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Mortal Engines: everything we know about Peter Jackson's post-apocalyptic adventure


At the end of this year, Peter Jackson's latest project Mortal Engines will finally be released in cinemas. If you're still grieving that The Hobbit ended a few years ago, or waiting for the Tintin sequel, you can get your Peter Jackson fix with a new adaptation that will send your spirit soaring.

Mortal Engines is released this December, and if you are into young adult steampunk post-apocalyptic adventures (try saying that fast) then this is the film for you. But what is it about?

The story 

Rumours indicate this adaptation of the first Mortal Engines novel (more on which momentarily) will take place around 1,700 years from today, unlike the book which is set 10,000 years in the future.

Following a catastrophic global event, entire cities like London move around our planet on gargantuan moving platforms, which subsequently involves all sorts of class wars between big cities and small towns. Sounds complicated, but bear with us.

Tom Natsworthy, played by Robert Sheehan, lives on one of the "lower tier" parts of London (remember the cities are moving!), where he suddenly meets Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). It's not a casual meeting – in fact it's the complete opposite as Hester is trying to kill the powerful historian Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), and Tom gets caught in the middle.

Hester blames Thaddeus for the death of her mother and he was also the one responsible for the huge scar on her face. In the midst of the fight, Hester and Tom are thrown out of the moving city, which is the first time Tom has ever set foot on the ground. Eventually, an alliance is formed - but that's just the start of the story.

The background

The film is an adaptation of a book by author Phillip Reeve, the first in a series of four known as the Mortal Engines Quartet. The film adaptation is directed by Christian Rivers, who is known as a special effects veteran from his work on Jackson's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films. He's also been assistant art director, designer and sculptor and animation director on films like Pete's Dragon, King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia.

Rivers is a close friend of Jackson's, and the latter serves as producer, meaning the Mortal Engines story is in two pairs of good hands. Jackson also wrote the screenplay with his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. The rights were obtained by Jackson back in 2009, so this adaptation has been a long time coming.

The cast 

The movie features a dynamic mixture of newcomers and established scene-stealers. The cast includes Robert Sheehan (Channel 4's Misfits, The Mortal Instruments) Hera Hilmar (Anna Karenina, Da Vinci's Demons) and Hugo Weaving (The Matrix, V for Vendetta, Transformers). Weaving, of course, is a veteran at the sci-fi/action adventure genre, having played Agent Smith in The Matrix, Elrond in The Lord of the Rings and Red Skull in Marvel's Captain America.

The filming location

Like Jackson's previous films, Mortal Engines was shot amid the sweeping landscapes of New Zealand, his home country. Some of the biggest adventures of the 2000s and 2010s have been filmed in New Zealand: Avatar, King Kong, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn and of course The Lord of the Rings.

The action sequences

With a $100 million budget and Jackson's reputation for big set pieces, CGI and special effects, Mortal Engines is going to have some impressive action scenes.

Even from the small snippets in the trailer, you can clearly see the work gone into bringing this story to the big screen. Big cities capture smaller cities (almost consuming them) and Hester and Tom fly between various other moving cities. Thankfully director Christian Rivers has more than enough experience in the special effects field, meaning that Mortal Engines is pulling out all the stops.

Mortal Engines is released on 14th December.

Nadine Shambrook is a writer who blogs for Cineworld as part of our news team.