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Credit: Craig Barritt/Getty Images for New York Comic Con

Mortal Engines: Peter Jackson and more break down the caste system of the film's mobile cities (Watch)

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Nov 13, 2018, 12:47 PM EST

There's no question that Mortal Engines (arriving a month from tomorrow) will be a giant spectacle of a film. We'd expect nothing less from executive producer/co-writer Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit). But where there is spectacle, there must also be pathos, so the audience feels invested in the characters and story. 

A new featurette for the movie gives us a crash course in the new order of things in this post-apocalyptic world, while introducing us to the plight of the central protagonists. With cities on the move, a caste system has evolved, with the poorer classes and the bottom and the richer ones at the top. Think Snowpiercer, just in towering city form.

"London's a pyramid, tiered society," says Hugo Weaving, who plays the main villain,  Thaddeus Valentine.

"Down at the very base, you have the gut workers down in the great engine rooms," adds producer/co-writer Philippa Boyens. 

"As you go up, tier-by-tier, the people get more wealthy," finishes Jackson.

Watch the featurette below:

The cities that role around on wheels and treads, devouring other cities, are known as "traction cities." Leading a revolt in the form of the Ant-Traction League, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) seeks to change the world and get revenge on Valentine, who murdered her mother. Anna Fang (Jihae) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) are some of the other members of the resistance. 

To really sell the massive CGI cities, the visual effects team wanted to achieve something that was awe-inspiring, yet still believable. 

"When it came to ingesting other cities, we organically figured that one out," says Animation Supervisor Dennis Yoo. "We did have tests, we did look at a lot of reference  — big machinery crumbling and getting destroyed." 

Directed by Christian Rivers, Mortal Engines rolls into theaters Dec. 14.