Christian Rivers directing the Mortal Engines film for Peter Jackson

Christian Rivers and Peter Jackson

by James White |
Published on

Peter Jackson has been interested in bringing Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines since at least 2009. And now he's pushing forward with it – but only as co-writer and co-producer, with longtime collaborator Christian Rivers stepping into the director's chair.

Reeve's series of children's novels takes place in a steampunk post-apocalyptic future where cities are mobile and perambulate the planet devouring each other for fuel: a system amusingly called Municipal Darwinism. The St Paul's Cathedral-topped London is the strongest of these Traction Cities, in a world where "old tech" is extremely sought after.

The first novel, Mortal Engines itself, in a very small nutshell, involves an assassination attempt within the Historians Guild; the challenging of apprentice Historian Tom Natsworthy's value system, when he gets stranded overboard his beloved London with the revenge-bent Hester Shaw; and the Terminator-ish "stalker" Shrike (Grike if you're American, where the book seres goes by the awkward title The Hungry City Chronicles) who's on their trail. Mortal Engines is followed by Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices, A Darkling Plain and the prequel Fever Crumb.

Mortal Engines

Jackson adapted the script with LOTR/Hobbit team Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. He and Walsh are also aboard to produce alongside MRC and Universal, which last worked with the filmmaker on King Kong. Rivers has long been part of Jackson's core team; they have a working relationship that began with Rivers as a storyboard artist on 1992's Dead Alive, before working his way up through visual effects (and winning an Oscar for Kong) to splinter unit directing on the Hobbit movies. More recently he struck out on his own to shoot second unit for this year's Pete's Dragon and directed a segment of horror anthology Minutes Past Midnight. But this new movie – the first of what all involved are hoping will be a franchise – represents his biggest challenge yet. "Christian is one of my closest collaborators," says Jackson. "The combination of emotion and jaw-dropping visuals in Mortal Engines makes this the perfect movie for his move into feature directing. What Christian intends to do with Philip Reeve’s terrific story is going to result in an original and spectacular movie. I wish I could see it tomorrow!"

"Mortal Engines is one of those stories that was made for the big screen," says Rivers. "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."

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