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Christian Rivers Interview: Mortal Engines

Christian Rivers began his film career at age 17 by storyboarding Peter Jackson’s film Braindead. He has worked with Jackson ever since and is making his directorial film debut with Mortal Engines.  In the movie, humanity survives on mobile cities after a cataclysmic event and fight for the world’s remaining resources. Mortal Engines is based on the book series of the same name and stars Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, and Hugo Weaving.

Screen Rant: What about this screenplay where are you most excited about?

Christian Rivers: All of it really. I mean, the screenplay was sort of still being developed while I was sort of working, to create the--

Screen Rant: Okay. What about the story in general?

Christian Rivers: The story was just, it was unique. I hadn't read anything like it.  It was like, this world of moving cities, these interesting character relationships.  At the heart of it, it's a love story. It’s Tom and Hester, and it’s how they meet, and the adventure that they get wrapped up in, and the courage they have to find in themselves to stand up against someone who's trying to destroy this world. But they fall in love. They fall in love during that process. So, it was a unique love story, had wonderful characters, and it was going to be something new, if we pulled it off. It was going to be--

Screen Rant: So, these are wonderful characters and this story is driven by the characters.  But a co-star is the visual aspect of the sets, you could say. Or a co-star to this film. There's a massive scale to it. How was developing that? And how intimidating was that, if at all?

Christian Rivers: Yeah, I know, it was intimidating. It was-- we wanted to create something new, that had the scale and the culture. We didn't want it to be post-apocalyptic. We didn't want it to be steampunk.  But we also wanted to evoke a lot of that character. And also have a tangible connection to our present day and our history. That's just a process of design. We just get a lot of great artists, and work with them, and give them feedback on, you know, how it goes through the loop.

Screen Rant: How much, are you thinking about the audience and how much respect you have to give to the original work and the author of the story?

Christian Rivers: The respect of the writer is in the writing process and what the screenwriters do. But as far as the audience, I think audiences aren't respected nearly enough. If you're making a big spectacle film, that everyone is going to see, it’s going to be stupid or something. And so, everything gets spoon fed, everything gets over explained. And we wanted to make a film that didn't do that.

That sort of just dropped you in it. And sure, there are certain scenes where there's a little bit of stuff that's explained just because that stuff needs to be understood. But the rest of it is like, “No, just follow these characters. You're going to learn about them and you're just going to get pulled through this world you'll bring your own imagination to it.”

Screen Rant: Speaking of this world. There are four books in this series. Do you think about that at all?

Christian Rivers: No, not really. Well, no, but we-- yes and no. I mean there were a few little things that are there that are little links to the other stories, hopefully. There's a reason why Shrike’s voice is the first thing we hear. And it's for fans who have read the book.  They'll know why that that's the case. But no, we were pretty much, nearly 100 percent just focused on trying to make this the best film possible.

Key Release Dates
  • Mortal Engines (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018
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