Mortal Engines has all the potential to be another massive hit for Peter Jackson if the same attention to detail is given as it was to the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. With four books in the series, there’s no shortage of material to pull from for the film adaptation, which Jackson is also co-writing with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Set for a late 2018 release, Mortal Engines (not to be confused with 2013’s Mortal Instruments) is a big task for first time director Christian Rivers.
Rivers, who has been a storyboard artist for Jackson previously, has won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects on 2005’s King Kong. With the right players behind the scenes, Mortal Engines needs to knock it out of the park with the cast. Already confirmed for the film are Robbie Sheehan as lead Tom Natsworthy, Ronan Raftery as Bevis Pod, and Hera Hilmar as Hester Shaw, who shares lead duties with Sheehan. Set thousands of years in the future after Earth’s nations have nearly decimated the planet in the “Sixty Minute War,” the Mortal Engines has all the pieces of a potential blockbuster.
Jackson’s Mortal Engines continues to solidify with the announcement of more cast members. THR reports that Steven Lang (Avatar, Into the Badlands), Jihae (Mars), and Leila George (Mother, May I Sleep with Danger?) have been added to the film. Peppering familiar faces with up and comers is a formula that has worked for Jackson many times over. Jihae, most known for her K-Pop roots, is slated to play Anna Fang who is a pilot and resistance leader who has a major role in the books. George will be Katherine Valentine, one of London’s elite who learns of her family’s shady past and vows to help fight against the destruction of cities. While Lang’s role has not yet been confirmed, fans of the series could speculate that he’ll be the villain, taking on the role of Thaddeus Valentine, Katherine’s father.
In this desolate and desperate distant future known as the Traction Era, cities are mobile and they devour smaller communities as they roam the Earth. London is one of the largest and most predatory of these so called Traction Cities; but there are those who dare oppose them like Fang and the Anti-Traction League she heads. Most recently, some fans might think of Disney’s John Carter when mobile cities come to mind. The film about warring civilizations of Mars/Barsoom featured a mobile city of menace called Zodonga.
Even without confirmation of a particular role, Steven Lang brings some depth to the young cast. However, there’s still a fine line to tread with YA adaptations of late. Dystopian futures seem to be the go-to trope in sci-fi, but The Hunger Games and Divergent series have produced very different results. Upcoming Ready Player One is also looking to tackle a barren future where a teenage protagonist rises to hero status; while The Maze Runner series seems to have stalled after two films.
Mortal Engines has the advantage of Peter Jackson’s resources, but movie goers will have to wait and see if this YA adaptation can reach a wider audience.