Mortal Engines interview: Hugo Weaving and Stephen Lang as you've NEVER seen them

December 8, 2018
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Mortal Engines unites two of the greatest performers of big (and small) screen villains in modern cinema. Lang terrified and enraged audiences as the vile Colonel in Avatar, while Weaving has disturbed and quietly horrified audiences in the Matrix movies and Patrick Melrose. So, it’s rather a delight to get them cuddling up and even holding hands as we talk about their roles in Peter Jackson’s latest blockbuster. Based on the hit books by Phillip Reeves, Lang plays the reanimated man/monster Shrike with Weaving bring his usual unsettling charm to warmonger Thaddeus Valentine. 

I boldly tell Lang how much I hated him in Avatar while Weaving often plays more complex characters who slip in the knife when you’re not looking. Lang smiles: “Oh that hurts. I thought I was charming”

But we soon talk about how his relentless cyborg killer Shrike may actually be the most ‘human’ character of all and Lang adds: “Without a soul but he has as much soul as Aretha.”

Shrike is an incredible figure, initially horrifying but slowly the audience learns his own tragic and heartbreaking past. It is typical of a film that gradually peels back layers to present ever more complex truths.

Scenes of heart-pounding chases, the awe-inspiring spectacle of a steampunk London on wheels or beautiful panoramas of cities in the clouds are mixed with the unsettling aspects of human nature we might sometimes try to ignore.  

We can’t avoid the topic of how timely Mortal Engines appears, as humanity gobbles its resources and nations increasingly seem to distrust one another. 

A scene where conquered migrants are told their children may be taken away is an unmistakable commentary on the recent events in the US.

Should Hollywood movies be involved in social or moral judgements?

Lang says: “So many films and books preach to the converted. One of things marvellous about this film is that it can have a very wide appeal. There is a lot of social relevance to this catastrophic world we seem to be inhabiting.

“At the same time it’s a hell of a yarn.

“That way you speak to as many people as possible, if you can sucker punch in a message in a subversive way.”

Weaving says: “If you make films you can’t help make comment and reflect the world you live in. If you try to hit a nail too hard over the head, no-one likes that. Anything that is didactic is not art, it’s not interesting. It’s opinionising or ideology. It’s much more interesting to try and express who we are and through that there are all sort of relevant revelations.”

Lang talks about what he loves most about the movie: “It’s inhabited by young people who exhibit courage and resourcefulness and they are dealing with the world as they know it, just as young people today are dealing with the world they are given.

“If you’re looking for a message, sure, it’s one of hope and ‘get it done.’ If you’re not satisfied with the world, change it.”

MORTAL ENGINES IS OUT NOW



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