Amid the quiet storm of video game movies on the way is Warcraft, an adaptation of the hugely popular franchise by Blizzard Entertainment that already includes computer games, tabletop games, card games, novels and comics. Set in the fantasy world of Azeroth, the Warcraft movie focuses on a brutal conflict between the human Alliance and the orc Horde.
Normally it would be safe to assume that the humans are the heroes of the story by default, since the movie will ultimately be marketed towards humans rather than orcs. However, the trailer for Warcaft that was shown at San Diego Comic Con 2014 made it clear that both sides will have their long-suffering heroes who are trying to do the right thing. Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) will play orc Chieftain Durotan, and Travis Fimmel (Vikings) will play Alliance hero Anduin Lothar.
The Warcraft movie had been in development for years before Jones turned his attention to it; and in a new interview with Chinese movie site Mtime (translated version courtesy of ManMadeMovies) the director explains how his ideas dovetailed neatly with what Blizzard wanted.
"When I went to talk to [producer] Chris Metzen and the guys at Blizzard, we both saw things the same way. A Warcraft film should not be about a good race of humans battling an evil race of orcs! Warcraft should be about heroes on both sides trying to avoid a conflict, when villains leave them no choice... I hope that with our film, the audience will get a chance to see past the Horde/Alliance divide and recognize the heroes on BOTH sides!
"From the moment I first talked to Blizzard, the plan was to start our film with the first time Orcs met Humans. First contact! I think that for a world with so much newness to explain, this was a wise choice, especially when so many people in our audience may not know anything about Warcraft."
Jones' summary of Warcraft sounds strongly reminiscent of Matt Reeves' Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which was a huge critical and commercial success in 2014 and also relied heavily on state-of-the-art animation techniques to bring its non-human characters to life. That story similarly featured sympathetic characters on both sides, whose efforts to create peace were undermined by characters who were eager for war. At least Kebbell gets to take a turn at playing a hero this time.
It would be rather amiss to ask whether Warcraft has the potential to become a franchise, since it's already part of a massive established franchise, but the question of whether or not it could get a sequel is a bit more apt. After all, this is an expensive experiment and there's no guarantee that audiences will go for it. Jones isn't coy about the fact that his responsibility as director and co-writer is to make a movie that has sequel potential.
"I know that my job in this first film is to establish certain characters, places and culture while telling a story that a broad audience can be excited by. Hopefully, if I have done my job right, people will want to know and see more. There is certainly plenty more to tell!"
Almost two years has been set aside for post-production, so there's little risk of Warcraft's effects being unfinished by the time it hits theaters. Whether it will have what it takes to attract audiences who aren't familiar with the source material, remains to be seen.
Warcraft opens in U.S. theaters on March 11th, 2016.