WATCH: Peter Jackson Strikes Again with Mortal Engines Trailer

There’s never been a better time to check out of the world’s woes and watch an escapist film, says Sir Peter Jackson.

“​God knows, it’s not much fun [in the real world], when you read the Dom Post, or read Stuff,” he explains, sitting with director Christian Rivers in the ADR suite at his post production facility in Miramar, Wellington.

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Mortal Engines is set in a fantasy world, but the characters have very real motivations.

“It’s not a good way to start the day, with all the stuff that’s happening in the world – not the fault of you guys of course, you just report it. But I just see films as a valuable opportunity to get away from that – just for a while – and go see something that’s not related to today’s world.”

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Director Christian Rivers gives star Hugo Weaving his cues.

“It’s a piece of fiction, it’s a piece of fantasy science fiction, but you still want to have connections in there that make people feel it’s as real as possible.”

The film is set in a “post-post apocalyptic world” where cities have become huge, moving engines that tear up the landscape, hunting and devouring one another in a desperate quest for resources. Its cast is noticeably diverse.

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“What we’re really saying is people in two or 3000 years time are still the same people as we are now,” says Sir Peter Jackson.

“The [real] world is becoming more diverse all the time, which is great,” he says. “So if you’re projecting forward two or 3000 years, you could imagine it’s a complete melting pot.”

“What we’re really saying is people in two or 3000 years time are still the same people as we are now. We recognise the passions and we recognise the zealotry. We recognise that and it’s important to still have that, because that’s part of making something like this believable.”

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Hera Hilmarsdottir as Hester Shaw, the heart of the film.

“It’s not that we’re out there to make a big political statement, but I think it’s important that people in the film are as passionately involved in their political beliefs, if you like, as people are now.”

Rivers agrees: “That’s just the world, and it’s our world as well.”

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“I think it’s important that people in the film are as passionately involved in their political beliefs, if you like, as people are now,” says producer Sir Peter Jackson.

In the same way, there are political and ethical patterns humans fall into and we can find these hard to shake off.

“That’s sort of what tractionism [the philosophy behind the moving cities] is too. They can probably pull up their cities and all stop moving, and get off and start farming the land and start living, but they’re in this pattern of behaviour of now, ‘This is how we do things and this is how we know to live’, and it’s destructive.”


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Mortal Engines is set in the far distant future where cities are giant roving machines.

Ultimately, however, it’s not a “message film”, but a film about two people facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles with tenacity and courage.

“It is about Tom [played by Robert Sheehan] and Hester [played by Hera Hilmarsdottir],” who face “terrible things”, two “most unlikely people” finding the strength and courage to challenge that and overcome it.

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It’s not a “message film”, but a film about two people facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles with tenacity and courage, says director Christian Rivers.

Jackson says that tenacity makes Tom and Hester “the best” kind of movie heroes.

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Anna Fang (JiHAE) brings firepower and pathos to Mortal Engines.

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SOURCE: Stuff, by Kylie Klein Nixon