Mortal Engines Wiki

Mortal Engines is the film adaptation of the book of the same name. It premiered on 26 November, 2018 in London. It premiered in the UK on 7 December, 2018, and was released in the U.S. on December 14, 2018.


Thousands of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, humankind has adapted and a new way of living has evolved. Gigantic moving cities now roam the Earth, ruthlessly preying upon smaller traction towns. Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan)—who hails from a Lower Tier of the great traction city of London—finds himself fighting for his own survival after he encounters the dangerous fugitive Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). Two opposites, whose paths should never have crossed, forge an unlikely alliance that is destined to change the course of the future.[1]


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 to Municipal Darwinism, an "Anti-Traction League" have developed an alternative civilization consisting of "static settlements" in Asia protected by the Shield Wall and led by Shan Guo (formerly China). The Anti-Traction League's lands are protected by the "Shield Wall", which is defended by powerful guns and a fleet of airships. Relics of modern technology such as toasters, computers, and iPhones are valued as "Old-Tech."

The city of London pursues and captures a small mining town called Salzhaken, absorbing its population and resources, under orders of Lord Mayor Magnus Crome. A masked woman named Hester Shaw has embedded herself among the Salzhakens, seeking to assassinate Thaddeus Valentine, Head of the Guild of Historians and a popular Londoner. 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. When Valentine visits the Gut, Hester attempts to assassinate Valentine but Tom intervenes, accidentally unmasking Hester and revealing that she has a disfiguring scar. Tom pursues Hester through the disassembling Salzhaken to a waste chute. Hester escapes down the chute, but not before telling Tom that Valentine murdered her mother and scarred her face. When Tom informs Valentine of what Hester said, the Historian pushes him down the chute.

Surviving the fall, Tom and Hester are forced to work together to traverse the Great Hunting Ground. They eventually find refuge in a town called Scuttlebug, but the owners lock them in a cell and intend to sell them as slaves. Hester confides in Tom that Valentine killed her archaeologist mother Pandora Shaw after she discovered a piece of Old-Tech from a dig in the Dead Continent of America which he steals, whilst the young Hester escaped with a necklace her mother gave her. Meanwhile, Valentine frees Shrike, a reanimated cyborg known as a "Stalker", from an offshore Charcoal 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, who kills their slaver captors. During the chaos, Tom and Hester are pursued by Shrike, whom Hester reveals she knows. Escaping on Anna's airship the Jenny Haniver, Hester explains that Shrike had found and raised her, as he had an affinity "broken things". Shrike wished to turn Hester into a Stalker like himself, and she promised to let him, however she left after discovering that London was in the Great Hunting Ground six months prior to the film's events. On London, Katherine grows increasingly estranged from her father, especially after Apprentice Engineer Bevis Pod informs her that Valentine pushed Tom down the chute. Together, the two learn that Valentine's energy project in the re-purposed St Paul's Cathedral is more than it seems.

Hester and Tom travel with Anna to the airborne city Airhaven. There, they meet with other members of the Anti-Traction League, who are interested in Valentine's energy project. Tom figures out that the device Pandora discovered is MEDUSA, a quantum energy-based 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 fatally wounded, realising 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. Meanwhile, Valentine kills the traditionalist Crome in a coup and drums up support from Londoners by vowing to destroying the Shield Wall with MEDUSA and lead them to a new Hunting Ground in Asia.

At the Shield Wall, Anna convinces Governor Kwan to launch the Anti-Tractionist fleet against London, but MEDUSA destroys the fleet and burns a hole through the Shield Wall. Meanwhile, Hester discovers that her mother's necklace contains a "crash drive" with a kill switch capable of disabling MEDUSA. Hester, Tom, Anna, and the remaining Anti-Tractionists lead a raid against London, braving the city's anti-aircraft defences.

