After spending six years back in the world of J.R.R. Tolkein developing, writing, and expanding The Hobbit into a trilogy of new films, director Peter Jackson took some much needed time off. However, with the concluding installment The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies now having been released two years ago, it appears that Jackson is ready to get back into filmmaking gear—albeit not as a director just yet.
Jackson and his Hobbit screenwriting team of Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens will co-write an adaptation of the Philip Reeve novel Mortal Engines. Yes indeed, Jackson will be serving as a collaborator on Mortal Engines, but he’s not the captain. Directing duties will fall to Christian Rivers, a visual effects supervisor who first worked with Jackson as a storyboard artist on Dead Alive and Heavenly Creatures, then serving as visual effects art director on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring and moved up to splinter unit director on the final two Hobbit movies. Most recently Rivers served as second unit director on Pete’s Dragon, and now he’ll be helming a film of his own with an Academy Award-winning screenwriting team handling the script.
The book is the first installment in a sci-fi/fantasy series that’s planned as a feature film franchise. Mortal Engines takes place in a world thousands of years in the future, where Earth’s cities roam the globe on gigantic wheels in a struggle for ever-diminishing resources. The story’s hero, Tom Natsworthy, crosses paths with a woman from the Outlands that kicks the adventure into high gear.
Jackson and Walsh will also produce the film, with Boyens co-producing. MRC and Universal are backing the venture, with production set to begin in New Zealand in spring 2017. Rivers has an Oscar of his own for his visual effects work on Jackson’s 2005 film King Kong, so one imagines he’ll be able to visualize this world with ease.
As for Jackson’s next directing effort, things are still mum. Word surfaced recently that he’s developing a “secret” project at Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, and that Tintin sequel is apparently still alive in some form, with Jackson poised to take the helm. For now, he seems plenty happy reuniting with Walsh and Boyens on this sci-fi/fantasy project without the pressure of also directing.
[Update: Click here for what Jackson had to say about the project on his Facebook page.]