In both post-(post-)apocalyptic novel and movie, Mortal Engines tells the tale of a fully mobilised London. This high-speed, sci-fi London is a ravenous Traction City, a necessary by-product of so-called Municipal Darwinism. Those 10-dollar words may be foreign, but what’s not are some iconic buildings, like the ancient St Paul’s Cathedral that towers over this particular Predator City’s top tier.
But while this free-roaming London stalks prey on a newly formed European landmass, what’s happening at the bottom of the globe in Australia?
State of affairs
Despite being mostly safe from the ominously named and world-scarring Black Centuries and Sixty Minute War that predate the events of Mortal Engines, Municipal Darwinism did eventually make it to Australia, or “Oztralia” as it’s known. This means ‘Stralia’s capital cities got mobile and started eating whatever pesky and impossibly static Anti-Tractionist towns they rolled across before turning the giant jaws of their cities on mobilised suburbs, towns and cities (including each other).
And here’s how they size up.
Arguably Australia’s most well-known present-day city, Traction City Sydney of tomorrow can be found roaming the inland deserts of “Danundaland” (read: down-under-land). Naturally, these futuristic Sydneysiders preserved the most iconic monument: the Sydney Opera House. Unlike London’s level St Paul’s Cathedral, the Sydney Opera House is said to be balanced on Sydney’s topmost tier at what can only be described as an artistic angle. You really can’t miss it.
The ancient mouthy rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney is a whole lot more lethal in this new world. But they, and all other Aussie Traction Cities, do have something in common. Giant cork-like defences, dangling from the upper tiers via giant chains, designed to deter or swat away any pesky, buzzing Anti-Tractionist airships that are foolhardy enough to fly in from the Blue Mountains for a cheeky crack. The sporting Victorians on mobile Melbourne are more than just survivors, though. They’ve used the giant cake tin otherwise known as the Melbourne Cricket Ground as the basis of their Predator City. How very sporting of them.
Unlike its east-coast rivals, the newly mobilised Perth hit the ground running thanks to the abundant natural riches of Western Australia. The iron ore and alumina keep the metallic tiers strong and the iconic preserved Bell Tower in good nick. An abundance of salt ensures meat lasts longer and chips can be seasoned beyond being mere reshaped potatoes. And with an abundance of coal to scoop up, Perth is a rare example of a Traction City that doesn’t have to hunt to keep its furnaces burning.
The futuristic capital of the Sunshine State has cleverly utilised the namesake of its ex-home state to power its Traction City. As the post-apocalyptic slogan goes: ‘See Brisbane in the sun, then it’s time to run.’ Smaller towns should take heed when crossing the path of this solar-powered monstrosity. On top of this, the mobile city planners cleverly twisted the iconic Story Bridge into a steel grill, which makes Brisbane’s town-devouring jaws look like they have braces.
The capital of the Festival State has come to the party in this new city-eat-city world. Wine country has now been replaced by the whine of a reborn Adelaide. But that sommelier-like taste for quality plonk has led these savvy new-age Adelaideans to a two-part booze-fuelled solution. First, wine fuels the city. Second, it keeps the inhabitants red nosed and happy. Look for the multi-tier greenery of the Adelaide Botanic Garden, which doubles as a vineyard.
Ruled by a quadrennially rotation of questionable governance, the first thing you’ll notice about Traction City Canberra is its circular design. It may have once been Australia’s largest inland city, but this reformed inland ’Stralia is a hunting ground. Canberra’s big advantage over the bigger Aussie Predator Cities is the brains-over-brawn knowledge gleaned from its preserved institutions. Just take a look at the foundational knowledge that’s literally the Predator City’s foundation: a splicing of the Australian War Museum, National Museum, and National Library.
The capital of the Northern Territory has a storied history of surviving disasters, which is why it was raring to go when Municipal Darwinism landed. World War II and Cyclone Tracy bred a tough culture of the importance of keeping heads above water. Couple this history with the smack-bang-on-the-coast location and that’s likely why Darwin’s mobilisation sparked an amphibious design. Darwin 2.0 is small enough to slink away from inland threats and versatile enough to sail away when backed to the coast.
The reshaping of the planet means Tasmania sunk beneath the waves. RIP, Australia’s slice of heaven. Unlike the Atlanteans, though, savvy Hobartians anticipated this demise and were the first fully mobilised city in Australia. Nowadays, Traction City Hobart calls the reshaped mainland home. This advanced planning and abundant greenery in Tasmania meant that Hobart was able to dedicate multiple tiers to sustainable natural flora. This means neo-Hobart is more pacifist than predator, opting to subdue larger treats by pre-emptively trading tasty salmon, delectable cheese and world-class whisky.
You won’t see any of these Aussie Traction Cities in the Mortal Engines movie adaptation, but you will see what happens when a mobilised capital city finds unsuspecting town-sized prey in the scarred European hunting grounds.
Mortal Engines rolls out onto 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital on March 20.