Peter Jackson's Mortal Engines Wiki

Mortal Engines is a 2018 American-New Zealand steampunk science-fiction film that is the adaptation of the 2001 young-adult novel of the same name by Philip Reeve. The film was directed by Christian Rivers, Peter Jackson's protege, as his directorial debut.

It premiered on November 26th, 2018 in London. It premiered in the UK on December 7th, 2018, and was released in the U.S. on December 14th, 2018. It was a box-office bomb.


Millenia after much of the world was destroyed in the 60 minute war, seismic and climatic changes force most survivors to live as nomads. As technology and society revives, this culminates in the Traction Cities -great vehicles carrying people and machinery to sustain life, gathering material by chasing and seizing (called 'eating') smaller cities. This way of life, called Municipal Darwinism, is opposed by the Anti-Traction League, who hide behind mountains, fleets of airships and ruthless agents.

London, first of the Traction Cities, returns to the great hunting ground, but onboard its new catch is a dangerous secret. As it speeds east, to destinations known only to it's scheming mayor Crome (Patrick Malahide), events between the decks take a sinister turn.

Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), low-class apprentice historian of London, is thrown out of the city, betrayed by his childhood-hero Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving, an adventurer hunting relics of pre-war tech) whom he just saved from assasination. His only way home is to follow the assassin, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), through the mud and peril of the Great Hunting Ground on her suicide-mission of revenge, and find out what secret Valentine is hiding.

Aided by Anna Fang, an agent of the League (Jihae) and hunted by an ancient undead cyborg warrior, Shrike (Stephen Lang), obsessed with Hester, the journey takes them through slavers, pirate suburbs, and the flying-city of Airhaven. But as he discovers Hester's past and the old-tech terror London unleashes, will there still be home for Tom to return to? And before the Shield-Wall of Batmunkh Gompa, on which side will they fight?


Following a cataclysmic conflict known as the Sixty Minute War, the remnants of humanity regroup and form mobile "predator" cities. Under a philosophy known as "Municipal Darwinism", larger cities hunt and absorb smaller settlements in the "Great Hunting Ground", which includes Great Britain and Continental Europe. In opposition, settlements of the "Anti-Traction League" have developed an alternative civilization consisting of "static settlements" (traditional, non-mobile cities) in Asia led by Shan Guo (formerly China), protected by the "Shield Wall". Relics of modern technology such as toasters, computers, and smartphones are valued as "Old-Tech."

The city of London captures a small mining town called Salzhaken, absorbing its population and resources, under orders of Lord Mayor Magnus Crome. A masked woman among the Salzhakens is Hester Shaw, who seeks to assassinate Thaddeus Valentine, Head of the Guild of Historians. Tom Natsworthy, a teenage Apprentice Historian, is sent to London's "Gut" to collect Old-Tech for London's Museum, accompanied by Valentine's good-natured daughter Katherine. Hester attempts to kill Valentine but Tom intervenes, pursuing Hester to a waste chute. Hester escapes, but not before telling him that Valentine murdered her mother and scarred her face. When Tom informs Valentine of this, he pushes Tom down the chute.

Tom and Hester are forced to work together to traverse the Great Hunting Ground, finding refuge in a town called Scuttlebug, but the owners lock them in a cell and intend to sell them as slaves. Hester confides that Valentine killed her archaeologist mother Pandora after stealing a piece of Old-Tech she found in a dig in the Dead Continent of Americas, whilst young Hester escaped with a necklace her mother gave her. Meanwhile, Valentine frees Shrike, a reanimated cyborg known as a "Stalker", from an offshore prison to hunt down and kill Hester. At the slave market of Rustwater, Tom and Hester are rescued by Anti-Traction League agent Anna Fang. During the chaos, Tom and Hester are pursued by Shrike, whom Hester reveals she knows. Hester explains that Shrike had found and raised her, and Hester promised to allow him to turn her into a Stalker like himself, but she left after discovering that London was in the Great Hunting Ground. On London, Katherine grows estranged from her father, especially after learning from Apprentice Engineer Bevis Pod that Valentine pushed Tom down the chute, and that Valentine's energy project in the re-purposed St Paul's Cathedral is more than it seems.

Hester and Tom travel on Anna's airship the Jenny Haniver to the airborne city Airhaven, meeting with other members of the Anti-Traction League. Tom realizes what Pandora discovered is MEDUSA, a superweapon that can destroy cities in an instant. Shrike catches up with them and Airhaven is destroyed in the ensuing fire. Following a fierce skirmish, Shrike is mortally wounded, realizing that Hester is in love with Tom. Before perishing, he makes peace with Hester and frees her of her promise. Hester, Tom, and Anna then travel to the Shield Wall with the surviving Anti-Tractionists. On London, Valentine kills Crome in a coup and drums up support from Londoners by vowing to destroy the Shield Wall with MEDUSA and lead them to a new Hunting Ground in Asia. Anna convinces Governor Kwan to launch the Anti-Tractionist fleet against London, but MEDUSA destroys the fleet and blasts a hole through the Shield Wall. Hester discovers that her mother's necklace hides a "crash drive" with a kill switch for MEDUSA. Hester, Tom, Anna, and the remaining Anti-Tractionists lead a raid against London, braving the city's anti-aircraft defences.

