News, views, quotes and trivia about Philip Reeve's 'Mortal Engines' books and the making of Peter Jackson movie production.

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Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mortal Engines Cast and Crew featurette


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.


Saturday, June 23, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Junkie XL confirmed to score Mortal Engines

junkie xl - tom holkenborg -mortalengines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His next big release is Battle Ange Alita.

And what of the name?

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

Monday, June 18, 2018

Philip Reeve discusses the influences on the Mortal Engines books

valentine kills anna fang drawing

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

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

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

Crow-Caller kicked the Reevening 2 off with:

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


Good question...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmmm...

Yes!

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

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

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

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 8, 2018

Leila George on 'Dog' not appearing in ME

white wolf

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

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

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

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

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

swim suit leila george bikini

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Jackson understandably keen to make the Mortal Engines sequels

hera hilmar as hester shaw

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Peter Jackson explains the choice for Hester Shaw's scar

hester's movie scar face

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

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

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

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

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

Classic fans.

And this is the telling bit:

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

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

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

And that seems pretty fair.

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

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

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

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

Director Christian Rivers chipped in too:

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

And that too, seems pretty fair.

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Ways the Mortal Engine movie is different from the book



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.

Dog

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 !!

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. 

Some scars never heal

mortal engines poster red scarf

This is the first official poster for the Mortal Engines film. To my mind, this isn't the way to attract bums on seats. Only book readers will know what this means and have an affinity with it. 

That said, there will be plenty more posters to come...

Mortal Engines trailer revealed

mortal engines trailer released

The second Mortal Engines trailer has been released:



If you thought the first trailer was bonkers enough, director Christian Rivers has open up the gears with this effort.

A slew of characters and scenes are introduced.

We finally get to see what Hester Shaw (scarred but not hideous) and Tom Natsworthy (dreamboat) look like.

Anna Fang takes a turn in her red coat and we get an inkling of an idea just how evil Valentine may turn out be.

The real star of the piece is the hulking beast of London City. There has truly never been anything like it on screen before and now I hope those lame references to Howl's Moving Castle and Mad Max can finally be rested.

If you weren't in the know, Mortal Engines is the first novel in a series of stories about these giant mechanized cities. Check it out on Book Depository, or Amazon.


Hester Shaw (or how I learnt to love her without a grotesque scar)

Spoilers about the film and book below.

Many ME fans speculated that Hester Shaw would not have her horrific scar in the Mortal Engines movie.

When the first trailer came out, we were nervous as even though Hester had a red scarf covering her face and she had two eyes (also why does she have a red scarf before he meets Tom? He gave it to her ...)

Many fans thought it was a key thing about the character, indeed it kind of turned a cliche about the heroine always being quite pretty on its head. 

Turns out, Hester's scar 'tis just but a scratch' compared to how it's described in the novel.

Author Philip Reeve who created the character was quite clear on her scarification when he said:

"But it struck me that people who live by their wits in wastelands tend not to be that glamorous or good looking, and who cares about beautiful people anyway?
So I decided right from the start to make Hester ugly, and I liked the idea that the hero would slowly fall in love with her anyway, which is far more interesting than having two gorgeous people seeing each other across a crowded room and falling in love.

Then it seemed to make sense to give Hester a scar, which she's received at the hands of the villain, so there's her initial motivation - revenge - right there on her face; she's like Captain Ahab with his missing leg!"

Hester Shaw became quite the iconic if not a cult figure for those that love the Mortal Engines series. 

I love her for the simple reason she killed a man with a typewriter in Infernal Devices. 

But, there's money to be made with a Peter Jackson produced Mortal Engines movie, and you can't sell a big Hollywood film with an ugly woman. 

You apparently just can't even though Charlize Theron won an Oscar for playing an ugly serial killer in Monster. 

So enter Hera Hilmar, an apparently lovely lass and an actress deemed worthy of playing Hester Shaw (no mention on Twitter about her typewriting skills though).

So Christian Rivers and PJ have sat down and gone, we can't make bank with our lead looking like Aileen Wournous, we need some eye candy aye? So what if we toned down that scar? 

And the producers started laughing all the way to their bank. 


And the fan boys and fan girls went, 'you gone fucked up PJ' (literally, I saw that on twitter somewhere).

Sure I've tweeted some of that sentiment and wondered about what could have been but then I was sitting down with a nice hoppy beer after emptying the dishwasher, folding some towels and I thought, why does a scar really matter?

I mean really?

Hester has a million reasons to hate herself, a scar is but one.

