There's currently a growing trend amongst Hollywood studios to put directors of hit low-budget & independent sci-fi films at the helm of big-budget blockbusters. Gareth Edwards (Monsters) recently scored a hit at the box office with Godzilla and has been put in charge of one of Disney's Star Wars spinoffs. Josh Trank (Chronicle) has graduated from a found footage superhero movie to the reboot of Fantastic Four. Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) directed this year's critically-acclaimed sci-fi sequel/prequel Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Then, of course, there's Moon director Duncan Jones and his long-awaited World of Warcraft adaptation, Warcraft.
The first full-length trailer for Warcraft made its debut during Legendary's presentation at San Diego Comic-Con 2014, and Duncan Jones was also present to talk about how far the film has come since the short teaser that was shown at Comic-Con in 2013. Jones discussed the fact that the film was designed to have appeal to more than simply the core players (World of Warcraft's 7.8 million subscribers represent only a small fraction of Warcraft's potential audience), since it will be an origin story about the start of war between Humans and Orcs.
The trailer itself was split into two roughly equal halves, focusing on the humans and orcs by turns and painting neither side as the "bad guys." There is still a lot of post-production work to be done on Warcraft, and this definitely showed. All of the footage featuring orcs looked like it had been plucked straight from a video game cinematic, while all of the footage featuring humans looked like it had been taken from a live-action swords 'n' sorcery fantasy movie.
The jarring difference between the humans and orcs ended up being somewhat distracting, but there was a definite sense that Warcraft will be touching upon similar themes to this year's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, with both sides of the conflict being shown as sympathetic in their own right. Particularly reminiscent of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was a scene in which the orc leader's wife is shown in labor, and he talks in voiceover about his fears regarding fatherhood.
From the perspective of someone who does not play World of Warcraft (and therefore a member of the broader audience that Jones is hoping to reach), this trailer for Warcraft was honestly not all that engaging. It's possible that it was particularly geared towards a Comic-Con audience, who were likely to be more familiar with the source material, but it's easy to imagine that the average moviegoer might be put off a little by the heavy fantasy tone and CG orcs. Judging purely by the response from the Hall H audience - which was nowhere near as enthused as the response to the Godzilla 2 teaser - it seems that I wasn't alone in being slightly underwhelmed.
That's not to say that mainstream audiences can't be enticed into watching weird movies - Guardians of the Galaxy is an example of a film whose humor and well-cut trailers have managed to balance out the fact that it has a talking raccoon and a sentient tree in it. Right now, however, Warcraft looks to be in need of a similarly grounding element, or it will risk being a fan-pleaser that fails to reach beyond its built-in audience.
Warcraft is set for release on March 11th, 2016.