A new video offers a closer look at Stephen Lang as the undead soldier Shrike in Mortal Engines. The last member of an undead group of soldiers known as the Stalkers, Shrike was once a human who was killed in combat and subsequently brought back to life via machinery. He also shares a personal history with the film's co-protagonist, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar).
Adapted from the book series by Philip Reeve and co-written by Peter Jackson (who once planned to direct the film), Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic future where giant cities on wheels (or traction cities) prey on smaller mobile towns for the earth's remaining resources. Robbie Sheehan costars in the movie as Tom Natsworthy, a lower-class resident of London (which is one of the biggest and most dangerous traction cities) whose life is forever changed when he learns about the connection between London's Head of the Guild of Historians, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), and the fugitive assassin Hester.
After nearly being killed by Hester, Valentine and the Mayor of London, Magnus Crome (Patrick Malahide), recruit Shrike - who helped raise Hester when she was a child - to hunt her down. For more on that, watch the Mortal Engines video in the space below.
Lang spoke more about his Mortal Engines character when we interviewed him on the film's set, and explained why the character's contradictory nature made him interesting to the actor in the first place:
I was interested in him from the first line from the first description of him. Ultimately, what got me was that he fulfills all the requirements of tragedy to me. And also, I would say the contradictions in the character. Character's just rife with contradiction because... for a character that's been emptied out, he's really full. For a character who detests memory or has no use for memory, he's completely obsessed with memory. For a character who is absolutely heartless, he's got the biggest heart, you know, in the world. So... how do you play that? How do you justify, you know? What does all that mean? And to just sort of, you know, fuck around with that is really - it's intriguing.
The actor went on to discuss Shrike's deep connection with Hester, noting that she creates "a gaping kind of hole in [Shrike's] existence" after she leaves and reminds him of "another gaping hole in his existence, even though he can't quite recall what that might be", which is why he's driven to pursue her. While Shrike functions as an antagonist in Mortal Engines for these reasons, he's also the sort of dangerous yet tragic character that Lang has played in the past in films like the horror-thriller Don't Breathe (where he portrayed the nameless Blind Man). He's also a lifelong military type in the vein of Lang's character Colonel Miles Quaritch from James Cameron's Avatar... that whole "undead soldier resurrected" element aside.
Speaking of which: unlike on Avatar, Lang worked on the motion-capture side of things during his time filming Mortal Engines. Describing his mo-cap gear as "very un-Shrike-like", Lang told us that that he sometimes had to hold a box that contains a physical model of Shrike's head during his scenes (as a point of reference for the film's visual effects team to work from), and joked that "So, occasionally, I'll be in a scene where I'm holding Shrike's head and I'm thinking, well, they don't really need me at all." Based on this new Mortal Engines footage, however, the final onscreen result should be worth all the effort that Lang and the movie's creatives poured into it.
Source: Universal Pictures
- Mortal Engines (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018