As exciting as the X-Men’s future return to the MCU is (especially after Dark Phoenix), it extracts a heavy toll. Disney’s purchase of 21st Century Fox has resulted not just in job loss, but in dropped projects, including Fox’s big budget adaptation Mouse Guard, which was mere weeks away from the production start date when it was scrapped. Now director Wes Ball has shared a proof-of-concept video to give fans an idea what Mouse Guard could have looked like. Check it out:
Well, now I’m depressed. If you’re like me you almost wish you had never seen this footage, because it teases something awesome that now we’re never going to get, at least not anytime soon. It is important to note (and it does at the beginning of the video) that this isn’t footage from the film, but a proof-of-concept demo, meant to give an idea of the feel Wes Ball was going for with his Mouse Guard movie and what a feel it is.
The footage, created using Epic’s Unreal Engine, used for video games like Sea of Thieves and Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, showcases a world that is full of small characters, but feels infinitely big, with limitless possibilities. It’s a clichéd comparison, but it really does come off like Lord of the Rings with mice. The way the wide camera sweeps through the majestic environments feels just like a journey through Middle Earth.
There’s a grandeur to the world in the footage and the whole thing has the feel of an epic adventure. It is quite engaging and it makes you eager to explore this world and meet these characters, despite there being no dialogue or explicit story in the footage. And although it is about mice, it isn’t dumbed down; the footage shows that this would be a serious and mature take, with lots of action and intense battles, befitting David Petersen’s comics.
The visuals wouldn’t have been exactly the same in the film, but the designs of the world are also really interesting-- from the clothing and weapons of the mice to their homes and cities. And as gorgeous as this footage is, the plan was for the motion-capture footage to be sent to WETA, where it would have been recreated with photo-realistic CG. So it would have looked even better than what we see here, presumably like The Lion King.
Of course, that’s expensive and likely a big reason why Mouse Guard got canned. The budget was a reported $170 million and apparently there was a concern that it was too similar (perhaps in look but not tone or story) to the aforementioned Lion King and Disney’s The Jungle Book.
Disney allowed Mouse Guard to be shopped around to other studios, but coinciding with the release of this footage, Wes Ball took to Twitter to let fans know that it was officially dead, while also showing off all the concept art that had been done for the film. According to him Mouse Guard was seen as too big a risk.
Which makes sense, it’s expensive and not a big name property. Still, I could see it playing well overseas and it’s a bummer that another studio, especially one like Paramount, which is light on blockbuster franchises compared to Warner Bros. and Disney, didn’t take a chance on it.
Mouse Guard was set to star Idris Elba, Jack Whitehall, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Sonoya Mizuno and Andy Serkis. Upon news of the film’s demise, Gary Whitta, who wrote the original draft of the script, offered fans the chance to read his Mouse Guard script and get more of an idea what might have been. You can check that out here.
If nothing else, perhaps this will spur people to check out the Mouse Guard comics and it looks like it would make a killer videogame, so maybe that's a future possibility.
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