Hester and Anna manage to infiltrate St Paul's whilst Tom flies the Jenny Haniver. Though Valentine fatally wounds Anna during a sword duel, Hester manages to disable 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, risking the lives of everyone on board. With Katherine's help, Tom manages to destroy London's engine to slow it down. Valentine attempts to flee but Hester pursues and fights him aboard his airship. Tom rescues Hester and shoots down Valentine's ship. Valentine survives the crash, but is killed when the cockpit is run over by London's slowing tracks. The surviving Londoners, led by Katherine, make peace with the Anti-Tractionists, whilst Tom and Hester decide to travel in the Jenny Haniver to see the world.


According to production designer Dan Hennah, the film takes place approximately 1,700 years from now, rather than more than deliberately ambiguous dates in the books suggesting that it has been upwards of 10,000.[2]

In one scene Hester and Tom eat Twinkies whose packages show a "best before" date of 2118. An astonished Tom comments that they are "over a thousand years old". This implies the film takes place not before 3119.


See also: Full cast



Deborah Forte, president of the Scholastic Media Foundation, expressed interest in adapting the series in October 2006. Scholastic sought material for a family franchise, intending two movies: one combining Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold, and a second combining Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain. In an interview, Philip Reeve has said that he knows and trusts Deborah Forte to adapt the book for the big screen.

By December 2009, Peter Jackson had acquired the rights to Mortal Engines and had, along with Christian Rivers, begun development of the film[4]. The film was kept on the back-burner for years until October 24th 2016, when Peter Jackson announced in a Facebook post that the Mortal Engines movie was underway, and would be directed by Christian Rivers, with a script written by Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens[5]. The cast was announced between February and April 2017.


Filming for Mortal Engines began in March 2017 in New Zealand, and concluded in July 2017. Additional pickup filming occurred in early 2018.

In September 2018, composer Tom Holkenborg (known widely as Junkie XL) confirmed that he was scoring the movie's soundtrack.[6]


On May 5th 2017, Jackson released concept art for the film through a Facebook post.[7].

The first official teaser trailer was released by Universal on December 18th 2017[8], followed by the launch of the film's official site.

On June 4th 2018, the first film stills were released by USA TODAY[9]. The next day, the official full length trailer was also revealed[10]. Universal Pictures published the first behind-the-scenes featurette on June 28[11].

In the lead up to an appearance at New York Comic Con, several character featurettes and posters were released in early October. [12]. At the convention, the first 25 minutes of the movie were screened for audiences, and the second full-length trailer was released[13].

Following the trailer release, Peter Jackson announced a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes called Mortal Artists[14]. Each weekly episode focused on a different aspect of the filmmaking process, including concept art and costume making.


Before its release, the film received criticism from fans of the Mortal Engines Quartet for heavily toning down Hester Shaw's scar from the novels.[15]


While Peter Jackson is keen to develop a film series,[16] 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."[17]

Hence, the Mortal Engines movie will feature particular references and keep a few doors open, allowing a sequel to pick up certain threads. The box office reached USD $82 million.

However, due to the performance of the box office, there is no sequel planned. This was confirmed.

Differences from the book

Hester and Tom, who in the book are in their teenage years, are aged for their twenties in the film.

Magnus Crome

In the novel, Lord Mayor Magnus Crome plays a more antagonistic role as Thaddeus Valentine's master. As the head of the Engineering Guild, he is a staunch supporter of the MEDUSA superweapon which he hopes to use to destroy the Shield Wall and exploit Asia as a new "Hunting Ground." The Head Historian Valentine is regarded as one of Crome's lackeys.

Following Hester Shaw's assassination attempt on Valentine, Crome rightfully believes that Tom and Hester survived since the ground was muddy from recent rains. He dispatches the imprisoned Stalker Shrike on a mission to hunt down and kill Hester and Tom. Chrome also sends Valentine on a scouting mission to the east.

Unlike the film, Crome is the one who orders the test-firing of MEDUSA against Panzerstadt-Bayreuth, incinerating the city. Crome capitalizes on public support to bring London towards the Shield Wall. Determined to advance Municipal Darwinism, Crome is unconcerned by the deaths from overheating in London's Gut and the loss of lives at Panzerstadt-Bayreuth. The Engineers also confiscate "old tech" from the London Museum.

