It’s no secret that Hollywood loves adapting Young Adult fiction for the big screen. Franchises such as The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are huge, sprawling successes. Even adaptations that weren’t as well received critically have often dominated at the box office in recent years (we’re looking at you, Twilight). Solo projects are also raking it in, with titles like The Fault in Our Stars and The Perks of Being A Wallflower finding a huge audience with YA readers, so it’s no surprise that studios are looking for more fan-favorite series to adapt.
Writer and director Peter Jackson, best known for his work on the Lord of the Rings franchise, has been fairly quiet since The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies wrapped up in 2014. Now he’s announced his next project – another sweeping, fantasy epic based on a book that YA fans should know.
Jackson took to Facebook today to announce that he will be working on a big-screen adaptation of Mortal Engines, the book by Philip Reeve. The upcoming movie will be produced by WingNut Films, with a script co-written by Jackson alongside his regular collaborators Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens, both of whom co-wrote the scripts for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. Christian Rivers will be directing, with Zane Weiner and Amanda Walker in New Zealand and Deborah Forte in the US. Universal and MRC are financing, and filming starts in March of 2017.
This won’t be the first time that this team has come together to work on a franchise project. The only person mentioned above who was not involved in either the Lord of the Rings or the Hobbit franchises is Deborah Forte. The rest of the team have all worked together in some capacity on the Tolkien epic, which should mean that the Mortal Engines is in good hands. Jackson also mentions in his post that getting this project off the ground has been a long process, having had the rights to the series for “several years,” with Rivers involved in the the previs in 2009. The director explains this delay in getting a Mortal Engines movie off the ground on nothing other than needing to “wait for the right time”.
This is huge news for fans of the YA series, which is set in a dystopian future where cities are wheel-mounted and roam the Earth looking for smaller, weaker cities to attack and engulf. The first of four novels, Mortal Engines is a glorious steampunk fantasy. Visually, the books need careful handling and stellar special effects to do justice to the incredible world created by Reeve – and if anyone knows how to deliver, it should be Jackson. Rivers, although very new to directing (his previous credits as a director include only two short films), has a wealth of experience in visual effects, which bodes well for this new project. With a rock-solid team behind him who are already proven to work well together, it looks like Mortal Engines is a hit in the making. Should the first film do well, this will be the start of a new fantasy franchise, with adaptations of Predators Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain to follow.
However, there may be some concerns over both the limited experience of the director, and the scope of the series. This is a vast and complex world, and will undoubtedly require a huge budget to bring to life. The larger the budget, the more a movie has to make to be considered a success, which increases the possibility that Mortal Engines may not make it to franchise status. The fandom for the books is solid, but not every YA adaptation with a large fanbase succeeds – The Mortal Instruments and the Divergent series proves that beyond a doubt. However, we have high hopes for Jackson’s latest project, and his enthusiasm shines through in his post. “The moment we read these novels, we knew what exciting movies they’d make. I literally can’t wait to see them!”
Mortal Engines currently has no release date. We’ll keep you updated as development continues.