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Jihae likens 'Mortal Engines' heroine to 'fierce environmental activist'

By Karen Butler
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Jihae likens 'Mortal Engines' heroine to 'fierce environmental activist'
Jihae attends the premiere of "Mortal Engines" in Los Angeles on December 5. The film opens nationwide Friday. Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

Dec. 13 (UPI) -- South Korean singer Jihae will be seen making her feature film acting debut this week as Anna Fang, a pilot and resistance leader in the dystopian society of Mortal Engines.

The adaptation of Philip Reeve's sci-fi novel is set in a world where motorized "predator cities" roam the Earth devouring natural resources and smaller towns.

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"When you live in an unfair world where resources are so scarce that towns are on wheels, eating other towns, there has to be someone that has to oppose the action of a path of a culture that can't thrive for that way for very long," Jihae recently told the crowd at New York Comic Con where the first 25 minutes of the film was screened.

Produced and co-written by The Lord of the Rings and King Kong filmmaker Peter Jackson, the movie takes place about 3,000 years after a world war triggered continental shifts and re-drew the map of the Earth. It was directed by Christian Rivers and co-stars Robert Sheehan, Stephen Lang, Hugo Weaving and Hera Hilmar.

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Anna makes her entrance on screen rescuing Hilmar's character Hester Shaw and Sheehan's Tom Natsworthy from a slave auction where they are to be sold after the villainous government official Thaddeus Valentine casts them out of the mobile version of London. Hester and Tom then team up with Anna and her fellow rebels to prevent Valentine from annihilating what is left of the Earth and her dwellers.

Jihae said she regards Anna as an archetypal warrior and symbol of resistance.

"She is kind of like a fierce environmental activist who will do anything by any means to protect the nature," the artist said. "Whether it be sword fighting or gun toting or kung fu fighting, she will go in and fight."

Anna's main mission is to protect Shan Guo, the planet's last, natural haven.

"And, also, to stop London from unleashing another potential cataclysmic event on Earth," added Jihae, who previously acted in the National Geographic series Mars and co-created with John Patrick Shanley the rock opera Fire Burning Rain.

Enter Shrike

Shrike, the terrifying undead cyborg bounty hunter played via motion-capture performance by Avatar and Don't Breathe actor Stephen Lang, is the polar opposite of Anna.

A collector of broken objects, the 1,000-year-old Shrike discovers Hester as an injured child after Valentine murdered her mother. Shrike raises her in isolation until he one day recognizes she is unhappy and urges her to let him kill and reanimate her, so she will not experience pain. She runs away and Shrike destroys everything in his path trying to bring her home.

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"He's a non-thinking being in the middle of an existential crisis," Lang told UPI in a recent phone interview, adding that Hester is merely part of the landscape of Shrike's life until she leaves.

"That's the first time that some kind of a feeling emerges -- that something is missing," he said. "She reactivates these memories that he has from so, so long ago."

Like Avatar, Mortal Engines is a big, cinematic thrill ride that asks important questions about where the human race is headed and what the impact is of how we treat our natural resources and each other.

However, Lang said the tendency of sci-fi films to be allegorical and comment on society isn't what entices him to star in them.

"I can go for something that is just pure entertainment with no particular value to it," said the actor who is also known for his work on the TV shows Into the Badlands, Salem and Terra Nova.

Exploring a unique world and working with Jackson were among the reasons Lang was attracted to Mortal Engines.

"But the main motivating factor was the opportunity to articulate this particular character because I found his story to be so tragic and so poignant, sad and human. I just wanted to embrace the contradictions of the character," he said.

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Mortal Engines opens nationwide Friday.

The cast of 'Mortal Engines' attends the premiere in Los Angeles

The cast of 'Mortal Engines' attends the premiere in Los Angeles
Jihae plays Anna Fang in the film. Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

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