After adapting two of the most beloved properties of the Twentieth Century – remaking The Great Muppet Caper as Meet the Feebles and adapting As I Lay Dying into Dead Alive – Peter Jackson is turning his attention to a much lesser known property, Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series of fantasy novels. The books reimagine the Napoleonic Wars to include dragons, which it turns out is the only reason Peter Jackson has been going to the movies for the last forty years. To see dragons fight Napoleon. Seriously, he said it himself: " ‘Temeraire’ is a terrific meld of two genres that I particularly love — fantasy and historical epic," Jackson says. "I can’t wait to see Napoleonic battles fought with a squadron of dragons. That’s what I go to the movies for."
The series began in 2004 with His Majesty’s Dragon, which “centers on British naval Capt. Will Laurence, who captures a French ship, where he discovers an unhatched dragon egg in the hold — a gift from the Emperor of China intended for Napoleon. When the egg hatches, he is forced to give up his naval career to become captain of the dragon he names Temeraire.”
Jackson expands on what he likes about the series in an interview with Aint It Cool’s Quint: “You know, it’s not just about the dragons and the battles, it’s the other stuff in the detailed world she created. I love even just the concept of how the flying corp are looked down upon by the traditional navy. It’s all about the English Class system, that’s what makes it really interesting. And there are parallels to Tolkien in the sense that it is complex. It’s going to be a lot of fun, actually.”
Historical epics mixed with fantasy are apparently all the rage these days. One of the best books I’ve read in the last few years is Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (I know, I couldn’t believe it either. I picked it up at the airport after last year’s Toronto Film Festival because the book shop had nothing else I was even remotely interested in, and the book blew me away), which has the return of English magic being put to use against Napoleon’s forces. Kurt Busiek’s Arrowsmith has a complete fantasy world of magicians, monsters and goblins laid over World War I. And I’m sure there are more, but I don’t usually read this Dungeons & Dragons shit.
Jackson will be turning to Temeraire after he adapts Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones next year. He’s considering doing something extra with Temeraire that might involve interactive hooey, but we’ll see where that goes. Of course this doesn’t bode well for MGM’s recently announced The Hobbit, which Jackson said he’d love to do but about which no one has approached him.