Hordes of Warcraft fans were ecstatic in May 2006 with the news that their favorite video gaming franchise was coming to the big screen. Then, the film entered development limbo, with Sam Raimi at one point attached to direct, and a final six-month delay caused by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
A little over 10 years after that initial announcement, the film has arrived.
Directing duties fell to Duncan Jones, the brains behind sci-fi films Source Code and Moon. A long-time Warcraft fan, Jones picked up the axe and ran directly into Azeroth to make one of the largest fantasy epics ever committed to screen.
“I’d been a Warcraft fan all my life,” Jones tells TechRadar. “I’d played since the very first Warcraft: Orcs and Humans game, and I thought it was a fun universe.
When World of Warcraft came out you really could be a hero in anyway you wanted. That felt like it gave me an in on a fantasy film I’d never seen before.
“I don’t think these kind of opportunities come around that often.”
Being such a fan, little research was needed for the job. Jones’ supporting crew was full of Warcraft fans and he had a good knowledge of the story he wanted to tell.
Blizzard, the developer of the Warcraft video game series, was also heavily involved in the project from start to finish.
“I think the reason it hadn’t been made was because [Blizzard] were so specific about what they wanted the film to be. I found myself fortunate as what I pitched was very much in sync with what they wanted the movie to be.”
Reign of Chaos
Chuck Roven, producer of Warcraft, also praises the efforts of Blizzard being so involved in the film adaptation.
“They were a true creative partner right from the beginning,” says Roven. “The concept was a collaboration so when we had a script we made sure we had their input.”
Jones adapted the screenplay with the help of Charles Leavitt and based on the game Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
Blizzard went further, though. “They helped us in terms of how we initially did concept art of how the characters would look,” says Roven, “then the special effects – we’re talking to them every day.”
Much like Avatar, a big focus is being put on the tech that has gone into making Warcraft a reality.
Azeroth – the Orcs especially – were made using a new type of motion-capture technology that you won’t have seen in film before.
“I had never done a film where over half the movie involved motion capture,” says Roven. “I think we even upped the game there, a little bit.
“With motion capture and the voluminous visual effect shots you’re doing as much, if not more, creating in post-production than you are during production.”
Jones was impressed by the tech he was given access to, but wants to assure all viewers that a lot of the film was shot on location and not against a green screen.
“I wish we were able to put out a disclaimer before the film is out,” he says. “If you’re in close in an environment, everything around it is real. Most of our assets in visual effects went into the orcs.
“They had incredible detail in them. We wanted to put as much live action around them so the visual effect artists had something to work with to make them feel real. The VR motion capture was really pushing the technology.”
Industrial Light and Magic – a company founded by George Lucas when he began work on Star Wars – took the reigns of the effects technology within Warcraft.