Comic-Con gives off a certain kind of frenetic energy, and it’s something director Duncan Jones clearly thrives on. When I first see him on the show floor, he’s holding up his phone, taking video of the massive Orgrim Doomhammer statue at Legendary Pictures’ booth. Orgrim is one of the lead characters in Jones’ upcoming big-screen adaptation of Warcraft, a film that he hopes will kick off a series of movies, and the director is full of excitement and smiles as he talks about the film. It’s even more impressive considering he’s been steadily working on the project for two and a half years.
Speaking with journalists that same night, Jones reveals that while the film won’t debut until June 10th, 2016 — it was pushed from a 2015 release date thanks to Star Wars — it’s already completely finished save for 10 visual effects shots in the works from Industrial Light & Magic. During the conversation, he gladly touches upon a number of topics, including his history as a gamer, his desire to shepherd a full-fledged Warcraft trilogy, and how he hopes to squeeze in one more film before Warcraft opens and Azeroth consumes his life forever.
His history as a gamer
Duncan Jones: World of Warcraft’s been going on for about 20 years, and the first 10 years were kind of real-time strategy games, and then World of Warcraft started about 10 years ago. I’ve been playing back since Orcs & Humans, the first real-time strategy game. I actually used to play Lost Vikings, which was a game that Blizzard even made before that, so I’ve been playing for a long time.
Orgrim Doomhammer statue.
Making Warcraft accessible to the masses
DJ: By design, right from the start, it was imperative that we came up with a story which stood in its own right, and brought an audience who didn’t know Warcraft along with it. Not everyone, I think, that saw the first Lord of the Rings movie had read Tolkien. And yet, Peter Jackson did a wonderful job of being able to bring an audience along with him and get them involved in that universe. I saw that as my job on this film. Help realize and communicate this universe that Blizzard had built up through Warcraft, and bring it to an audience that didn’t know anything about it. And with this first film I think we’ve done a great job of that.
The challenge of making monsters morally complex
DJ: My big pitch to Blizzard when I became involved in this — because they’ve been trying to make the film for awhile; Sam Raimi was on it before me, and they weren’t able to make it work — but my pitch was I want to make a war movie, and I want to tell the story from both sides. I want heroes on both sides. I want you to empathize with both sides. And I want you to feel bad that the heroes, good characters from both sides, are going to find themselves in a conflict that there is no way out of. So that was the film that I pitched, and that’s the film I feel I delivered on. There are contingents of heroes on both sides that the audience will absolutely be rooting for, and I think there’ll be divided loyalties, and I think individuals will be divided about who they feel they should be rooting for.
His next project
DJ: This film comes out in June of next year. That gives me 11 months from now until the film comes out. I’m very, very much hoping I’m going to be able to squeeze in a little independent film, science fiction, that I’ve been wanting to do for years, before this comes out. But it’s a race against time to see if I can do it. That’s my hope.
Statue of King Llane.
On making another Warcraft movie
DJ: When working on this film, we worked incredibly closely with Blizzard, and I personally got the chance to work with Chris Metzen, who does a lot of the storytelling at Blizzard. And we worked out if we did get the chance to do three films to tell a story, this would be the first piece, and we kind of have an idea of what we would do with 2 and 3. I want to be the guy to deliver that. I feel very privileged, uniquely privileged, that I got the chance to start a franchise of films — if we get the opportunity to make more. There are other franchises that are out there that I’d be incredibly privileged to do, but I love the idea that this is a universe that I’m helping realize from the start, and to me that’s something special.
The future of video game adaptations
DJ: It’s funny, because there are certain games that really have amazing visual elements, but you’d have to do even more work on the storytelling side as far as making it work as a story. And then there are games which are so obviously film-centric and narrative that it really just becomes a job of helping them tell the story they’ve already told. The funny thing is, the games I would want to do are the ones I can’t tell you about because then someone else would grab them before I could do them myself! But I know that we’ve delivered. I know we have to wait until next year, but I do believe that as much as I enjoy comic book movies — and I think there will be a place for them — I think well-done movies based on games is a whole new world of movies, that will hopefully start to flourish as our film comes out. And hopefully Assassin’s Creed will be good as well, and there’ll be this new era, a golden age of games-to-movies.