Peter Jackson has revealed why he chose not to direct the upcoming Mortal Engines adaptation. Starring Hugo Weaving and Robert Sheehan, the film is based on the first in a series of novels by Philip Reeve. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, cities have been molded into mobile, steampunk-inspired fortresses that now prey on each other for dominance and survival. After foiling an assassination attempt on his city's leader, Tom Natsworthy (played by Sheehan) finds himself cast out into the wilderness, alongside the disfigured would-be assassin, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). The first 25 minutes debuted at NYCC.
Jackson acquired the rights in 2008, immediately attempting to kick off production. The Lord of the Rings director co-wrote the script with frequent collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Jackson was all set to direct the film. When Guillermo del Toro stepped down from The Hobbit, however, Jackson chose instead to venture back into Middle-earth to direct the prequel trilogy. It was believed that Jackson would eventually return to Mortal Engines, but in 2016 it was announced that Christian Rivers would assume directorial duties on the adaptation.
Speaking to Empire, Jackson revealed the reasons that ultimately led to the decision not to reclaim the director's chair. In short, after the grueling efforts that went into creating two large-scale trilogies back to back, he simply didn't have the right mindset nor the energy.
“I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I just thought I could either direct the movie in an exhausted state or I could give it to someone who is young and has a bit more energy, and simply help them."
Although Mortal Engines will mark his directorial debut, Rivers is hardly a left-field choice to take over. As with Walsh and Boyens, Jackson has worked with Rivers many times in the past. Rivers has storyboarded each one of Jackson's films since 1992's Braindead. He has also garnered extensive experience in visual and special effects and even has a small cameo in King Kong.
How successful the film is in bringing the books to life, of course, remains to be seen. Book readers are notoriously pedantic when it comes to the adapting of beloved literary franchises. There will no doubt be changes to the source material after all. Regardless, the concept remains one that might just be crazy enough to work, generating a new franchise for audiences to immerse themselves in now that the main Harry Potter series and other such dystopian-fantasy adaptations as The Maze Runner franchise have concluded.
With a focus on practical effects over digital and Rivers describing the film as a blend of elements from Harry Potter, Mad Max, and Star Wars, there is much for fans to potentially look forward to. And with Jackson choosing to remain attached solely as a producer, he will no doubt get more chance to rest whilst also ensuring his original vision remains intact ahead of any potential sequels.
- Mortal Engines (2018) release date: Dec 14, 2018