If the idea of Hester's character is that she is 'broken' then it doesn't matter how she looks, what matters is how the movie sets up how she feels. I think I 'd be pretty pissed if my parents had both been murdered and I then had to spend my formative years being raised by a kind of zombie robot called Shrike that used to be a man who has hands for knives. 

That's reason enough to be the unhappy, moody and even murderous Hester Shaw. 

Surely?

So, this Mortal Engines fan has to get with the program and simply accept that Hester will not have a grotesque scar in the film. 

And you know what? I'm going to guess that Mortal Engines has sold say 400,000 copies. I really have no idea. 

Let's say 10,000 of those readers REALLY CARE about the scar. 

OK?

Those 10,000 are going to bitch and moan like those Star Wars fans did about The Last Jedi. No matter what. 

But if Peter Jackson and Christen Rivers want to make 500 million bank on this film, they gotta get bums on seats and those bums will not have read the book, they will not care about a scar they never knew existed and they will simply enjoy a film where the city of London runs around trying to eat other cities. 

So no scar for you, just a bad ass Anna Fang.

So, let's just hope Hester has a really good bitchy resting face...

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Anna Fang will be the coolest character in Mortal Engines

Jihae is so cool - all she needed to do to turn into Anna Fang was grab her favourite red coat, and put on a pair of sun glasses....

jihae-mortal-engines-anna-fang




Who is Anna Fang from Mortal Engines?

jihae as anna fang mortal engines

Meet Anna Fang of the Anti Traction League 


Spoilers below for those who have not read the novel.

In the Mortal Engines novel, Anna Fang is an Asian aviator that Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy meet shortly after their 'expulsion' from the city of London.
She's mysterious.

She's cold.

Yet warm.

She might slice and dice you.

She might make you a cake.

When we first meet Anna it quickly transpires she is a pretty handy in a tight spot. Shortly after she meets Hester and Tom at Speedwell, they escape. At the floating city of Airhaen she saves Tom and Hester from the Shrike when he attacks.

Further into the novel Anna Fang leads a successful attack on  the pirate town 'Tunbridge Wheels' and destroys it. She then later picks up Tom and Hester for a second time. Despite knowing she is an Anti-Tractionist (which gives Tom concerns) our dynamic duo quickly find friendship with Anna.

Anna's mortal fate occurs at the end of the novel when she is killed by dastardly Thaddeus Valentine when he stabs her through the neck, during an epic sword fight.

But wait, there's more!

While plenty of people die in Mortal Engines, it's hard to keep a good anti-tractionist agent down and in the sequel Predator's Gold, her character is literally brought back to do. Pretty easy in a world where Stalkers roam eh?



So meet stalker Anna Fang


If you've got this far, you know of the stalkers.

They are the re-animated dead beings corrupted by unexplained technology from long dead civilizations.

Stalkers are usually under the control of their masters but it's hard to keep a good Anna Fang down....

In Predator's Gold, Anna Fang's body is stolen from her burial place by the rebellious 'Green Storm' and subjected to the re-animation process and brought back to life.

Stalker Anna Fang quickly assumes control of the Green Storm, absorbs the Anti Traction league and sets out to assert her will across the land. She basically becomes a military dictator.

This new version of Anna Fang proves to be a fantastic character as Philip Reeve casts her as a bit of a Jackel and Hyde character. While she is indeed a re animated corpse that's hell bent on the destruction of just about the entire human race, her original, more loving personality continues to bubble through.

Poor Fishcake gets to see both personalities as he escorts her on her mission to wreak havoc across humanity by using the ODIN weapon.

Eventually Stalker Anna Fang is killed by Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal, but only after the 'good' Anna Fang surfaced long enough to turn of the ODIN device.


What is Anna Fang's back story?


anna fang sketchIf one picks through the books one can work out some details about the life Anna Fang led prior to when we first meet her in the original novel. Of course one has to read all four novels in the series...

Here we go then.

Anna's life and thus back story begins as the child of air traders in the Ice Wastes.

When the family  airship was captured, she became a slave in the northern ice city of Arkangel, under the control of Stilton Kael (Whom readers of Predator's Gold, might know as 'Uncle').

As she grew, Fang managed to build the Jenny Haniver in secret by taking  parts from here and there like she was the subject of some kind of Johnny Cash song and then escaped in it.

Anna made her way to raft city Perfume Harbour. She  was eventually introduced to and ended up working as a spy for the Anti-Traction League. Her claim to fame was the destruction of mechanical cities that threatened the safety of  static settlements (anti tractionist) including the celebrated city of Marseilles.

Night Flights will add to the back story of Anna


When Philip Reeve's new short story collection Night Flights is released, we will be able to fill in all the details around Anna's back story because the stories are all about her!

