How Mortal Engines' Ending Differs From The Book
Mortal Engines may do a stand-up job of translating the unique world of Phillip Reeve's imagination to the big screen, creating a unique old-tech future that never feels steampunk, but there's also a lot of differences from the source story. By far the most noticeable is Hester's scar, which as described is a horrible disfigurement that pains Tom to even look at, yet here is a much more fetching flesh wound. Although while that means the heroine has a somewhat different arc - there's less repulsion to her character throughout - it's at the ending where alterations become most pronounced.
Many of them center on Valentine. In the Mortal Engines film, he's the primary villain, a promotion from the book where he's primarily working for Mayor Magnus Crome and is a considerably more conflicted figure. To whit, in Reeve's version he gets a moment of proper clarity when he accidentally stabs and kills his daughter, Katherine, who sacrifices herself to protect Hester; following which, he dies as London explodes. In the film, London merely stops - it isn't destroyed entirely - and Katherine lives. Additionally, the reveal that Hester is Thaddeus' daughter plays out differently, with the movie evoking The Empire Strikes Back whereas the book has it discovered from Katherine's perspective.
There's also a shift to give Tom more autonomy in the finale, a necessary move for a three-act movie. An air attack on London is added to the Mortal Engines film, with Natsworthy piloting the Jenny Haniver and destroying London himself, rather than it being caused by overload of MEDUSA.
There are many other changes to Mortal Engines - the end of Shrike's arc is more definitive in the film - but it's these points that could have the biggest long-term impact in a Mortal Engines sequel.
Mortal Engines' Sequel Books
Predator's Gold, the sequel to Mortal Engines, was published in 2003. It continued to follow Tom and Hester on a totally fresh adventure that took them to different areas of the post-apocalyptic world - the freezing Ice Wastes of the north, then eventually to America, a land long believed uninhabitably irradiated - and interacting with (mostly) new characters. The plot is driven a city chase between the giant Arkangel and Anchorage, with several betrayals along the way, Anna Fang transformed into an even more violent anti-traction Resurrected Man, and a very light love triangle for Tom and Hester. A Mortal Engines 2 would undoubtedly follow this story.
The Mortal Engines Quartet goes much further than that, however. Subsequent books Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain took the story sixteen years into the future, introducing Wren Natsworthy (Tom and Hester's daughter) and dealing with the final days of traction cities, involving ODIN (an orbital version of Medusa) and anti-gravity tech. It's a grand tale, one that goes much further than the young adult origins of Mortal Engines (the end of Tom and Hester's story is beautifully poignant), with a future epilogue holding a mirror to the reader.
How Mortal Engines Movie Sets Up Predator's Gold
With Predator's Gold being a totally new adventure, there's little Mortal Engines can do to set up a sequel. The movie has Tom and Hester fly away together a couple, Anna Fang is dead but her body's resting place not show, and... that's about it. However, the changes made to the first book could have some interesting ramifications. With Hester knowing of her parentage from the start, her arc would likely be different. More importantly, Katherine doesn't die, which would open up the possibility for more adventures featuring her, possibly in the city of Batmunkh Gompa and the land behind the Shield Wall.
On the set of Mortal Engines, Peter Jackson told us that there hadn't been much serious thought on how the sequels would work, with all efforts on the first movie. That said, he did admit that he was more a fan of the later three books than Mortal Engines itself, so Predator's Gold is surely something he'd like to see done. For sure, Mortal Engines certainly has the skeleton of a sprawling, The Lord of the Rings-style film franchise; along with the main quartet, there's prequel trilogy Fever Crumb that tells the origins of traction cities (essentially the series' Hobbit).
Of course, whether any of that happens at this point is unclear. The box office predictions for the film aren't strong (and its received mostly brutal reviews), with stiff competition from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Aquaman, Bumblebee and Mary Poppins Returns providing an uphill battle. But if Mortal Engines can carve out a niche, then it's possible we'll see more of the story. There's certainly more to be told.
- Mortal Engines (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018