New 'Mortal Engines' Videos Reveal How to Make Apocalyptic "Breakdown"

To convince audiences of a movie’s fantastical universe, it’s important filmmakers sweat the details.

That sort of attention to detail is exactly what’s going on in several new behind the scenes featurettes of Mortal Engines, a post-apocalyptic fantasy film based on the Philip Reeve novels and executive produced by Peter Jackson.

On Thursday, Universal released a slew of new behind the scenes videos revealing how key members of the Mortal Engines team — from costume makers to set designers to prop makers — forged a lived-in world from scratch.

In one mesmerizing video (watch it above), you can see how “Breakdown Artists” Sonya Murray and Hamish Brown artificially created age and texture onto the cast’s costumes, an area of production lead by Principal Design Coordinator, Naomi Campbell.

Here’s Brown on the importance of “Breakdown”:

“Breakdown is the kind of thing where if it’s not there, people notice it. But if it’s done well, it shouldn’t even cross your mind that it’s there. Sets, costumes, props, have a history. The process of breaking down costumes adds layers of realism to the overall work.”

This texture is especially important for Mortal Engines, which takes place in the aftermath of a “Sixty Minute War” that left the Earth ravaged and subject to constant earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

“Generally with this film, everything is old,” Brown says. “Everything is reused and recycled. Even the most well-to-do characters are wearing very, very old clothes.”

He adds that all costumes need to have “an enormous amount of wear and age.” Murray, another breakdown artist in the video, says the process is like “alchemy” in order “to remind the audience that the world that was doesn’t exist anymore.”

The video has a number of breathtaking slo-mo shots of the “breakdown” process, which includes creating mixtures of water, dirt, and paint, as well as straight up burning clothes with fire.

Below, you can see Brown adding texture to a coat worn by Thaddeus Valentine, a character played by Hugo Weaving (Lord of the Rings).

Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines Costume Breakdown

Here are GIFs of the breakdown process being applied to uniforms worn by dock workers (played by the film’s extras).

Mortal Engines
Mortal Engines

In another video, embedded below, the film’s lead costumer, Naomi Campbell, explains how Costume is one of the most important and complex departments for a film like Mortal Engines.

“A lot of people don’t take into account a lot of the things that happen behind the scenes,” she says. “All of the research and sourcing and manufacturing and the aging and art finishing and all of that comes together to what you see on camera. It’s a feast for the eyes.”

Mortal Engines will be released in theaters on December 14.

Media via Universal Pictures