Posted on Monday, December 21st, 2009 by Brendon Connelly
If reports are to be believed, Peter Jackson is at work right now on his next movie and it’s another fantasy novel adaptation. Mortal Engines is the first film in a series of (so far) five books by Phillip Reeve that also collectively go by the Mortal Engines handle. They’re set in a post-apocalyptic world where moving city states – or Traction Cities, in the books – roam nomadically, eating up resources and occasionally one another. Think Howl’s Moving Castle but very much bigger, meaner and with more of a sci-fi bent.
The original Mortal Engines novel was nominated for a Whitbread and won a Smarties award and for a few months, it seemed that everybody between three and five feet tall was reading a copy.
It’s said that Weta are currently working on the designs for these roaming municipalities. The main setting for the story is the Traction City of London and I can only imagine what they’d be able to make of it. This London is built like a multi-tiered, step-tapering tower, with the poor folk living in the broad belly level, against the noisy, polluting ‘Gut’, and the richer noblefolk living at the top, where the city is topped with St Paul’s Cathedral, the only pre-apocalyptic structure known to still remain.
Our lead characters are a fifteen year old orphan from this weird new London, Tom Natsworthy, and the ‘Anti-Tractionist’ girl he meets, Hester Shaw, who believes that cities should be made to stop moving and stay rooted.
The Dominion Post are breaking the story. They’ve got a killer quote from Jackson’s rep who pretty much convinces me this is an active project at Wingnut saying, “Any comment should come from Peter”. Of course, Peter was found to be unavailable for comment.
I’m excited. Reeve has created a rich fantasy world, just ripe for Jackson to turn into something really special. The central metaphors are rich and resonant and smart, and work on a number of satisfying levels, the imagery is vibrant and vivid, and the characters are charming and attractive.
The Mortal Engines books are not the only series of fantasy novels that Jackson has an option on, though he has been suggesting lately that the Temeraire books of Naomi Novik would likely fare better as a mini-series on TV than as a cinematic production. A surprising stance, seeing as they are epics about a Captain in the British Navy and a Chinese Dragon going to war against Napoleon. Maybe there’s a little too much of the Avatar in the way the human-Dragon relationships are portrayed? Or maybe Jackson is seeing this as a rather less action-led interpretation than I would assume?
Another interesting aside in the Dominion Post article seems to be suggesting that Christian Rivers’ Dambusters film is complete. Really? Journalistic slip-up or stealth film making? Unfortunately, I’d guess it’s the former.