2015 marks the third year in a row that director and co-writer Duncan Jones has presented material from his upcoming World of Warcraft adaptation, Warcraft, at San Diego Comic-Con. Starring a massive ensemble cast that includes Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter), Toby Kebbell (Fantastic Four), Travis Fimmel (Vikings) and Paula Patton (Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol), Warcraft returns to the roots of its source material with an epic war story of orcs vs. humans.
To say that video game movies haven't had the most successful history is a bit of an understatement, but some have predicted that the current upcoming slate of adaptations could lead to a video game movie renaissance similar to the one that comic book films have been enjoying. This is a view that the man behind Warcraft seems to share.
"Someone's going to have to strike gold first, and then the floodgates will open," Jones opined during Legendary Pictures' media preview at Comic-Con. "Hopefully it's going to be me. I mean, we've made a film that is now pretty much complete."
There are a number of high profile video game movies in the works, including Assassin's Creed and Uncharted, but Warcraft will be the first to hit theaters next summer. It's a big gamble for Universal and Legendary, with a budget north of $100 million and a summer blockbuster release spot, and the real challenge will be selling it to audiences that aren't familiar with the Warcraft and World of Warcraft games.
Of course, many in the Hall H audience during Legendary's Warcraft presentation were massive World of Warcraft fans, and the film therefore got a very warm reception. Ten of the main cast members were brought on stage with personal mini-trailers for their characters - five humans and five orcs. With so many key players in the story it can be difficult to keep track of who everyone is and whose side their on, so here's a breakdown of the characters at the heart of Warcraft.
Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) - Also known as the Lion of Azeroth, Anduin is the Commander of the human army.
King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) - Llane Wrynn I is the ruler of the humans during the war.
Lady Taria (Ruth Negga) - Wife to King Llane and the Queen of Stormwind. When describing her character, Negga said wryly, "Behind every great man is a greater woman."
Medivh (Ben Foster) - An extremely powerful human wizard.
Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) - A young wizard apprenticed to Medivh.
Durotan (Toby Kebbell) - Leader of the orcish Horde.
Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky) - A powerful orcish warrior.
Garona (Paula Patton) - A half-human, half-orc slave.
Gul'Dan (Daniel Wu) - An orcish shaman responsible for opening to portal between the orc and human worlds.
Blackhand (Clancy Brown) - An orcish chieftain and ally to Gul'Dan.
The highlights of the panel included Kazinsky confessing to being a massive World of Warcraft nerd who has poured over 600 days (in terms of total hours) into the game, and Brown responding to a question in the voice of Blackhand and informing the collected Hall H audience that, to him, they're all just fuel for the fel.
Comic-Con 2015 Warcraft Trailer
If there's one word that can be used to describe the Warcraft footage shown at Comic-Con this year, it's "overwhelming." The screening included an expansion of the screen into two side panels that showed supplementary footage and FX, but the primary thrust of the new trailer was focusing on the orcs and their story. Jones' comparison to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes seems apt, as a lot of the focus was on Kebbell's character, Durotan, and his role as both the leader of the Horde and the father of a newborn orc.
The trailer is told largely from the orcs' perspective and sets up the story. The orc planet is barren and dying and they have to move on to pastures new, which Gul'Dan offers in the form of an enormous portal to the human world of Azeroth. The magic that generates the portal is powered by extracting souls from slaves who are shown trapped in cages by the thousands, and Gul'Dan emphasizes the importance of obtaining living prisoners as "fuel for the fel." In the lore of the games, fel is a particularly corrupting brand of magic derived from demon blood.
Orgrim and the Horde are shown making the hard journey through the portal, at which point Durotan's wife is shown suffering some unknown torment. Once they reach the other side, the human characters are introduced into the mix and things begin gearing up for a massive fight. King Llane refers to the orcs as "beasts" who "should be destroyed," an assessment that Anduin doesn't seem to agree with.
During the media preview, Jones explained that he tried to get as much footage in camera as possible, but also acknowledged that a huge amount of what's on screen will be CGI. Warcraft required so much FX work, in fact, that Legendary had to set aside two years just for post production, and in the interests of landing a solid summer release date it won't hit theaters for another year. Jones described the film in its current state as being "pretty much complete," with only a handful more FX shots that still need to be dropped into it.
"Our biggest challenge," Jones explained, "is to make sure that people who aren't Warcraft players know that it's a film for them as well." This definitely will be a challenge, considering how dense with World of Wacraft lore the movie appears to be, and it's hard to imagine the movie tempting general audiences if its theatrical trailer is like the Comic-Con trailer that was shown. For broader appeal, it might be better to lessen the focus on things that fans will recognize and instead focus on what Jones describes as the heart of the film: "A war story where you show heroes from both sides, and how they come into conflict because of a situation that they can't find a way to avoid."
Once again, that description brings to mind Dawn of the Planet of the Apes - another movie that relied heavily on CGI, with many of its main characters portrayed by actors in motion capture suits. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was successful to the tune of over $700 million at the worldwide box office, but can Jones pull off a similar feat with this tale of humans vs. orcs?
Warcraft isn't only important because it could be the first video game adaptation to "strike gold." If it fails, it could also be the video game movie that warns other studios away from making video game movies. In light of its $100 million+ budget (just based on the trailer, this movie looks very expensive), Warcraft needs to make quite an impact at the box office just to break even. Needless to say, the stakes are high.
Still, if Legendary is looking for a catchy tagline to get stuck in the minds of the public, "Fuel for the fel" is a pretty good choice. You can't beat a bit of alliteration.
Warcraft opens in U.S. theaters on June 10th, 2016.