‘Warcraft’ Is the Ultimate Fan-Made Film
In the beginning, there was Warcraft. The long-awaited movie, originally titled Warcraft: The Beginning, hews closely to the first Warcraft game, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. That’s partly because the writer and director of the film, Duncan Jones, has been playing Warcraft since its inception and has been running a guild for the past 10 years.
In an interview with PCMag, Jones said he was as eager as anyone when the project between Legendary Pictures and Blizzard Entertainment was announced a decade ago. “I absolutely was a fan, and in fact, my interest in the Warcraft movie was as a fan when I heard that Sam Raimi was involved,” he said. “I was kind of tracking the movie because I really wanted to see it.”
Raimi dropped out to direct Oz the Great and Powerful, and Jones, who was coming off the positive reviews of his low-key sci-fi film Source Code, took the opportunity to step in. “I contacted the people involved in the movie and I said, ‘Look, I know that Sam’s dropped out. Is there any interest in me maybe coming in for a meeting? I’d love to kind of pitch you my take on it.’”
Jones’s take is immediately evident. Warcraft opens on a warm familial scene among the orcs, who in the very black-and-white terms in which Hollywood likes to deal would be the traditional villains. “My kind of big spin on it was, as opposed to doing the effective ‘monsters are the bad guys, humans are the good guys,’ let’s do what Warcraft the game does and have heroes on all sides of the conflict,” he said.
Fittingly, Jones is on both sides in the hours he spends in World of Warcraft. “I’ve got characters on both sides, Horde and Alliance, so I’ve got a human and an orc.” In Warcraft the orcs are just as human as the humans, with the same time given for character-building scenes and their ties to each other and their principles portrayed just as strongly. They are also rendered so sympathetically because they are rendered so believably, both in CGI and in the movements of the actors who wore motion-capture suits and attended a month-long orc camp of sorts.
“Orc camp was something that was coined by our team who were basically working out how orcs should move,” Jones said. “It was really a gentleman called Terry Notary, who’s kind of up there with Andy Serkis as far as being a motion director.”
Realism is heightened with the elaborately designed sets. “There were so many huge, big physical sets that we built for this movie, amazing places where you would walk on it and all of a sudden you’d be striding through Elwynn Forest, and we built a section of the forest, as well all of those known locations like the Lion’s Pride Tavern, or the throne room, the streets of Stormwind, or the orc camp itself, these are actual physical places that we built.” Onscreen, technology helps provide the lush look of Azeroth, the bleakness of Draenor, and the tremendous towering orcs themselves. Jones worked with the top tier as far as visual effects go: ILM and Weta Workshop.
“ILM did pretty much most of our work, like 95 percent of our work, and they were the ones who really had this amazing next generation of facial motion capture that they had been working on that they thought would be perfect for our films,” Jones said. Weta built the props and armor that are so essential to this battle-driven film.
That a film that so relies on visual effects to reproduce video-game magic can be made owes a debt to the first movie that used a realistic-looking CGI animal in a film: Labrinyth, which starred Jones’s father, David Bowie. Jones proved that he inherited his father’s offbeat and futuristic creativity with his first two films, and with Warcraft, he has now shown that he has his talent for spectacle.
Jones said he’d like to continue a Warcraft film franchise. “Chris Metzen, who is the master storyteller at Blizzard, and myself have talked a little bit about what a trilogy could be,” he said. “I feel like there is a great three-movie story that we could tell, there’s more detail that needs to be filled in.”
When asked what things he had to leave on the cutting-room floor, Jones said he was quite sad that there was an entire dwarf family complete with bearded baby, but fittingly, he also axed the trolls. The Internet’s version of trolls will undoubtedly attack the movie when it’s released, but the fans who have spent a decade dreaming of Azeroth on the silver screen will be there to combat them. And if they come out in large enough numbers, they might be rewarded.
Jones said those involved with the film are waiting to see if there’s an audience for their work. “Hopefully people will love the movie as much as we loved making it, and they’ll give us a chance to make some more.”