'Mortal Engines' Brings Monolithic 25 Minutes of Footage to New York Comic Con

The Peter Jackson-produced post-apocalyptic steampunk movie opens Dec. 14.

London wasn’t the only thing welcoming fans of the upcoming Mortal Engines at New York Comic Con. At the movie’s panel in Madison Square Garden Friday morning, the audience had the chance to watch the opening 25 minutes of the finished feature ahead of an appearance by the movie’s writer, director, cast — as well as executive producer Peter Jackson.

The footage introduced the post-post-apocalyptic world of Philip Reeve's YA novels, which take place roughly 30 centuries in the future after humanity has rebuilt itself in the aftermath of the so-called "60 minute war," as well as the main characters of the piece: Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), the movie’s central character and an assassin out to revenge the murder of her mother; Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), well-meaning historian on the monolithic London; and Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), the head of the guild of historians and central villain of the story. 

Perhaps surprisingly, central to the opening was not one but two chase sequences glimpsed in the first minute of the trailer for the movie released in June, in which the city of London chases, and then "ingests" a smaller city, followed by Hester being pursued by Tom as the smaller city is destroyed in the bowels of London's underworld. This action was balanced with more than a little amount of expository dialogue as the backstory of the movie's world is explained to the audience. 

Appearing onstage after the footage had finished were Jackson, Hilmar, Sheehan, fellow actors Jihae, Leila George and Stephen Lang, screenwriter Philippa Boyens, and director Christian Rivers. Jackson explained that he had initially optioned the novels “in about 2006 and 2007,” but development was mothballed when The Hobbit became a priority. “When we came out of that, Christian had done some second unit directing on The Hobbit and I was exhausted, so I suggested Christian make his first feature film,” he explained.

Rivers and Jackson both talked about their ambitions for the movie. “We wanted it to be a new story, a new world, a new experience for cinema lovers,” the director said, while Jackson admitted, “It’s a series of books, so I hope if enough people come to see this, we’ll get to make the next ones.”

The cast talked briefly about their characters. Jihae noted that her character, Anna Fang, was “kind of a fierce environmental activist,” saying, “There has to be someone who has to oppose the action of a path and culture that can’t thrive that way for very long,” while Lang teased his character, the mysterious Shrike, as being a man who had died and was brought back to life through the use of a technology that has essentially hollowed out his humanity. “He’s served many masters but when our story starts, he really is a solo country hunter who collects heads and sells them,” he said.

Following a brief video appearance from Weaving, who implored fans to use the hashtag #MortalEnginesNYCC to be entered into a draw for tickets to the L.A. premiere for the movie later this year, the panel closed with the debut of the latest trailer for the movie.

Mortal Engines opens Dec. 14.