Hester and Anna infiltrate St Paul's, and though Valentine mortally wounds Anna during a sword duel, Hester disables MEDUSA with the crash drive. Still determined to destroy the Shield Wall, Valentine orders his henchmen to kill the city's control crew and ram it into the Wall. With Katherine's help, Tom uses the Jenny Haniver to destroy London's engine. Valentine attempts to flee but Hester pursues and fights him aboard his airship, where he reveals he is her father. Tom rescues Hester and shoots down Valentine's ship, which is crushed by London's slowing tracks, killing Valentine. The surviving Londoners, led by Katherine, make peace with the Anti-Tractionists, whilst Tom and Hester travel in the Jenny Haniver to see the world.




In December 2009, New Zealand filmmaker Peter Jackson was reported to have begun development of a film based on the Philip Reeve's novel Mortal Engines. On October 24, 2016, production started on a feature film to be directed by Christian Rivers, marking his directorial debut. The script was written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens, while Media Rights Capital and Universal Pictures would be financing the film. Shooting was scheduled to start in March 2017 in New Zealand. Producers Zane Weiner and Amanda Walker, who both worked on The Hobbit, will be spearheading the NZ based team, along with Deborah Forte in the US.

In February 2017, Robert Sheehan was cast in the film for the lead role along with Ronan Raftery for a supporting role, while Hera Hilmar was cast as a female lead. In March 2017, more cast was announced including Stephen Lang, Jihae, and newcomer Leila George. Hugo Weaving, Patrick Malahide, Colin Salmon, and Regé-Jean Page joined the film in April 2017. Richard Armitage was offered a role but passed due to scheduling conflicts.

Principal photography on the film began in April 2017, with some shooting occurring at Stone Street Studios in Wellington, New Zealand, and was completed in July 2017.


While Peter Jackson is keen to develop a film series, there has been no formal announcement of sequel plans. When asked about the possibility of a second film, scriptwriter Philippa Boyens, stated that "mostly, this has to work as a film. This may be the only one... I hope not because I think the story just keeps getting better and better."

Hence, the Mortal Engines movie will feature particular references and keep a few doors open, allowing a sequel to pick up certain threads.

However, due to the poor performance of the box office and harsh reviews, there is no sequel.

On December 24, 2019, a space combat simulator mod for the FreeSpace 2 Source Code Project, entitled Rekt Galaxies, was announced as being set within the same universe as the film.

On November 18, author Philip Reeve, upon being asked by author Gabrille Bujak of UnBoxed Life Magazine regarding a possible future TV reboot of Mortal Engines,[1] said that the proposal sound nice, though it was unlikely at this point.[2]


  • The film's main storytelling plot was "drip-feeding" - slowly showing the audience the film's plot elements, which would come to fruition at the end of it.[3]
  • Christian Rivers mentioned that Shrike's opening narration is supposed to mimic the ending of A Darkling Plain, wherein he tells post-Traction Era people about the Traction Era.[4][3]
    • Rivers also mentioned it was to also drop audiences immediately into the film's world and story.[3]
  • The opening shot of Hester was filmed on hills overlooking Wellington, New Zealand.[3]
  • The opening chase scene was originally shorter. During reshoots, Christian Rivers had Hera Hilmar run around the Salzhaken set pretending that she was avoiding traction London to make the scene longer and more exciting.[3]
  • The cameo of the Minions in the London Museum during the opening chase was the crew's subtle way of pissing off Universal.[3]
  • Originally, the scene explaining the Sixty Minute War was Tom showing schoolchildren around the museum. It was eventually replaced with the scene of Tom showing Katherine footage of the War, as Christian Rivers compared the original scene to telling bored schoolchildren about World War I.[3]
  • It took a week to shoot the scene where Tom and Katherine meet Valentine and Hester's attempt to assassinate Valentine, as it was the "collision course" for the entire film.[3]
  • The track marks seen in the Out-Country was actually a small set. The "tracks" could be moved here and there to give the allusion of moving.[3]
  • The flashback of young Hester (Poppy Macleod) running through the grass after escaping Valentine was shot with a handheld GoPro.[3]
  • Tom and Hester's prison was the smallest set created.[3]
  • The Shaw residence was shot on a beach located on the northern end of New Zealand's South Island.[3]
  • A lot of the sets were physical to give the actors something to interact with. The rest was expanded with CGI.[3]
  • Some real-world physics had to be abandoned in order for the actor's performances to come through.[3]



  1. Why HBO Should Reboot Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines
  2. Philip Reeve on Twitter
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 Director's commentary feature on Mortal Engines DVD/Blu-ray
  4. A Darkling Plain, Chapter 54: "Shrike in the World to Come"

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