbit films and wrote the script for the as yet unrealised remake of The Dam Busters. 

Peter Jackson loves to surround himself with talent he's used before (see Hugo Weaving as Valentine and all the LOTR films) so if he's fond of a fry up, Stephen is his Professor.

As a fun aside, check out our April Fool's hoax involving Pennyroyal.

TV promo spots for Mortal Engines are so hot, 'they're playing with fire'


Several televisison spots have been released to promote Mortal Engines.

We lead with Valentine suggesting the kids are 'playing with fire'.



This second one features a line change where Hester has a turn:



This third one features Sir Peter Jackson waxing lyrical over the movie:



Personally we feel the marketing should focuss very heavily on Shrike as many punters are starting to see this as a boring old youth love story.


Actor Richard Mills says Mortal Engines is 'epic, vast and very cool'

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Wellington actor Richard Mills had a fair bit of time on the set of Mortal Engines as an extra.

Based on his post to the Mortal Engines is a work of genius Facebook group, it appears the cast and crew have had a screening just for them:

Mills said in a soundbite review: "I was lucky enough to see an advance screening of Mortal Engines today. It was epic, vast and very cool. It does not disappoint. See it in a good cinema, you'll be pleased you did!"

Looks like everything is coming up Milhouse!

Have you seen this woman?

Friday, November 16, 2018
hester shaw wanted poster

Looks like the city of London has an issue with Hester Shaw!

Poster supplied by the official Mortal Engines Facebook page when you take part in the game with the mysterious Antonia Critt.

Philip Reeve - 'The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines'

Wednesday, November 14, 2018
the illustrated world of mortal engines

As a tie-in of sorts to the Mortal Engines movie, author Philip Reeve has published 'The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines'.

This work is to a super-dooper rework of The Traction Codex which was published some years ago as an e-book with collaborator Jeremy Levett. Levett is back again for this more comprehensive exploration of the world of traction cities. 

Reeve said of the work:

"With the Mortal Engines movie looming, it seemed a good opportunity to revise and expand the old Mortal Engines Codex, which had a very patchy e-book release a few years ago.

Jeremy Levett knows far more about history and technology than I ever will, and he’s come up with an impressively plausible account of the centuries which separate the Fever Crumb books from the beginning of Mortal Engines, as well as lots of extra details about the cities, airships and characters who inhabit the books. 

There are glimpses of what the Traction era means for Australia, South America, and other bits of the world my stories never managed to encompass.

The book features the artwork of many well-known concept art designers including Ian McQue who recently redid all the covers for the original book series, David Wyatt and Amir Zand.

Jeremy Levett did an Ask Me Anything Session on Reddit about the guide.

it's important to note this work expands on the canon of the novels and does not necessarily tie into the movie version of the original book.

Here are some images from the book:

David Wyatt's version of Air Haven:

david whyatt airhaven concept art

Amir Zand's effort at a predator city:

amir zand predator city




The artwork above is some concept work that Ian did when he was inspired by the Mortal Engines book AND seemingly before he had a working relationship with Philip Reeve! I like how life works out!

Order your copy from Amazon now!

Moving Cities featurette reveals Magnus Chrome

Tuesday, November 13, 2018
magnus chrome mayor london

One month to go till the release of Mortal Engines and the featurettes are popping up like Pokemon.

Gotta catch 'em all so here's the Moving Cities featurette, with a first look at Magnus Chrome, the mayor of London.

Chrome is played by Patrick Malahide.



"Run it down!"

Anna Fang's 'in movie' wanted poster is from ... the movie

Saturday, November 10, 2018
If you've spied that the Mortal Engines marketing has tracked up a notch, you'd be right and you may have seen this shot of Palt's Yard Dairy which supplies the city of London with cheese derived from algae.

palt's yard dairy mortal engines


Check out the picture of the wanted picture of Anna Fang on the video screen on the top right. Anna Fang is a spy and leader in the Anti Traction League and if you've read Night Flights or the original novel, you'll know she's no friend of London.

So having a wanted video of Anna Fang all makes sense.

What makes little sense is that the shot of Anna appears to be from within the actual movie, not at a time in the past.

See, here's a movie shot of Anna as played by Jihae:

anna fang played by jihae mortal engines

It would seem a shot similar to this has been used by the production team for the Palt's Dairy warning sign - however, it's of Anna in 'movie real time' - presumably, the shot was supposed to be a warning for people prior to the events of the movie. Thus it's kind of an anachronism.

I could be wrong, Anna could stand around all day on London for pictures wearing the same coat with the collar in the same position against her neck, the same undergarment, and same glasses every time she visits London...

Or of course it could be a real time warning but where's the fun in that... we also know Anna often wears a red coat...

How the opening of the Mortal Engines film is basically the start of Star Wars

When I was a young lad my dad brought home a copy of a film called Star Wars.

