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 a 'stalker' called Shrike (known as Grike in American, where the book series goes by the awkward title The Hungry City Chronicles) who is on their trail. Mortal Engines is followed by Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices, A Darkling Plain and the prequel Fever Crumb.
Jackson adapted the script with regular scribes Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. He and Walsh are also aboard to produce alongside MRC and Universal Pictures, who last worked with the filmmaker on King Kong (2005). Rivers has long been part of Jackson's core team – they have a working relationship that began with Rivers as a storyboard artist on Dead Alive (1992), before working his way up through visual effects (and winning an Academy Award® for King 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."