Peter Jackson to Adapt ‘Mortal Engines’ for Universal and MRC

“The Hobbit” visual effects protege Christian Rivers will make his feature directorial debut with the film

Peter Jackson‘s and Fran Walsh‘s long in development “Mortal Engines” movie, the first installment in an adaptation of Phillip Reeve’s sci-fi fantasy book series, has landed at Universal and MRC, TheWrap has learned.

Christian Rivers, Jackson’s visual effects protege who worked on “The Hobbit,” is making his feature directorial debut on “Mortal Engines.”

Jackson, Walsh, and Philippa Boyens will co-write the film.

“Mortal Engines” is the first project for Jackson and Walsh at Universal since 2005’s “King Kong.”

Universal, which announced the news Monday, is teaming up with frequent partner MRC on the project, co-financing the film together. Universal will also serve as worldwide distributor with production slated to begin in New Zealand in spring 2017.

First published by Scholastic in 2001, the book focuses on a futuristic, steampunk version of London, now a giant machine striving to survive on a world running out of resources. The story centers on a teenager named Tom Natsworthy who, along with a young woman from a territory known as the Outlands, uncovers a mystery that could change the world order.

Jackson and Walsh have been involved with the project for several years, having optioned the rights from Scholastic in 2001. Ken Kamins — Jackson, Walsh and Boyens’ longtime manager — brought the project to MRC.

“Mortal Engines” is the first in a planned series of films based on Reeve’s novels. The series is comprised of three other books: “Predator’s Gold,” “Infernal Devices” and “A Darkling Plain.”

Walsh, Boyens and Rivers are repped by Law firm Nelson David. Reeve is repped by Philippa Milnes-Smith at Lucas Alexander Whitley Ltd in the U.K.