Can you hear that rumbling? It’s the sound of a giant city on wheels crashing its way towards movie theaters. MORTAL ENGINES, produced by THE LORD OF THE RINGS director Peter Jackson, adapts the first of four novels by Philip Reeve. The film imagines what Reeve called Traction Cities: huge mobile communities that clash with one another for resources and survival.
When London resident Tom Natsworthy gets between Hester Shaw and the man Hester believes responsible for her mothers’ death, both Tom and Hester are thrown out of their wheeled city home, and into an inhospitable post-apocalyptic world.
MORTAL ENGINES opens on December 14, and the visually rich film could end up being Universal’s next big franchise.
The Expanded Story
Christian Rivers directs the film; he’s worked with Jackson going back to Jackson’s second feature DEAD ALIVE in 1992. Jackson, Fran Walsh, and Philippa Boyens adapted Phillip Reeve’s book into a screenplay. That novel is just the first of four books, which means there’s a lot of story left to tell.
The quick story description above is just a hint of the full epic story featuring the disfigured young woman Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar). She’s a great heroine waiting to find her audience. Hester isn’t actually from London, but a small traction city called Salthook. When her little town is consumed by the mega-machine of London, Hester finally gets the chance to confront Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), the powerful head of London’s Guild of Historians. That’s when Tom (Robert Sheehan), an apprentice historian, gets in the way.
We won’t spoil what happens, but there are innumerable adventures for Hester and Tom inside London and out in the wilds around the city. Plus, there’s the entire backstory to get to, explaining just how the traction cities came to be.
The Right Man For The Job
Though he didn’t direct the film, Peter Jackson played an integral role in bringing it to life. He may be the man who turns it into a franchise. In an interview with CinemaBlend, Jackson spoke about the possibility of a potential sequel, and hints at the story’s later twists.
You should [read all the books] because they actually get better and better. This is one movie where I hope it’s successful enough that we get to do the other stories, because the other books are really… this story mushrooms in such unexpected ways in the future books.
The film’s writing trio of Jackson, Walsh, and Boyens has a lot of experience adapting long novel series to film. They previously did the six Middle Earth movies: three LORD OF THE RINGS chapters, and the three HOBBIT movies. Of course, turning Mortal Engines into a franchise would depend upon the success of the film, but that didn’t stop Jackson from getting excited about the prospect of making a sequel.
So, I really hope we get to make those films. It’s cool. It’s a love story. It’s an unlikely love story. It’s about a young woman who doesn’t really think that she will ever find love, and she finds it in a very unexpected way in the middle of this chaotic, strange world that we’re in. And I also just like the idea of seeing big cities eat other.
A Bright Future
Hester and Tom’s world may be difficult, even dark, but MORTAL ENGINES has a much brighter future ahead. In the world of big-budget movies, there’s nothing like this film’s world. For more than 30 years, Peter Jackson and his crew have proven their skills at making worlds like Reeve’s come to life. They can nail the visuals and capture the characters. That’s a huge part of the battle. We’re ready to jump on a giant moving city to ride it into the next era of massive movies.
MORTAL ENGINES hits theaters on December 14, 2018.