Under Crome's orders, Valentine destroys the Anti-Traction League's Northern Air-Fleet, eliminating the enemy's air strike capability. However, Valentine grows increasingly disenchanted with Crome's agenda due to his own guilt at his role in the murder of Pandora Shaw and the disfigurement of her daughter Hester Shaw.

On the night of the scheduled deployment of MEDUSA against London, Valentine criticizes Municipal Darwinism as unsustainable for the Earth. Blinded by ideological fervor, Crome is unmoved and boasts that the Engineers would create massive engines to power the Earth once they have consumed every other city and static settlement. When a dying Katherine causes MEDUSA to malfunction and overheat, a distraught Chrome mourns that he only wanted to make London "great again."


In the novel, London is destroyed after Tom Natsworthy shoots down the 13th Floor Elevator. This causes a fire which coincides with an energy overload in the Gut, which causes MEDUSA to explode. Much of London is destroyed by the fire. In the book class divisions are also more visible with the city being dominated by four major guilds: the Engineers, Historians, Navigators, and Merchants. There is also a rivalry between the Historians and Engineers.

In Predator's Gold, it is revealed that vengeful anti-Tractionist forces killed many of the survivors. However, a London Engineer named Dr Popjoy is captured by the Green Storm, an extremist element of the Anti-Traction League dedicated to destroying all cities. Dr Popjoy becomes the architect of the Green Storm's stalker program. His achievements include resurrecting the undead Anna Fang as the "Stalker Fang" and building the Storm's stalker soldiers and birds.

In A Darkling Plain, it is revealed that several Londoners survived MEDUSA and have created a secret community among the ruins of London. Under the leadership of Mayor Chudleigh Pomeroy, these survivors are building a new hover city called New London, which is based on magnetic levitation technology. Tom Natsworthy, his daughter Wren, and her love interest Wolf von Kobold encounter these survivors. The Green Storm's new leader General Jiang Xiang Naga initially wants to destroy New London. However, the Londoners convince him their city is not a threat. General Naga then sacrifices his life to save London by destroying the ravenous burrowing suburb Harrowbarrow.

Hester Shaw

In the books, she has a massive scar on her left side that stretched from left eyebrow to chin. Her left eye was non-existent due to Thaddeus Valentine slicing at her face with his sword, also cutting off her nose. In the film, the scar was toned down for the film. She has both eyes functional. While Hester is a teenager in the books, she was aged up to her twenties.

While Hester's character and personality in the novel and film are similar, the events of the film diverge from the novel after Anna Fang rescues Hester and Tom from the trading cluster. While Shrike tracks down Hester at Airhaven, she tries to reason with him but he insists that she keep her promise to let him kill her so that he can resurrect her as a Stalker. Unlike the film, Hester and Tom escape alone on a hot air balloon.

After landing on the Rustwater Marshes, Shrike catches up with Hester and Tom but the two escape after he is rolled over by a fleeing town. Hester and Tom hitch a ride aboard Tunbridge Wheels only to be captured by the pirate Mayor Chrysler Peavey. In the book, it is established that Hester has had a prior connection with Peavey. However, he refuses to free her until Tom, whom Peavey takes a liking to, speaks out for her.

Tunbridge Wheels sails across the Sea of Khazak to attack the damaged Airhaven on Black Island but the town is sunk by Anna Fang's Jenny Haniver. Hester, Tom, Peavey, and some of his followers survive the sinking and take a boat ashore. There, Shrike hunts them down and kills Peavey and his followers. Hester accepts Shrike's "agreement" but Tom seemingly kills the Stalker by striking a knife through his head. Hester is grief-stricken by Shrike's death. While upset with Tom, she gradually develops feelings for him.

As in film, Hester and Tom accompany Anna Fang to Batmunkh Gompa, a city built into the Shield Wall. While Hester is sympathetic to the anti-Tractionists, Tom is still enamored with London and opposes their decision to destroy his home with hundreds of innocent civilians on board. Later, Valentine infiltrates the hangar storing the Northern Air-Fleet and burns the fleet, depriving the League of its strike capability. Valentine also kills Anna Fang. Hester and Tom then take the Jenny Haniver to London in an attempt to stop the city from launching its MEDUSA weapon.

