Warcraft which opens in theaters today, is the adaptation of the popular videogame World of Warcraft to the big screen. The famous videogame already played by millions of people around the world was created by Blizzard Entertainment, and has decades of complex mythology and world-building. Alongside with Legendary Pictures, Universal Pictures, Blizzard and director Duncan Jones took on the challenge of creating these worlds, after unsuccessful previous attempts to do so. The film sets on the peaceful realm of Azeroth that is ruled by humans and the Orcs are escaping their dying home world through a mystical portal, in an attempting to colonize Azeroth. To learn more about these worlds and the complex mythology, I was invited to attend the press conference with director Duncan Jones, actors Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, and Toby Kebbell. They spoke about their characters, the visual effects, how to bring a videogame to the big screen, and more.
In the attempting to give the fantasy genre a new voice, in the past few years, we can say that the genre has been well represented with the films made by Peter Jackson: Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. “I think one of the things, science fiction in particular and a number of sub-genres over the years, whether you have a gritty film like Blade Runner, or 2001, or AI, or Adjustment Bureau, there is a big spectrum of what science fiction can be,” said Jones. “In fantasy, the kind of gorilla in the room is the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the original ones by Peter Jackson. It kind of feels like the spectrum of what is fantasy is much smaller than science fiction, so I love the opportunity to maybe try and do a film that will hopefully be the same bar as Lord of the Rings, but give fantasy a bit of a new voice, a new feel, and that’s what we tried do to with Warcraft.”
With that in mind, Jones was very prepared with a compelling script and defined characters, which helped to bring the cast together. During the conference, the actors were asked why they joined. Paula Patton who plays Garona said she accepted because “the script and the character were so compelling.” She was first introduced to Warcraft through the creative meetings she had with Jones and to be honest, she was a little scared to do it after she accepted the role and said, “I got in my car and I went ‘Shit!’.” “I was like so scared. I was like I wanted to do it justice and how I will I become a half-orc half-human? Then I realized that the thing that you are most scared of doing, you should do, you know? It’s all those things that compelled me to be a part of it.” And she complements Jones saying “the world that Jones has created was remarkable and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.”
For Ben Schnetzer who played the warlock Khadgar, he was just “big fan of Duncan’s since Moon.” He didn’t know about Warcraft, just like Patton, and he was also introduced through the script. “The story and the narrative that Duncan and Charles set forth was very faithful to the mythology of the game, but it was also crafted a very human narrative, a real character driven story. About ten pages into the script, I forgot I was reading an adaptation of a game,” said Schnetzer. “Whether your source material is a game or a novel, whatever it is… a good story is a good story, and Duncan was very diligent about giving equal weight to both sides of the story. I was captivated and compelled by it, and the opportunity to do something iconic was extraordinarily exciting,” he added.
For Robert Kazinsky who is the only one familiar with the game said that he had been playing the game for the past 12 years, so being in the film feels like it has come full circle. “I would have killed many puppies to be a part of this film, and I would have done any part in it,” said Kazinsky. “I think I offered to pay Legendary, literally pay them, to have a role in it. I was more than happy when I was asked to be Orgrim Doomhammer.” He added, “There’s nothing – not rain, nor sleet, nor snow, nor armored ogre that could stand in my way to be in this.”
Already a fan of Jone’s, Toby Kebbell was hard to find a good reason to pass the invitation. “I am a fan of motion capture. I was a fan of Duncan’s. Of course, the script was so well done and actually a testament of Duncan’s that you kept that script, and it just all the way through, because that’s how the downfall of many a great story,” said Kebbell. “It was motion capture for me. I had just come off Planet of the Apes. I was so desperate to keep up with that craft and learn as much as I could. I was lucky enough to get to read it number one. To get to audition with Duncan, which I did over Skype while he was already up there prepping.”
When asked about how gamers could level up in the next stage of their lives, Jones said: “When you make a movie like this, it’s all about collaboration of bringing in people together with different skills. When I started out doing really bad cheap music videos and commercials a long time ago, one of the reasons I was able to move on and make better things is I got to work with people who all had their independent skills and learn from them. So I would say if you’re young and if you want to have whatever creative art you are interested in, learn from other people who may not have the same skills as you and especially in film, try and work together, bring together people who have complementary skills. I think there is a group of you, you are going to have way more momentum than try to fight the world all on your own.”
Patton said “truly I believe it is mind over matter, just like in the fantasy film, imagination.” “You can will it to yourself, you have to have faith and believe and not let any bit of negativity or doubt or what came before you or what people say is impossible,” she added.
They also talked about the costumes which are exciting to look at and you can notice that are very elaborated. Some worn regular suits of armor, some motion-capture suits, some were painted. “There were a lot of hours in the day, but I loved it, I came to embrace it because I was afraid,” said Patton. “I didn’t know how I was going to become this half-orc half-human and part of it is what you do mentally to prepare, but then it became a collaborative effort. Costumes, and makeup, and hair, all with Duncan’s vision, and then you put on the finishing touches, you put the tests in, and the contact lenses which really obscured my vision and then that was that last bit, I didn’t feel human. Certainly not wearing much clothing, while everyone else wore clothing made me feel like I didn’t fit in. I came to embrace it. I don’t know any other way, so I loved it in the end.”
Making a movie based on a video game, it would be challenge but Jones also wanted to create a movie for those who don’t play the game and aren’t familiar with. Warcraft isn’t based on any specific story line or character, as I said it’s very complex and that there was more than 20 years’ worth of material for Jones to work with. But Jones opted to go back to the very beginning. “We went right back to the very beginning of those games, the first story of the orcs and humans, you know, that first meeting of the two cultures,” said Jones. “In the storytelling of the games, there are characters that we use in our film, but they were probably painted in broad brushstrokes as far as who those characters were, and it was my job and absolutely the actors’ job to find a way to add the detail put in the nuance and add the humanity and the depth to these characters.” He added, “with the way the script was structured, I think, the relationships made sense. You understood who was affected by who and what their relationships were and we tried to put in as many family ties and things that sort of really grounded and gave it a reality as we could.”