From some of the epic filmmakers behind the Lord of the Rings titles, comes the first in a series from graphic novelist, Philip Reeve. The world of Mortal Engines takes place in the greater Europe. Set hundreds of years into the future, after war has left the landscape barren, the last of the big cities, London – depicted as a huge travelling city on wheels – seeks out the smaller cities and towns as fuel.
The opening sequence sets a heart-racing pace as London – ruled by hero-to-the-people Valentine (Hugo Weaving) shows its might against a worthy yet inept small town. One of the survivors is Hester Shaw, a feisty loner with a curious interest in Valentine. In a crowded meeting place, Shaw attempts to assassinate Valentine whom she suspects responsible for the murder of her mother. As she makes her escape and fights to survive from Valentine’s henchmen, she is joined by Londoner, Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) who has newly seen Valentine’s maniacal ways.
It falls to Hester and Tom to scheme how to stop both Valentine and London in their tracks before the more lush and peaceful parts of the land are devoured in its wake. The answer comes in the form of a trinket given to Hester by her guardian, Shrike – a robot formed from human – that raised Hester after the death of her parents. Into the battle, they are joined by fugitive Anna Fang (Jihae) and her troupe of aviators, some who will fly their last mission in the final battle. The question begs, why such a behemoth power such as London is limited to ground manoeuvers only, when there is still air flight technology in this world.
As expected from the house of Weta, the imagery is immaculate and machines awe-inspiring. There are so many motifs in London the city to recognise; although in the midst of the action, they may go unnoticed by many. If only there were a travelling exhibition to show off these creations as separate entities.
There are some gaps in the story but given this is the first in the series of four books from Reeve, answers may be forthcoming at some point.
While watching Mortal Engines, it’s hard not to think about a post-Brexit London and make assumptions around how the future of the UK will be. Being stripped economically from the bigger Europe, Londoners need to self-sustain the only way they know how. Their class system makes easy prey of the lesser tiers of society and in their haste to feed themselves, they blindly rollercoaster towards eliminating a fast-disappearing food chain. Fellow Londoners look on and cheer as town after village is squandered and ingested; this image would be haunting if it were in any other story.
Mortal Engines is screening nationally now.
About Mortal Engines
Directed by: Christian Rivers
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson
Stars: Hugo Weaving, Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide and Stephen Lang
Produced by: Ken Kamins, Philippa Boyens, Zane Weiner, Amanda Walker, Deborah Forte,
Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson
Based on the Book by: Philip Reeve