Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, the writing team that brought you King Kong and The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, have a new project: adapting Phillip Reeve’ Mortal Engines to screen.
Reeve’ 2001 young adult novel — the first in a four-book series — follows the adventures of Tom Natsworthy, third class apprentice in the Guild of Historians in the town of Salthook. Tom’s adventure begins when his home is literally devoured by the city of London.
As Peter Jackson put it on his Facebook page, Mortal Engines takes place in a world where "all of Earth’s major cities are now mounted on wheels, roaming across the landscape as massive ‘Traction Cities.’ Our society has built itself on the principles of Municipal Darwinism — this basically involves the bigger cities hunting down, and consuming, the smaller ones. And that’s only the backdrop to an original and emotional personal story."
Basically, Mortal Engines, also known as the Predator Cities series, takes place in a post-apocalyptic steampunk world where merciless barons and mayors roam Europe’s Hunting Ground, preying on smaller towns and converting their raw materials into fuel for their own city-machines.
Jackson, Walsh and Boyens will collaborate on the script, but Mortal Engines will be the first time one of their screenplays will be given to a director other than Jackson. Instead, the director’s chair is reserved for newcomer Christian Rivers, who has worked with the team since The Fellowship of the Ring, doing visual effects, and stepping up for splinter directorial duties on The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies and second unit directing on Pete’s Dragon.
"Mortal Engines is one of those stories that was made for the big screen." Rivers said in a statement. "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."
Jackson, et al. have been considering a Mortal Engines film since at least 2009, and production is now slated to begin in New Zealand in March of 2017, in collaboration with Universal Studios. No cast has been announced yet, but Jackson confirmed that Weta Workshop and Weta Digital are "both onboard" through his Facebook page.