Why Peter Jackson Had A Hard Time With Mortal Engines' Cities On Wheels

Cities on wheels in Mortal Engines

When you think of cities, the word 'stationary' probably comes to mind, right? Not so in the world of Mortal Engines. The big hook for these series of books is that in this futuristic, steampunk reality, most city states have gone mobile and fight amongst competing metropolises for resources. These are easy enough to describe on paper and imagine in your head, but creating such motorized monstrosities for a movie is entirely another matter. Sure enough, Peter Jackson, who produced and co-wrote the upcoming Mortal Engines, said it was incredible difficult to effectively "build" these cities on wheels, explaining to CinemaBlend:

Just showing the sheer size of these pillager cities. Like London is like the size of 12 aircraft carriers put together. It's a size that there's nothing to compare it to. And these wheels rolling along. How do you make this thing look as big as it really is? How do you let the audience know its this massive? What shots do you use, what angles do you use? That was actually surprisingly difficult, to imagine the size of these massive cities.

CinemaBlend's own Corey Chichizola had the opportunity to chat with Peter Jackson today following the Mortal Engines panel at New York Comic-Con, during which time Jackson made it clear that coming up with these rolling cities for the movie was not an easy endeavor. Even if you ignore the challenges behind designing these large communities, then there's the issue of taking them, putting them on wheels and having them roll across landscapes. Mix in the technical aspects of shooting these cities, and the Mortal Engines crew had their work cut out for them and then some. Judging by what we've seen in the trailers so far, they did a good job.

It's important to mention that just like in real life, not all the cities in the Mortal Engines universe are the same size. The bigger cities like London prey on the smaller ones, and the ones that are the same size hold uneasy truces and trade with one another either directly or via airships. Since Mortal Engines is adapting the first book of four, assuming the movie performs well, we'll get to see even more of these cities duke it out and vie from control over what little is still useful on Earth.

As for Mortal Engines' plot, the movie sees Tom Natsworthy, played by Robert Sheehan, being tossed from mobile London and onto actual land for the first time in his life after he gets in the way of Hester Shaw, played by Hera Hilmar, attempting to kill Hugo Weaving's Thaddeus Valentine, one of London's most powerful figures and the man who killed Hester's mother. With Tom and Hera now on solid land, they'll have to fight for survival, which is even harder in this post-apocalyptic landscape. Mortal Engines' cast also includes Jihae, Ronan Raftery, Leila George, Patrick Malahide, Stephen Lang and Colin Salmon.

Mortal Engines opens in theaters on December 14, and as for what the rest of the year has to offer theatrically, check out our 2018 release schedule for those details.

Adam Holmes
Senior Content Producer

Connoisseur of Marvel, DC, Star Wars, John Wick, MonsterVerse and Doctor Who lore. He's aware he looks like Harry Potter and Clark Kent.