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. A fantasy adventure movie based on the sprawling world of the online game sensation World of Warcraft has been bumping around for years now. Back in 2006 Steven Spielberg was rumored for the director's chair on a could-be adaptation. Three years later Sam Raimi was attached. But last summer he confessed the movie would be going into production soon, but without him. A few months later, reports of yet another writer taking on the script arose, giving signs of hope to WoW fans far and wide. And then just yesterday the surprising news came out that Duncan Jones of Moon would helm. I was surprised by this pick, since Jones is better known for sci-fi than fantasy.
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. Would this filmmaker who stood out with a mind-bending low-budget space drama be a good choice for a presumably special effects heavy fantasy epic? Sure, with 2011's Source Code Jones showed he could handle action sequences, but is he ready to deliver on the high expectations WoW lovers are sure to bring to this movie? I can't say for sure, since I have only a teeny bit of knowledge on World of Warcraft. But I happen to be married to fellow movie lover, and long-time WoW enthusiast who has been playing the games for decades. We sat down to discuss the World of Warcraft movie, trying to figure out if Jones is a good call for director, and if noobs like me should expect to be wowed.
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. Kristy: So, Zach, first and foremost can you tell me what you think of the idea of a World of Warcraft movie? Zach: Well, I'm a little bit torn. The world that Blizzard has created is certainly full of potential for interesting stories. But there are a number of possible problems, the most obvious one being the factionalism that is inherent in World of Warcraft. Kristy: Factionalism? You mean because there are so many ways to play it? Zach: Not exactly. Warcraft at its core is all about Alliance vs. Horde. A lot of players are fiercely loyal to one side or the other. I think it would be difficult to make a movie that satisfied both sides. There aren't really clear-cut good guys and bad guys when you are talking about Alliance vs Horde.
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. There is a lot of grey area, unlike in say Lord of the Rings or Star Wars where the villains and heroes are clearly defined. There are some definitely evil forces in the world, like the Scourge or the Burning Legion, but players on both sides of the Alliance/Horde schism think that their side is the good side. So if a movie favors one side over the other, there will be nerd rage storm of epic proportions. Kristy: Whoa. That was something I hadn't even considered. Well, what is it you'd hope for in a WoW movie? Zach: It's really hard to say. I never thought they would actually try to make it a major motion picture.
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. I figured it would be niche thing, like a direct-to-DVD animation similar to what DC and Marvel have been doing. Something where they didn't have to establish the world, because their market is already aware of it. There's just so much backstory, I'm not confident they can parse it in a way that will satisfy many of us who play. You could just make up a story and set it in the world of WoW, but if you're going to do that what's the point of using World of Warcraft as a base at all. Really, without knowing what the story of the movie is about, I have no idea how to wrap my head around it. Kristy: But I remember you didn't have high hopes for The Hobbit movie either once you heard they were expanding it into a trilogy. But ultimately you really enjoyed that. Do you think they could just make up a story that might have some Easter Eggs to the massive backstory and you'd be game?
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. Zach: To me what makes WoW interesting is the lore, is the history. If you're not going to really utilize that in a movie adaptation, I don't see the point. Christ, I've been playing Warcraft games since fifth grade, so that's what—twenty years? I don't know how you encompass this expansive world in a single film. But there's a lot of different time periods within the span of these games. Maybe it'd work if they set it during one of the first wars. I just don't know. Tolkien also had a whole world that he established with his works, but again it had a clean story with established good guys and bad guys. WoW doesn't necessarily work that way. Kristy: I know you liked both Moon and Source Code a lot, what do you think of Duncan Jones directing this movie?
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. Zach: I think he's an interesting pick. I think his past works show a psychological bent on sci-fi. Basically, the fact that his works have a lot of questioning to them and moral ambiguity to them—I don't want to get into too much to avoid spoilers— Kristy: Good call. Zach: But the fact that they chose him, and he has these works that are not clear cut narratives gives me hope. Maybe this will be interesting. Maybe there won't be easy villains in the movie. Kristy: Do you think there is a way that Jones and Blizzard can make a World of Warcraft movie that will appeal to fans as well as people unfamiliar with the game, but interested in fantasy because of things like The Lord of The Rings movies, and Game of Thrones? I actually wanted to ask you about the voice-over narration, because it is one of those things that’s really easy to screw up. There are so many films that just use it as a crutch for exposition or give up on it when it’s no longer useful – and one thing I loved about how you used it in your movie is that it’s always there, it never goes away. But was there ever a time when you tried to make it work without voice-over or was it there from draft one?
No, I always knew we kind of wanted it. Some people suggested we not have narration. Obviously this movie owes a great deal to Edward Scissorhands and that movie has no narration,. If you think about that movie having narration…it would have sucked with narration [laughs]. But to me it was always the idea that there’s the juxtaposition of what goes on in this guy’s head versus what you see, and voice-over is such an integral part of that. I think that finding the right placement of the voice-over and finding the right tone for the voice-over was really challenging. In the first draft the voice-over was very much lifted directly from the book, and Isaac [Marion] wrote this beautiful prose. But when you match it to the visuals we shot there was some kind of disconnect. So I learned that we had to take it in a slightly different direction in order to better capture the spirit of what Isaac wrote. And we also wanted to push it in a funnier and funnier direction because the biggest challenge of this movie is keeping it entertaining because there’s so much dead air – no pun intended [laughs]. So we wanted to push the voice-over in a more and more comedic direction while still maintaining the spirit of his book and also the social commentary of it. I just kept pushing it and I finally got these two guys who were around on 50/50, who worked with Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg], and we sat down, the three of us – they’re thanked in the “special thanks” – and we watched the movie. It was almost like Mystery Science Theater. And sometimes we got to the point where I was like, “Nah, we’re making fun of it. We can’t do that!” We watched the movie and we just started riffing on it and they were incredibly helpful at the very last minute to get the voice-over to where it needed to be. So it’s really cool and they were super helpful.