Traditionally, video game movies are not good. History tells us they simply do not work. It’s kind of impressive, actually, how every single adaptation has failed to turn out a genuinely good movie. The closest we’ve come is Edge of Tomorrow, which feels like a video game adaptation but isn’t one. However, we just might be on the cusp of seeing the curse broken once and for all, and Universal Pictures, co-writer/director Duncan Jones, and producers Charles Roven, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Alex Gartner and Stuart Fennegan are trying their darndest with Warcraft, a film that I was lucky enough to see being made in Vancouver last spring during a fascinating (and somewhat overwhelming) set visit.
A film adaptation of the immensely popular World of Warcraft has been in development for years. Sam Raimi was famously first attached and developed the project for a while, then Jones came in and finally brought this thing home with a unique spin on how to tell this particular story. And Universal isn’t skimping out on this gamble either. This is a massively realized project, complete with a giant ensemble cast, loads of gorgeously crafted costumes and sets, and cutting-edge motion-capture technology that bring the orcs to life in jaw-dropping detail. Oh yes, there are orcs.
The story crux of Warcraft is chronicling the battle between humans and orcs from both sides, as the orcs leave behind their dying home world and set about trying to colonize the human-filled Azeroth. Jones’ vision for the film was a movie in which both factions are given equal weight—there’s no “good side” and “bad side”. With the humans (or “Alliance”) we have Travis Fimmel (Vikings) as a knight who sacrificed everything to keep his kingdom safe, alongside Dominic Cooper’s King Llane and his wife Lady Taria (Ruth Negga) and Ben Foster as the mysterious mage Magus Medivh.
And on the orc side (or “Horde”) we have Dawn of the Planet of the Apes actor Toby Kebbell as Durotan, noble Chieftan of the exiled Frostwolf clan, Rob Kazinsky as his best friend Orgrim Doomhammer, Clancy Brown as fearsome chieftan Blackhand, Anna Galvin as Durotan’s wife, and Daniel Wu as the sinister orc warlock Gul’dan. Falling somewhere in between is half orc half human Garona, played by Paula Patton, who struggles to find her place in this world.
Last spring, I was invited along with a handful of journalists to visit the Vancouver set of Warcraft, which was about halfway through production at the time. It was clear from every department that Universal is putting a lot of resources into this film. It was also clear that Jones essentially had the creative freedom to make a large-scale fantasy epic that was quite possibly one of the nerdiest movies ever made. I’ll be honest, as someone only somewhat familiar with World of Warcraft, I had my reservations about the movie going in. However, I left the set feeling incredibly excited about what Jones and his team have put together—a complex, character-centric yet eye-popping fantasy epic told on a colossal scale—and I can’t wait to see it all fully realized when the film opens in theaters June 2016. Will it be the first good video game movie? I have reason to believe there’s a very good chance it might be.
While I’ll be sharing more from my set visit over the coming weeks, I wanted to offer readers a glimpse into what it was like to be on the set. Below, you can read my thorough set visit report, which includes details on the technology that was used to bring the orcs to life.