Warcraft director Duncan Jones on appealing to hardcore fans and newcomers
Director Duncan Jones will put himself in front of a firing squad this Friday as he debuts the first trailer for Warcraft at BlizzCon — the very epicenter of the fantasy series’ fandom. But if the response to a 15-second teaser is any indication, the filmmaker behind Moon and Source Code doesn’t have anything to worry about.
EW spoke with Jones ahead of the trailer premiere and his appearance at BlizzCon to get a sense of what the last few years have been like for him and how he feels days away from giving the world its first full glimpse at Warcraft. “It’s been a long time coming,” he says with a laugh.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It seems like you’re having quite a day on the Internet.
DUNCAN JONES: It’s been fun. We’ve been working on this thing for such a long time, and finally, finally, we’re getting a chance to show people things. It’s edifying that the people we made this for are liking it so far.
So the obsessive screenshots I’m seeing, is that a surprise to you at this point?
I kind of expected it [laughs]. I must admit that it’s a lot of fun to see people who are into Warcraft and are aware of it starting to identify things and pick out Easter eggs and recognize a world that, for a lot of them, they’ve been spending a lot of time in themselves. I think there is a unique enjoyment that those fans will get out of the films, beyond what I believe is a really solid, enjoyable fantasy film in its own right.
How does the extra scrutiny from the fans make you feel?
There have definitely been phases where it’s been nerve-racking to make sure that we do them justice and don’t have any clangers or make major mistakes. We’ve always been fortunate. I’ve been working very closely with Blizzard, who obviously know the game inside out, and a number of my key crew members and myself were long-time players. We felt good that we’d be coming from the right place.
What were the conversations about how faithful this film should be to the games?
I am someone who played Warcraft, but at the same time, I consider myself a filmmaker first. I think one of the reasons why it’s taken so long for this film to come together the way it has is that there were a lot of priorities and a lot of concerns about what this film needed to be and how it absolutely had to be something that you could approach and watch if you didn’t know anything about Warcraft. That was really that tricky line to walk, making sure that the fans would really feel that it’s their world and at the same time introduce it in a way to people who know nothing about it. That’s why it took such a long time. Peter Jackson went through this with The Fellowship of the Ring. There was always going to be a hardcore fanbase for Tolkien that was going to take him to task if he didn’t address things in a way that stayed true to the spirit of Tolkien’s work. Obviously, we don’t have the amount of history that Tolkien does. It’s a different fanbase, somewhat overlapping. We have the same passion amongst our fans, so it was a similar job.
Just as Tolkien inspired fantasy literature, modern fantasy films have all followed in the wake of Jackson’s films. How did those affect your process?
It’s interesting. I think there are different schools of fantasy from different parts of the world. Tolkien and, to a certain extent, Warcraft have a similar genetic starting place through European myth and folklore. I also think Warcraft has had the opportunity because it’s come together in a much smaller world, as far as our communication amongst cultures these days. It has included an awful lot more in it.
What’s the difference between presenting at BlizzCon and Comic-Con?
It’s very different because they’re absolutely audiences looking for different things. I think the BlizzCon crowd is absolutely what we would call our hardcore crowd. Those are the people who know the world and the stories and are looking for a reflection of things they’ve experienced being in that world themselves. It’s like whenever I see a film that has London in it, I want to feel like that’s the London I know and not some made-up thing made in Montreal or something. Comic-Con is very different. It is a comics convention at its heart, so I think there’s always going to be a particular soft spot for films rooted in comic books. I don’t really know, but I kind of get a sense that there’s a bit of a rivalry there between videogames as potentially being the new up-and-comers as content for films, and comic books, which are obviously at their high point right now. There’s an interesting rivalry there, I think.
What’s your feeling about fans picking out Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed as the two films that could break the videogame movie curse?
There are a couple of things. One thing I would say is that that stigma used to be attached to comic book movies too. It took a generation of filmmakers who loved and were raised on comic books to make movies that you actually cared about and felt something for. I think that’s absolutely the same with what’s going on with videogame movies. I am absolutely of the videogames generation, starting on the Atari and Commodore 64 and the Amiga. I’m a gamer at heart and always have been. I’m also a filmmaker. I think my sensibilities about storytelling and character just automatically come into play when I’m trying to work on any kind of narrative. For me, it doesn’t really matter what the source of the narrative is. I will be looking for ways to make it into an intriguing story with empathetic characters.
What were the big challenges in putting together this first trailer?
We’ve got an awful lot of introducing to do, both in this movie and inviting audiences in to come see this movie. There’s an entirely new world, new characters. This is beyond the Warcraft faithful, who know what it is that we’re talking about. Also, what kind of subject matter is it? What kind of fantasy is it? There will be different pieces that we have to address over the seven months until our film comes out. Right now, we just want to give everyone a sense of the breadth of the world, the kind of action that’s involved, and a sense of the energy of the movie. As we go along, I’m sure we’ll be introducing people to the broader spectrum of what this big, big film is.
Are you done-done with film?
I am done-done. I’m hoping and looking forward to potentially working on an indie sci-fi thing of my own quite soon. We’re ready to roll. We were really excited by the move to the date in June that we’re on now because it’s the same day that Jurassic World came out. From my perspective, I think that’s a good sense of Universal’s faith in us. Originally, we were on this December date, and then Star Wars came and sat on it. If you know me online, you know that Rian [Johnson] and I have a very good-humored rivalry about his Star Wars movies what I’m doing with Warcraft. I’m pretty much done, and I’m excited to potentially squeeze in another indie before I come back for more.
Do you just watch Warcraft on your phone because you can?
Right now, I feel really bad for my wife because I keep on playing the teaser trailer and seeing what people are saying about it. It’s absolutely self-destructive behavior, but I think today I’m just going to give myself the day off to do that kind of thing. We’ve been waiting nearly three years now to see what people think of what we’ve been doing. I’ve just been enjoying the excitement.