Mortal Engines, the newly released blockbuster from Peter Jackson, could best be described as a post-apocalyptic action film with a very welcome twist.
The movie, based on the best-selling book of the same name, focuses on a futuristic, steampunk version of London, which is now a giant machine striving to survive in a world that is running out of resources.
The action kicks off when Tom (Robert Sheehan), a Londoner who has never stepped foot outside of his travelling hometown, gets his first taste of the outside world when he attempts to stop masked assassin Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) from killing Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), a powerful London man she blames for her mother’s murder.
The twist in this story is that, unlike many other big-screen blockbusters, many from Jackson himself, the film is predominately led by smart, powerful and intricately written female characters.
There is Hester Shaw, who along with being the film’s heroine in a world where resources are low, people are at war and smaller cities are being swallowed up by bigger ones, also has a series of scars across her face. It’s an incredibly welcome change to see on the big screen, especially in a time when there is an immense push to end the trope of movie villains being the only ones to have facial differences.
Mortal Engines also features Anna Fang (played by Jihae), a badass pilot and leader of the Anti-Traction League, a resistance group banding against the moving cities devouring Earth’s resources.
Rounding out the trio is Katherine Valentine (played by Leila George), the whip-smart daughter of Thaddeus Valentine and one of London’s elite. She’s a young woman who begins to piece together the sinister situation happening behind-the-scene of London’s welcoming facade.
Mortal Engines is Leila’s first big blockbuster film, a project she said she was drawn to because of the prevalence of female characters and also because of the deep, emotional relationship her character has with her father.
Family was always on the forefront of her mind during filming, thanks to the fact that both her parents have long and illustrious careers in the entertainment industry. Her father, Vincent D’Onofrio, is well-know from his roles in TV shows such as Law & Order: Criminal Intent and Daredevil. Her mother is Greta Scacchi, an Italian-Australian actress known for her roles in films Presumed Innocent and Looking for Alibrandi.
“Katherine is the daughter of Thaddeus Valentine, who is the villain of the movie,” the 26-year-old actress told Mamamia.“Her story arc is one of great strength because at the start of the movie we find her in a moment of a young person’s life when they are being woken up to the realities of the world. She is also being woken up to the reality of who her father is and that’s a storyline that really drew me to the project in the first place. There are also all these strong women in the film and it’s really cool to see that.”