Mortal Engines has the best models and miniatures I’ve seen in a movie outside of the original Star Wars movies and the Lord of the Rings. This should come as no surprise, since Mortal Engines came from WETA Workshop, the same crew who designed The Lord of the Rings. Remember all those rolling cities and fabulous airships? It’s kind of exciting to realize much of the film-work was done with actual scaled models that you can see and touch, reflecting light as only tangible things do.
As the model maker in this featurette (below) says, “People will always respond to more to a model.”
I’d tend to agree. Some movies make magic with CGI (as in Avatar), or transport the viewer through excellent 3D animation (like Into the Spider-Verse). But with the technology we have today, the best bet for creating a fantastical live-action universe lies in some sort of combination of masterful CGI and intricate, detailed, and lovingly created models.
Here’s where something like the dystopian steampunk epic Mortal Engines comes into its own. Not everyone loved the story (it did have gaping plotholes and a darth of necessary backstory), but it’s nearly unanimous that the set-piece cities and fanciful airships, in terms of world-building, were very fine indeed.
This three minute featurette follows model maker and silicone caster Alex Falkner as he creates the Jenny Haniver, an airship he calls “the Millennium Falcon” of Mortal Engines. The name Jenny Haniver is quite interesting. It sounds a lady’s name — which would be rather boring, as the film doesn’t provide any backstory — but a quick search from the Wikipedia reveals this tidbit:
“A Jenny Haniver is the carcass of a ray or a skate that has been modified by hand then dried, resulting in a mummified specimen intended to resemble a fanciful fictional creature, such as a demon or dragon.”
So in essence, the design of this airship is intended to evoke a flying dragon. That’s just cool. Here’s the model maker video showing the Jenny Haniver in action:
Co-Creator of RunPee, Chief of Operations, Content Director, and Managing Editor. RunPee Jilly likes galaxy-spanning sci fi, superhero sagas, fantasy films, YA dystopians, action thrillers, chick flicks, and zany comedies, in that order…and possesses an inspiringly small bladder. In fact, that little bladder sparked the creation of RunPee. (Good thing she’s learned to hold it.)