On Friday, Oct. 5, 2018, at New York Comic Con, director Peter Jackson, best known for bringing Middle Earth to life in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, premiered the first 25 minutes of his new post-apocalyptic fantasy film, Mortal Engines.

Mortal Engines, based on the novel by Philip Reeve, takes place in a version of the future in which societies are mobile, contained in large, moving machines. The movie opens with a city scene, a kind of steampunk cityscape where old technology meets new. Suddenly, when an alarm goes off, warning of the approach of a larger roving city-machine in the distance, the smaller city transforms. Its metal gears and panels shift to create another moving machine. There’s a pursuit across uninhabited terrain, and the smaller machine is chased alongside a canyon by the larger. But, we soon discover, the larger machine is not just some anonymous predator city but rather future London; a cannibalistic society-machine that “ingests” the smaller one with a Union Jack conspicuously painted on its metal “mouth.”

Within this new version of London, young historian Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan, from Misfits) uncovers some shady happenings related to weaponry and the leader of this society, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). Natsworthy ends up teaming up with Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) who is seeking vengeance and a well-known outlaw named Anna Fang (Jihae) to lead a rebellion.

With its focus on the class differences and prejudices among different inhabitants of these moving societies, its portrayal of subjugation and assimilation, and its combination of futuristic technology, Industrial Age-style machinery, and pointed references to our contemporary culture — all featured with enormous scope and mesmerizing cinematography — Mortal Engines looks like Jackson’s attempt to make another mark in the history of fantasy films.

For now, it’s a bit too early to tell if that will in fact be the case, but either way, Mortal Engines is sure to at least deliver in terms of its visual and narrative world-building and its epic scale and stakes.

As for the rest, we’ll find out December 14, 2018, when Mortal Engines hits theaters nationwide.

See all our New York Comic Con coverage here.

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