With Tom's help, Hester manages to land in the streets of London. She survives the crash of the 13th Floor Elevator, which creates a firestorm that eventually consumes London. However, Hester is captured by several Stalkers and brought to Valentine at St Paul's. There, Valentine attempts to execute her with his sword. However, Valentine's daughter throws herself between Hester and her father's blade, sacrificing her life to save Hester's. Katherine also crashes onto MEDUSA's control console, causing the weapon to malfunction and implode.

As London burns in flames, Hester helps a grieving and guilt-ridden Valentine to escape St Paul's. Hester is rescued by Tom but Valentine opts to stay behind with his dead daughter. The two decide to put the past behind them and travel the skies for adventures and trading.


In the novel, Shrike strikes a deal with Lord Mayor Magnus Crome to hunt down and kill Hester Shaw. Like the film, he intends to resurrect her as a Stalker so that she will not have memories of the past. The Lord Mayor also provides him with an engineering airship and crew to hunt down Hester. Shrike also first catches up with Hester Shaw and her companions at Airhaven rather than at the slave auction. Unlike the film, Shrike does not destroy Airhaven during the pursuit. Hester and Tom also escape on a hot air balloon.

While pursuing Hester and Tom, Shrike is crushed beneath Tunbridge Wheels' tracks but survives. He pursues the pair through the Rustwater Marshes and into the Sea of Khazak. Shrike is shown to be capable of swimming underwater for long distances. Following the destruction of Tunbridge Wheels, Shrike kills Mayor Chrysler Peavey and his henchmen. Hester accepts her fate but Tom hurls a knife at Shrike's head, causing his apparent death. Shrike experiences flashbacks of his former life before dying. His death coincides with London destroyed Panzerstadt-Bayreuth.

Katherine Valentine

Katherine Valentine has a much more prominent role in the novel, serving as a point of view character. Unlike the film, Katherine has a much more loving relationship with her father Thaddeus Valentine. She also has a pet wolf named Dog. While Thaddeus and the crew of the 13th Floor Elevator depart on a reconnaissance mission in the Great Hunting Ground, Katherine gradually learns about Hester Shaw and her mother Pandora Shaw.

Like the film, Katherine also strikes a friendship with the Apprentice Engineer Bevis Pod. While visiting a prison in the Gut, Katherine is traumatized when she witnesses prisoners being worked to death in a sewage pond and fed sewage. From Bevis, she learns that the prisoners are being reanimated as "Stalkers" by the Engineering Guild. With Bevis' help, the two infiltrate St Paul's Cathedrawl where they learn that the MEDUSA project is an energy weapon. The two witness the destruction of Panzerstadt-Bayreuth.

Katherine and the Guild of Historians shelter Bevis Pod inside the London Museum. After learning about her father's role in the death of Pandora and the mutilation of Hester, Katherine turns against her father and ostracizes him following his return. As London approaches the Shield Wall, she and Bevis Pod undertake a mission using the secret passage behind the Museum to destroy MEDUSA. However, they are captured by a security team of Engineers.

They are rescued by the Historians who buy them enough time to escape. While heading up to St Paul's, Bevis is killed when the 13th Floor Elevator crashes into London. Katherine continues the mission and manages to infiltrate St Paul's. There, she comes across Hester who has been captured by Thaddeus, who is about to kill her with his sword. In an attempt to save her half-sister, Katherine throws herself between Hester and her father's sword, fatally wounding herself. She also inadvertently destroys MEDUSA's control console, causing the superweapon to self-destruction and destroy London. As Katherine dies, she reconciles with her distraught and repentant father. A guilt-ridden Thaddeus cradles his daughter's corpse as they are consumed by the flames.




Home Media

The film was be released on DVD. Mortal Engines was released digitally on 24 Feb, 2019.


Mortal Engines Series
Fever CrumbA Web of AirScrivener's Moon
Traction CityThe Haunted SkyNight Flights
In the Bleak Midwinter
Mortal EnginesPredator's GoldInfernal DevicesA Darkling Plain
The Traction CodexThe Illustrated World of Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines (film)