Filmmaker Peter Jackson, best known for his visual effects extravaganzas in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series of films, has his next project lined up: an adaptation of the YA novel series Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.
Universal Pictures and MRC will co-finance the production, the first script for which has been written by Jackson, wife and partner Fran Walsh, and their collaborator Philippa Boyens. Jackson will produce, but is passing the director’s chair to his protégé, Christian Rivers, who makes his feature directing debut with this production.
Universal will also distribute worldwide with production set to begin in New Zealand next spring.
Mortal Engines is a four-book series of novels set in the ever-present post-apocalyptic future following the “Sixty Minute War” that caused global upheaval. New pockets of civilization called “Traction Cities” take advantage of “Old Tech” to move forward and prosper in the devastated landscape. London is essentially a giant Steampunk machine. The Traction Cities travel on caterpillar tracks and are independent city-states that trade with each other mainly through the use of airships.
First published in 2001, Mortal Engines won a Nestlé Smarties Book Prize and was on the 2002 short list for a Whitbread Award. It was followed by Predator’s Gold (2003), Infernal Devices (2005), and A Darkling Plain (2006). The four books are sometimes referred to as the Predator Cities Quartet. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Jackson and Walsh have been working on the script since 2009, when they optioned the rights from Scholastic.
“Peter, Fran, Philippa and Christian are all visionary storytellers with the gift of turning their passion projects into beloved blockbusters for a worldwide audience,” said Universal Pictures Donna Langley.
Rivers has long been on Jackson’s team, starting out twenty-five years ago as a storyboard artist and moving into supervising visual effects and directing 2nd Unit teams. He says, “Mortal Engines is one of those stories that was made for the big screen. A fantastical, futuristic world that has to be seen to be believed. At its heart though, it’s a beautiful love story and a richly complex character driven adventure. To be the director who gets to bring Philip Reeve’s incredible universe to life is a dream come true.”