I knew nothing about this movie and I had no idea what I was about to see.

As you probably know, the film famously starts with a chase. Darth Vader's Star Destroyer is chasing Princess Leia's Tantive IV in a bid to regain the plans to the Death Star.

It was amazing and left a lasting impression on myself and many a viewer due to the size of what was been shown - the ship was massive in comparison to the smaller ship.

I could not help notice how director Christian Rivers appears to have made an homage or reference to Stars Wars in the Mortal Engines trailer. We, of course, are assuming the trailer is the start of the movie, based on the first page of the book (and its famous first line)

Here's how the Star Wars opening plays out:






The trailer for Mortal Engines is also a chase, one that mirrors the iconic Star Wars start in that the traction city of Salthook is framed by itself, wheels blazing just like the lonely Tantive IV.

Then, the city of London, slowly but surely comes into screen, showing that the chase is on, consuming the entire screen, just as it wants to consume Salthook.








Sure there are some differences between the ME film trailer and the opening of Star Wars such as the two eyed Hester Shaw inter-cuts but the concept and referencing or homage is absolutely there!

Mortal Engines itself is no stranger to Star Wars - the character of Anna Fang was in part inspired by by Han Solo! 

New York and its portable liberty...

Monday, October 29, 2018
In the Mortal Engines novels, America is referred to as the Dead Continent, suggesting there was little there of interest.

But what if New York survived the Sixty Minute War?


This art reminicent of Mortal Engines was made by the talented Longque Chan.

Stephen Lang suggests Mortal Engines will be a trilogy rather than four films

Sunday, October 28, 2018
stephen lang actor from mortal engines

Peter Jackson and company have made it very clear they hope that with the launch of the Mortal Engines film they are creating a new franchise.

For this to occur, the film needs a big opening, so when online tickets open up, buy too eh?

We have wondered how the sequels would be approached. The last two books are arguably one great big story. And the last book could arguable be broken into two films.



So what's the deal?

Stephen Land, who's playing Shrike, seems to know.

Currently promoting his famed one man show called, Beyond Glory, Lang spoke briefly of the movie:

"This is a sci-fi film that’s created a unique world from four books by Philip Reeve that will be three movies."

So that's that, three movies is the intention.

I personal had wondered if they could skip Predator's Gold and go straight onto Infernal Devices but the reality is there is so much set up in Predator's Gold, they'd need to do most of it if the last arc of the story is to play out well.

Either way, that last film will need to be four hours long!

Truth is, if this thing turns out to be a juggernaught like Harry Potter, anything could happen.

David Wyatt's concept art from The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines

13th elevator airship concept art

Concept design of Mortal Engines by David Wyatt


You may have heard the Philip Reeve has released The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines as a tie-in to celebrate the release of the film. Written in conjunction with Jeremy Levett, the book features concept art by several artists such as Amir Zand and Ian McQue

Featured here though is the work of David Wyatt.

Wyatt has had a long relationship with Philip Reeve and Mortal Engines having designed a many of the book covers for reprints and the prequels. 

Above is his impression of Thaddues Valentine's airship, the 13th Elevator. 

And his impression of Airhaven feels delightfully orderly!

arhaven concept art by david wyatt

amazen david wyatt mortal engines

Finally a real treat from Fever Crumb, the Cloutie Tree

 Cloutie Tree fever crumb

This art is quite different from the movie's look and feel.

Fantastic Mortal Engines cosplay costumes

Wednesday, October 24, 2018
Hester Shaw costume cosplay from Mortal Engines book

Mortal Engines movie and book Cosplay Costumes


Let's face it, while Mortal Engines was a book, there wasn't much cosplay of the amazing characters that come from the book. There didn't seem to be too many Ana Fangs running around the Comic Conventions or monstrous Shrikes lurking in dark corridors.

That said, there was this pretty awesome version of Shrike which comes from a very cool short film.

Shrike Mortal Engines cosplay costume

Cosplay inspired by the Mortal Engines book and movie


But now that Mortal Engines is a movie and the characters have been visually brought to life, cosplayers now have something to focus and get into.

Everyone loves Hester Shaw cosplay! Check out this extreme facial scarring!

hester shaw face scar make up

Hester Shaw with an awesome scar across the face


scarrred hester shaw cosplay costume

Another fine Hester

hester shaw cosplay costume

Kids seem to love dressing up as Hester!

hester scar cosplay
 

Shrike cosplay 


While the great Stephen Lang plays Mr Shrike, this lasses' mum made a wonderful Shrike costume. Mum AKA Sarah, said that she made the costume for her daughter to celebrate World Book Day!  and that "This costume was bought with great pain, I can tell you."

shrike cosplay from Mortal Engines

Indeed, here's the building of the costume which the Sarah said "This #WorldBookDay costume is a complete bitch to make." Amused to see that bottle of Gorilla Glue!

making the shrike costume

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