Mortal Engines: Innovating Post-Apocalypse

Actors Hugo Weaving and Stephen Lang on Playing Complex Villains and Working with Visionary Filmmakers.

Hugo Weaving in Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines is a new steampunk science fiction film based on the first of four novels by author Philip Reeve. In the story, a cataclysmic event known as the Sixty Minute War has thrown the Earth into chaos, and centuries later the remnants of humanity have regrouped and now live in cities that roam the blasted landscape on wheels. The bigger “predator” cities have a frightening tendency to consume the smaller ones, absorbing their resources, supplies and populations.

In the movie version, directed by Christian Rivers and written/produced by Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh (the team behind The Lord of the Rings), the city of London is one of the world’s largest predator cities, led by the head of the Guild of Historians, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). While his plan for a new “energy project” masks a different agenda, Valentine is also pursued by a young woman named Hester (Hera Hilmar) who wants to assassinate him.

Further Reading: Mortal Engines and Survival of the Fittest Cities

But Hester herself is soon pursued by Shrike (Stephen Lang), a reanimated human being housed in a cyborg body who is sent to kill Hester. Both Lang and Weaving have played memorable screen villains before — Lang in Don’t Breathe and Avatar, Weaving in The Matrix and Captain America: The First Avenger — and bring instant gravitas to their roles here as well.

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Den of Geek sat down with both actors to discuss playing complex antagonists, working with visionary filmmakers like Peter Jackson and James Cameron, and more.

Mortal Engines is out in theaters today (December 14).

Don Kaye is a Los Angeles-based entertainment journalist and associate editor of Den of Geek. Other current and past outlets include Syfy, United Stations Radio Networks, Fandango, MSN, RollingStone.com and many more. Read more of his work here. Follow him on Twitter @donkaye