After the somewhat mixed reaction to his Hobbit trilogy, Peter Jackson is back with another book adaptation and has his sights firmly set on a franchise. Based on the novel Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve, the Kiwi director revealed that he had been working on the script along with LOTR and Hobbit alumni Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Production is set to start in March in New Zealand (naturally) and will be helmed by Christian Rivers (pictured), the second unit director for two of the Hobbit movies (Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of Five Armies, to be precise) and visual effects aficionado who has been involved in most of Jackson’s movies.
Originally published in 2001, Mortal Engines is the first book in a quadrilogy set in a post-apocalyptic world ravished by war. In order to secure Earth’s dwindling resources and to avoid the geological fallout of the conflict, the majority of the world’s cities have been converted into mobile fortresses, mounted on gigantic tanks treads and powered by huge engines. These ‘Traction Cities’ trundle about the landscape, capturing and consuming smaller cities in a desperate bid to survive. Originally intended for adults, the books were redrafted to suit a slightly younger audience – that nebulous ‘Young Adult’ demographic that studio execs like so much. Basically, everyone involved here is hoping that they can fill the gap left by The Hunger Games.
It’s an intriguing universe with a lot of good ideas and the series has the potential to make a great franchise. The only major cause for concern I have is with Peter Jackson himself. The LOTR remains to this day a great trilogy and a shining example of how to make good book adaptations. The Hobbit trilogy, on the other hand, was a shameless cash grab – either by the studio or by Jackson himself – that was terribly done from start to finish. It could be that movie-goers will be reluctant to give him a second chance, especially as the movie and subsequent franchise would essentially be relying on his name to sell tickets. Further, given that one of the chief criticisms leveled at the Hobbit movies was that it really didn’t need to be a trilogy, I find it a bit worrying that Jackson mentions the other three books in the series – implying that he’s thinking of the franchise and not the individuals movies.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on, but it’s a little too early to tell whether or not this is a good idea. Given Jackson’s recent blunders, though… I wouldn’t get my hopes up.