PETER JACKSON ON ADAPTING “MORTAL ENGINES” FROM PAGE TO FILM

Mortal Engines

Peter Jackson, director of the critically acclaimed The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, wasn’t exactly looking to make another world-building fantasy film when Scholastic Media president and Mortal Engines’ producer Deborah Forte first sent him the Mortal Engines book around 2005. After all, Jackson and his fellow filmmakers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, fresh off the success of the LOTR films, were already receiving fantasy projects left and right.

(Check out the film’s trailer HERE.)

Fortunately, Jackson was excited by the dystopian world ideas and the imagery of Mortal Engines right from the start. “Society has rebuilt a semblance of what it used to be, except the cities are now actually moving,” Jackson says. “They are huge traction cities. London is over a mile long, and they chase and hunt smaller cities across this landscape called the Great Hunting Ground, which is essentially Europe.”

Embedded in author Philip Reeve’s depiction of the future is the concept of Municipal Darwinism. “In its simplest form, the bigger cities eat the smaller ones,” Jackson says. “The smaller cities eat the smaller towns, and the smaller towns eat the tiny little towns. They see that as a very natural evolution. When we join this story this has been going on for over 1,000 years so it is very established.” He pauses. “The trouble with Municipal Darwinism is that there is a limit to it. Eventually the big cities eat so many of the smaller cities that there are none left, so they have to either turn on each other or find something else to hunt.”

Jackson loved the concept of cities on wheels devouring each other, and the tale’s narrative and emotional elements of love, compassion, vengeance, and liberation. “You are always looking for stories with humanity,” Jackson says. “Mortal Engines has that.”

Jackson’s Wingnut Films optioned the property and then began pre-production on Mortal Engines in New Zealand in 2008, but the project needed to be placed on the back burner for several years while Jackson and his fellow filmmakers created The Hobbit trilogy.

Award-winning team

After the release of the final Hobbit film, Battle of the Five Armies, in 2014, Jackson decided to write and produce Mortal Engines, and he and Fran Walsh asked their longtime collaborator Christian Rivers to direct it. “I always wanted to produce something for Christian, and this was the perfect moment in time,” Jackson says. Rivers was the visual effects supervisor the LOTR films and King Kong, for which he won an Academy Award.

Rivers’ experience in visually translating complex worlds from page to screen is definitely a big plus for the Mortal Engines film. As is the screenplay-writing team-up of Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens.

From the beginning, the award-winning collaborators understood that the script needed to explain the world of Mortal Engines to the audience without sacrificing the speed and agility of the narrative. “This world of Mortal Engines felt like a very fresh idea,” Boyens says. “At the same time, the story itself pulled together all the surviving threads of humanity.”

That humanity is at the core of all the stories they tell on film. “There’s no point in making a movie unless you’ve got characters that you can relate to,” Jackson says. “I mean, why bother? We may be projecting ahead about 1,700 years in Mortal Engines, but human beings are still human beings. If we went back two or three thousand years, we could sit down and have dinner with a person in Ancient Egypt or Rome, and we would probably still find a lot to laugh about and connect with, even though that person comes from a totally different world. The environment may change, the society may change, but humanity is always there. No matter how crazy or fantastical the world we create around them may be, we make sure that world is inhabited with characters that you can connect with.”

Mortal Engines is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.  Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/uipmoviesph/

ACCLAIMED YOUNG-ADULT NOVEL “MORTAL ENGINES” BLAZES THE SCREEN

Mortal Engines

Universal Pictures and MRC present Mortal Engines, the startling, new epic adventure directed by Oscar®-winning visual-effects artist Christian Rivers (King Kong), based on the award-winning book series by Philip Reeve. Joining Rivers are the three-time Academy Award®-winning filmmakers of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogies, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson, who have written the screenplay.

Hundreds of years after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event, a mysterious young woman, Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar), emerges as the only one who can stop London—now a giant, predator city on wheels—from devouring everything in its path. Feral, and fiercely driven by the memory of her mother, Hester joins forces with Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan), an outcast from London, along with Anna Fang (Jihae), a dangerous outlaw with a bounty on her head.

Check out the new Spot for Mortal Engines and watch the film in Philippine cinemas December 5.

YouTube: https://youtu.be/W8vDA2YlUVY

It would take seven years for author and illustrator Philip Reeve to pen his first young-adult novel, Mortal Engines, which was first published by Scholastic in 2001. “The biggest idea I could think of was a city on wheels but then I had to ask, ‘Why would you want a city on wheels?’” Reeve says. “It seemed arcane, but then I realized, you would want a city on wheels to chase a smaller city on wheels…and when I worked that out everything fell into place.”

The acclaimed novel, which earned the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Smarties Gold Award and Blue Peter Book of the Year distinctions and was shortlisted for the prestigious Whitbread Award, would evolve into a series of four books known as The Mortal Engines Quartet: Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.

Reeve’s story takes place centuries after civilization was destroyed by a cataclysmic event known as the Sixty Minute War. Humankind has adapted and a new way of living has evolved. Gigantic moving cities now roam the Earth, ruthlessly preying upon smaller traction towns. Tom Natsworthy—who hails from a Lower Tier of the great traction city of London—finds himself fighting for his own survival after he encounters the dangerous fugitive Hester Shaw. Two opposites, whose paths should never have crossed, forge an unlikely alliance that is destined to change the course of the future.

During his time at art college, Reeve had experimented with a Super 8 camera but decided it would be easier to illustrate and write novels than make movies. (“You don’t have to give people lunch or dress them in costume,” Reeve says, dryly.) Still, he had a clear vision of his story’s cinematic future. “Mortal Engines always wanted to be a big action movie when it grew up,” Reeve says. “It has a three-act structure and big set pieces. It was just itching to be filmed.”

Scholastic Media president and Mortal Engines’ producer Deborah Forte agreed. “There is a little bit of an actor in Philip, and a little bit of a director, so when he writes it’s in a very cinematic way,” Forte says. “You know what the world is, how it looks and sounds and what it feels like to be there.” And Forte, who had helped bring The Golden Compass to the big screen, immediately thought of the one filmmaker with the extraordinary vision and peerless sensibility to adaptMortal Engines into a blockbuster movie experience: Peter Jackson.

Mortal Engines is distributed in the Philippines by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.  Follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/uipmoviesph/