Since 2010, Legendary Pictures has been fostering the idea of taking a cinematic jaunt into the Warcraft video game universe– a fantasy world in the truest sense of the phrase, one inhabited by the usual genre suspects (humans, orcs, elves, dwarves, trolls, minotaurs) and characterized by multiple dimensional planes, demonic landscapes, and outer space. (Really.) Originally, the studio had Sam Raimi circling the director’s chair for the project, but we learned last year that Raimi had to bow out to work on Oz the Great and Powerful, leaving the film without a helmsman and, perhaps, a future.
Until last night. Legendary scored a pretty serious win by acquiring the services of Duncan “Son of the Homo Superior” Jones, the highly-praised director of modern sci-fi classic Moon and the less-acclaimed but nonetheless excellent Source Code. Why is this such a big deal for Legendary? Jones not only has more talent in his pinky than many veteran studio directors have in their entire bodies, he’s also an avid gamer, and in particular has an affinity for World of Warcraft, which he quite proudly touts at every opportunity he gets. If that sounds like an uneven trade, ask yourself this: is it better to have one of the most beloved filmmakers in geek culture handle a Warcraft movie, or a real-deal, dyed-in-the-wool gamer?
The more pertinent question is whether this is going to benefit Jones in the long run or not. Typically I groan at the notion of young, fresh directors taking on big studio tentpoles early in their careers, but there’s something to be said for having a successful blockbuster under your belt as a fledgling filmmaker. If Warcraft: The Movie succeeds– and it very well could, at least if its 10 million+ subscriber base has anything to say about it– then Jones basically has a free pass to make whatever the hell he wants, so I consider his involvement here to be something of a bargain.
What’s up in the air at this point– apart from casting, of course– is the plot. World of Warcraft is kind of a free-form, loose, open-world game; there’s no beginning or end, and you don’t beat the final boss and start over. It’s a game about constant progression, with four expansion sets to allow players to keep moving forward with their characters. There are stories, perhaps, to be made out of that, but it seems a lot more likely that Legendary and Jones will (with the help of K-Pax scribe Charles Leavitt) draw on the Warcraft real-time strategy games for inspiration instead. Those games actually do have climaxes, and the player campaign from Warcraft 3 in particular feels very, very cinematic.
I’ll be curious to see where this ends up going. For the time being, we can look forward to the commencement of shooting in the fall of this year, and also seeing Jones work with a budget of roughly $100 million dollars.