"The official synopsis says the stories show gripping, moving, exciting moments in Anna Fang's life: her childhood as a slave aboard the moving city Arkangel, her daring escape, an attempt to sabotage the moving cities, a showdown against a Stalker, her free life as an intelligence agent for the Anti-Traction league, and an adventure into the haunted skies of the Dead Continent, America."


night flights book cover mortal engines


Who plays Anna Fang in the Mortal Engines movie?

Singer Jihae has stepped up to play the character. If you've seen the trailer for the Mortal Engines, you may have heard her singing a cover of Vera Lynn's There'll Always Be An England.

actress jihae from Mortal Engines film

Check out Jihae's excellent cover version of the over-covered Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen.

Here's a sketch of Fang's ship, the Jenny Hanniver:

jenny hanniver pencil sketch

Here's a sweet sketch by char_loot1095 of Anna:

anna fang sketch red coat

Here's the our heroes at Batmunkh Gompa:

Batmunkh Gomp:

Tom, Hester, Fang and Valentine images released from Mortal Engines

jihae as anna fang

Pictures of the key characters from Mortal Engines have been revealed !

That's Anna Fang above. Her character flies an airship which she uses for her missions as a spy for the Anti Traction League.

anna fang

Below is a shot of Hester Shaw, wearing the classic red scarf associated with the book version of the character.


Hester Shaw with scarf from Mortal Engines

Here we have a shot of traction city London

London City from Mortal Engines film

This is Thaddues Valentine, one of the key antagonists of the novel. Valentine is played by Hugo Weaving. He has a strong associated with Peter Jackson productions, such as Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
hugo weaving as thaddeus valentine

Thaddeus Valentine from Mortal Engines

Here we have Leifur Sigurdarson playing Nils Lindstrom, an aviator. To his right is Robert Sheehan as Tom Natsworthy and to his left, Hera Hilmar playing Hester Shaw

 
 Nils Lindstrom played by Leifur Sigurdarson


robbie sheehan mortal engines





To give you a sense of scale, here's Hester and Tom in the tracks of what we presume is London.

Tracks of London City in Mortal Engines

If you weren't in the know, Mortal Engines is the first novel in a series of stories about these giant mechanized cities. Check it out on Book Depository, or Amazon.

First look at Thaddeus Valentine from Mortal Engines

Here's the first look of Hugo Weaving as Thaddeus Valentine from Mortal Engines!

thaddeus valentine from mortal engines

Can't wait to see his airship!

Jihae's Anna Fang from Mortal Engines revealed

Looking like she stepped out of The Matrix, here's Jihae as Anna Fang from Mortal Engines.


This is a instant classic look - we love the red coat!

First look at Hester Shaw's scar!

hester scar face

hester shaw mortal engines
hester shaw scar - hera hilma

Here, revealed for the first time, is Hera Hilma as Hester Shaw - with the reveal of her scar!


hester shaw with red scarf

Some scars never heal...

Friday, June 1, 2018

Andrew Lees hints he's playing Herbert Melliphant in ME

andrew lees mortal engines

Australian actor Andrew Lees has all but confirmed he is playing Herbert Melliphant in Mortal Engines. He said in a this interview that "It’s a fun character is like Draco Malfoy, a kind of a douche-bag to Tom" which surely must mean Melliphant.

In the book, Melliphant taunts Tom to the point where they scuffle and Tom is sent to The Gut - which sets him on his great journey.

Lees also had a little bit to say abut the production of the movie.

SR. Speaking about Mortal Engines, which is gonna be a huge blockbuster. What can you tell us about being on set with a legend like Peter Jackson?

Lees: Peter Jackson is amazing, he knows exactly what he wants in his takes, he is always in control and even created his own visual effect company…How good is that!

When he directs, is like looking at somebody playing with action figures, which are the actors. He is fantastic, and I cannot be happier to being part of his film.

-

Seems odd to be talking about PJ doing takes when Christian Rivers is directing the movie?

-

SR. What else can you tell us about the film and the visuals?
Lees: Mortal Engines is such an incredible large-scale film. It’s set in a world where cities move from one place to another, London moves with this huge tank looking wheels and engines, there other cities that have spider legs and they look so cool.

The visuals are impressive, and the work Peter Jackson and his visual effects team is mind-blowing. Also the cast is amazing, imagine being on set with Robert Sheehan, Frankie Adams, Stephen Lang and Hugo Weaving. Just a dream for every actor.

It’s funny, because Hugo (Weaving) had some other commitments, so some of my scenes with him we made them separate, and then they put them together, so I’m very looking forward to see that.