Mortal Engines Hera Hilmar Peter Jackson Hester Shaw
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Credit: Universal Pictures

Mortal Engines: Peter Jackson offered some of his directing expertise for the movie's second unit

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Nov 1, 2018, 5:15 PM EDT

Next month, Peter Jackson's long-gestating passion project, a film adaption of Philip Reeves's Mortal Engines book series arrives in theaters. While Jackson co-wrote and produced the movie, he chose to allow his longtime artistic collaborator, Christian Rivers, to sit in the director's chair. 

Much of the decision had to do with Jackson's abject mental fatigue from all three Hobbit movies. Even so, old habits die hard and the native New Zealander ended up pitching in when it came time to film the movie's second unit. This was confirmed by Jackson himself in the December issue of Empire Magazine

"If any second unit ends up with a main actor, then I come and shoot it," he said. "But I don't get to do the real fun stuff like chases ... I feel like I'm doing a little part-time job here. It keeps my hand in. I'm not thinking of what Christian is thinking of, which is the overall shape of the movie. Next week, I have the entire week off."

He added that the leadership of Rivers kept everything running smoothly, whereas he might have pushed for a much longer and sweeping epic. 

"If I shot it, it might have bogged down in a few patches, but Christian has kept the pace going," Jackson continued. "It is a two-hour film! For me, doing a two-hour would be hard."

Nevertheless, Rivers insisted that "The film has 'Peter Jackson Presents' all over it."

Set in a post-apocalyptic and steampunk-y world (hinted to be the result of nuclear war) where cities are mobile and consume one another for precious resources, Mortal Engines is about Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) and Tom Natsworthy (Robert Sheehan) planning to overthrow the vicious leader of on-the-move London, Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving). 

Rivers desribed the film as resting at the center of a triangle formed by Harry Potter, Mad Max, and Star Wars.

"We sort of have the scale of Star Wars, the gritty realism of Mad Max, and inherent in Philip's writing, there is this Harry Potter-esque, English, institutional, almost Dickensian feel," the director said. 

Mortal Engines hits theaters on Dec. 14, 2018. The first 25 minutes were shown at New York Comic Con and really brought down the house.