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Mortal Engines director comments on controversy surrounding Hester's scar

The upcoming MORTAL ENGINES follows Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), a disfigured, fugitive assassin seeking to carry out a personal vendetta, but it would seem that her disfigurment doesn't quite go far enough for some fans. The "Mortal Engines" novels by Philip Reeve describe Hester as "a portrait that had been furious crossed out," adding that "Her mouth was wrenched sideways in a permanent sneer, her nose was a smashed stump, and her single eye stared at him out of the wreckage, as grey and chill as a winter sea." As we've seen in the trailers, Hester Shaw's facial disfigurement has been toned down quite a bit from the novel's description, and director Christian Rivers recently spoke with Entertainment Weekly to address why that change was made.

It’s fine in the book for Hester to be described to be ugly, hideous, and have lost a nose ‘cause, even that, you reimagine it in your own mind as, ‘Okay, yeah, she’s ugly, but she’s not really ugly.' Tom falls in love with her… and film is a visual medium. With a book you can take what you want and reimagine it in your head and put together your own picture. But when you put it on film, you are literalizing it. You are making it a literal thing, so it was just finding a balance where we need to believe that Tom and Hester fall in love. And her scar does need to be disfiguring enough that she thinks she’s ugly — it can’t just be a little scratch — and I think we’ve struck a good balance of it.

The MORTAL ENGINES director added that they didn't shy away from the scar altogether, "It’s there and it’s in every shot in the film and it’s a deep wound that you just know, ‘F—, that would’ve hurt.' It’s not a nice, clean knife streak. She was hit with such force that it cut and tore. There’s always gonna be critics from the literal translation from the books, but it’s an adaptation." Christian Rivers also believes that even critics of the toned down scar would likely be put off if the film followed the exact description from the novels.

They probably wouldn’t want to admit that, but they would [be put off] to the point where Tom and Hester stop bonding. You actually just wouldn’t react [in the same way]. It’s kind of a PC thing to say, but it is the reality of film being a cinematic medium.

The official synopsis for MORTAL ENGINES:

Thousands of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, humankind has adapted and a new way of living has evolved.  Gigantic moving cities now roam the Earth, ruthlessly preying upon smaller traction towns.  Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan)—who hails from a Lower Tier of the great traction city of London—finds himself fighting for his own survival after he encounters the dangerous fugitive Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar).  Two opposites, whose paths should never have crossed, forge an unlikely alliance that is destined to change the course of the future.

MORTAL ENGINES will hit theaters on December 14, 2018.

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