WAR: this is what it’s good for

Dun­can Jones on big- screen fan­tasy epic War­craft.

SFX - - Red Alert - Di­rec­tor Dun­can Jones has

gar­nered se­ri­ous cult ku­dos over the last seven years thanks to his sci­ence fic­tion clas­sic Moon, and the twisty time- travel thriller Source Code. But now he’s tak­ing a swerve into fan­tasy ter­ri­tory with War­craft – the $ 100 mil­lion adap­ta­tion of the wildly pop­u­lar on­line videogame.

“There’s no rea­son for videogame films to be as dis­ap­point­ing as they have been,” says Jones, well aware of the litany of ter­ri­ble movies that have spun out of suc­cess­ful games fran­chises. “Comic book films have ex­pe­ri­enced a re­nais­sance, com­mer­cially and crit­i­cally, over the past decade, and there’s no rea­son why this can’t hap­pen with videogames.”

Jones has a long his­tory with War­craft, hav­ing dis­cov­ered it when the se­ries first de­buted in 1994. “I was con­stantly trav­el­ling around the world when I was younger and spent most of my time with books and games. One of my favourites was The Lost Vik­ings from Bliz­zard En­ter­tain­ment who then de­vel­oped

War­craft, which I’ve been play­ing ever since.”

Be­ing a fan of the fran­chise brought its own set of chal­lenges, how­ever. “The first was to take this in­cred­i­ble mass of lore that has de­vel­oped over time and distill it into a screen­play, a sin­gle story, which would ap­peal to both the hardcore fans and to peo­ple who have never heard of War­craft,” says Jones.

Writ­ing the bulk of the film’s shoot­ing script him­self, Jones was de­ter­mined to make this more than just an­other ac­tion movie with two- di­men­sional vil­lains. “The film is rooted in both sides of the con­flict,” says Jones. “Broadly, the hu­man Al­liance is rep­re­sented by Lothar, the com­man­der of the Aze­roth mil­i­tary; and Durotan [ is] the main pro­tag­o­nist of the Orc Horde. But there are so many other char­ac­ters in- be­tween, and it is the fam­ily re­la­tion­ships that ex­ist in the film, with the hu­mans and the Orcs, par­tic­u­larly be­tween fa­thers and sons, that have the most mean­ing to me now, hav­ing re­cently lost my father and know­ing that I’m about to be­come a father my­self.”

War­craft rep­re­sents the next step in Jones’s pro­gres­sion as a film­maker: his first po­ten­tial big- bud­get block­buster. But Jones says his ap­proach hasn’t changed. “I knew the Orcs had to look be­liev­able,” says Jones, who en­listed ILM and Weta for this as­sign­ment. “Ev­ery genre film­maker to­day has to rely on some hy­brid of dig­i­tal and prac­ti­cal ef­fects, so we have CG- cre­ated Orcs but also amaz­ing phys­i­cal sets. This is the same hy­brid ap­proach I took with Moon, which re­lied heav­ily on prac­ti­cal ef­fects, mod­els and minia­tures, but not solely, like the scene where GERTY walks through a cor­ri­dor, which was done dig­i­tally.”

There’s no rea­son for videogame films to be as dis­ap­point­ing as they have been

And what about that se­quel? War­craft is in­tended as the first in a se­ries, but Jones isn’t ready to re­turn just yet. “I spent three years on this film. I’m go­ing to wait and see what the re­ac­tion is like be­fore I even think about a se­quel.” He won’t be idle, how­ever. Up next is the long- in­ges­ta­tion Mute, which Jones de­scribes as “an in­de­pen­dent sci- fi thriller I’ve been think­ing about for a long time. I need to get away from War­craft for a while!”

War­craft opens on 3 June.

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