Exclusive: Wes Ball talks his vision for the Mouse Guard movie
In September, it was announced that 20th Century Fox was courting Maze Runner Trilogy director Wes Ball to helm their big screen adaptation of David Petersen’s Eisner-winning comic book series Mouse Guard. Now, during promotion for the home video release of Maze Runner: The Death Cure, Ball has spoken exclusively with ComingSoon.net about his vision for Mouse Guard, which will involve the performance capture wizards at Weta Digital creating Planet of the Apes-esque photoreal mice with Crusader-era weaponry.
ComingSoon.net: What’s the current status of your “Mouse Guard” adaptation?
Wes Ball: Not to make any news or anything, but I think that will be my next movie. I kind of went off after this movie, had a vacation and was sort of dreaming about what could be next, but if all goes according to plan this might be it. It could be pretty special, actually. We’re just in the early stages, of course, but it’s gonna be a giant friggin’ movie. My next movie is probably going to cost what my last three movies combined cost. It’s kinda crazy, because it’s going to be one giant visual effects movie, essentially. It’s a fairly beloved little comic series, same as “Maze Runner” in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of people who love these books.
CS: It’s one of those comics like “Elfquest” that has a small but sturdy, very devoted readership.
Ball: Yeah totally, absolutely, and I’m in the process right now of interpreting it. My mind is exploding right now, so what it’s becoming is an amazing fantasy epic. And having the “Planet of the Apes” type stuff and getting WETA involved, all the mocap aspects of it all, it can be pretty damn interesting, actually. That’s where I’m at right now.
CS: I studied the middle ages and the Crusader era in college, and that era is typically depicted, in film or literature, as either really romanticized or just bloody, grim times of conflict. What tone do you plan to strike with it?
Ball: The trick with this one is we have to thread that needle with tone. I’m not interested in doing a DreamWorks or Pixar-type movie, I’m interested in doing something closer to “Planet of the Apes” where you’re really gonna nail characters and show the harsh reality of what they live in. It’s gonna be a little bit of both, probably, but at the same time because of the cost I need as big an audience as possible. So I want 10-year olds to see this as much as 40 and 50-year olds, you know? That’s the needle we have to thread, but for me personally… the way “Star Wars” appealed to me as a kid growing up hit that tone in a weird way. It appealed to the kid in everybody but still took itself seriously. That’s really exciting to me, that kind of film, that kind of target, but obviously set in this really harsh world of mice and swords. (laughs)
CS: That’s the whole beauty of the fantasy realm. If the Orcs getting slaughtered in the “Lord of the Rings” movies were human beings, those movies would most definitely be rated R.
Ball: Right, exactly, yeah! It lets you get away with a little more. Also, on the director’s side of the craft, if you watch Spielberg’s stuff like “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” that movie could have easily been rated R, but the way you handle the tone of it can lessen the R thing but you can still have guys get their head shot off or chopped up by airplane propellers. For me, I’m in this position of having been involved with the “Maze Runner” stories for so long, these books are incredibly heavy. They’re really serious about suffering and struggle and that makes for good drama, but I’m interested right now in doing something really fun, especially for the next three or four years that’s what audiences are kinda craving right now. A real true escape. That’s all the things that are swirling around in my head right now, but I think it’s gonna be kind of fun, assuming I do it! It’s not written in stone yet, but its where my attention is right now and it’s going really well.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scribe Gary Whitta will pen the screenplay for Mouse Guard movie, which sees Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves producing. Reeves’ own Sixth & Idaho will produce along with Mouse Guard publisher Boom! Studios’ Ross Richie and Stephen Christy.
On the series official website, creator David Petersen has previously revealed he wanted a film adaptation “to be done correctly,” hoping to see a film in keeping with the series all-ages material and that it would be a CG heavy film, and it appears he’s getting his wish. Following the success of Disney’s The Jungle Book, the studio is eager to make a live-action version of the film albeit with CG characters via performance capture.
In the world of Mouse Guard, mice struggle to live safely and prosper amongst harsh conditions and a host of predators. Thus the Mouse Guard was formed: more than just soldiers, they are guides for common mice looking to journey without confrontation from one village to another. They see to their duty with fearless dedication so that they may not simply exist, but truly live.