'Mortal Engines': Do you need to read the books before you watch the movie?
For those of you who aren't aware, 'Mortal Engines' is based on Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines Quartet - a four-part series that follows human life after the apocalypse.
Peter Jackson's mammoth movie 'Mortal Engines' is coming soon and while you wait, there's an important question that needs answering. Will you love the film more, if you happened to read the book?
For those of you who aren't aware, 'Mortal Engines' is based on Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines Quartet - a four-part series that follows human life after the apocalypse. The first part, 'Mortal Engines' came out in 2001 and after receiving raving reviews, went on to win Nestlé Smarties Book Prize and was shortlisted for the 2002 Whitbread Award. Such was the buzz that a friend of Jackson's happened to tell him to check it out and it had the 'Lord of the Rings' creator hooked. Not long after, Jackson decided to turn Reeve's imagination into a film and bought the movie making rights to it in 2008. However, like every big screen book adaptation out there, Jackson has also tweaked bits here and there.
Firstly, the film will give you a more one story type of experience, as opposed to the book's chapter wise narration. Mind you, this is a massive book put together in a little more than two hours, with repeated references to the other sequels. Some elements in the movie will definitely be missing and others have been tweaked to suit the mood. Little details like the description of the characters, their look and the fights itself have been exaggerated and aged for the film.
To some, the film may actually be a much more intense experience than the books. The big aerial battle that you see in the movies, is actually just on screen. In the books, the battle is entirely non-existent. In fact, the movie has given more importance to these small flying aircraft than the books ever did.
A major reason why it would probably be a good idea to read the books first is if you are a fan of Reeve's steampunk. The film has almost entirely strayed away, pretty consciously, from the theme. 'Mortal Engines' tends to stick more towards an entirely new theme of the post-apocalypse dystopia side of things - which is perhaps an easier step when compiling all chapters of the book together. Everything too Victoria-era has been cut out.
When Reeve wrote 'Mortal Engines' initially, he had meant to write it for adults. However, his ideas didn't do well with publishers. Much later, when Scholastic showed interest in the books, they wanted to make it into a children's story. He ended up changing a lot of it to fit the mold. When the books finally saw the light of day, the characters became teenagers. Tom Natsworthy was a teenage Apprentice Historian and Hester Shaw, an adolescent rebel. In the film, all of the characters look almost a decade older - all in their mid-twenties. It is an understandable move on Jackson's part - it is definitely much easier to say that a bunch of adults are fighting in a post-apocalyptic world than saying a couple of teens are trying to stop giant machines.
The characters too definitely will look different to you than they would if you would have read the books. Hester Shaw especially has been revamped to suit the persona of the film. Reeve's books took a certain level of pride to show their scarred heroine. Strong and fierce, Hester's character was centered around the scar on her face - how she got it, who gave it to her and why it reminds her every day that she must avenge for it. In the books, it is a monstrous feature, that made her wonder why Ton loved her in the first place. In fact, it is so gruesome that even her own daughter questions why anyone could love someone so hideous. She's also been given two fully functional eyes. There's a lot more conflict and depth for Hester in the books, for sure.
In the film, Hester's scar isn't as pronounced. As the film reps put it, it was to let the character be able to speak freely. They felt that if they had slashed off any more of her face, she wouldn't be able to speak. It is quite understandable since in the books Reeve was doing all the talking for her. Other characters like Katherine Valentine who is another elite from the London Traction City is blonde in the books - has been turned into a brunette while gut-worker Bevis Pod looks more like a salt and pepper kind of guy than the bald and sooty character we see in the books. It is safe to say that the movie has changed a lot of its elements to make it big budget movie standard.
When 'Mortal Engines' hits theatres on December 14, it may turn out to be a fantastic film or it may entirely disappoint. However, the one thing that remains constant is - Reeve's imagination will always be much braver and more captivating than the on-screen adaptation. You should definitely pick up a copy before you head to the movies.