Exclusive Interview: Duncan Jones Talks Warcraft: The Beginning

Duncan Jones, the director of Moon and Source Code, is tired of seeing great video games being turned into lacklustre films, and it was his desire to reverse this trend that motivated him to want to bring Warcraft: The Beginning to the big screen, along with his own personal relationship with the Warcraft universe, which has spanned more than twenty years.

Jones devoted three years of his life to the making of this film, a process that saw him also assume scripting chores. If his endeavor proves to be successful, this commitment will only deepen, which is why Jones, the son of legendary musician and occasional actor David Bowie, wanted to follow-up Warcraft with another film, Mute, an independent science fiction thriller that Jones began shooting shortly after finishing post-production work on Warcraft.

“I needed a break from Warcraft, after three years, and I wanted to make another film before thinking about moving into another Warcraft film,” says Jones. “I also want to wait and see what the reaction to this film is like before I think about a sequel.”

In the second week of February, approximately a month after the passing of his iconoclastic father, I had the chance to speak to Jones about his love of gaming, his long relationship with Warcraft, and his progression to big budget filmmaking.

Check it out below and enjoy!

What attracted you to this project?

Duncan Jones: I was constantly travelling around the world as I was growing up, and what happened was that I immersed myself in the worlds of books and especially computer games. The worlds inside the computer games became, in a way, my home, and the place where I was most comfortable. This continued as I got older. In the early 1990s, I started playing The Lost Vikings, a game that was developed by Blizzard Entertainment, the company responsible for Warcraft. Then I got into Warcraft, never imagining that I would someday have the chance to make a film of it.

More than thirty years after its release, TRON is still the best of the video game films. Why do you think that is?

Duncan Jones: TRON is a great film, a mind-opening film, but it’s not based on an actual game. There’s no reason for these films to be as bad as they have turned out to be. We’ve seen comic book-inspired films experience a commercial and critical renaissance over the past decade, and I expect the same thing to happen with video games. I hope that Warcraft will be the beginning of this.

You also co-wrote the script. What was the biggest challenge into turning this vast universe into a single feature film?

Duncan Jones: Turning Warcraft into a screenplay and then a film was a puzzle, because of the mass amount of lore that has developed in twenty years. What story do we base the film on? We decided that the best approach, for fans and non-fans, was to tell an origin story and focus on the origin of the conflict between the humans and the orcs and base everything in the film off of that relationship.

How does the conflict unfold in the film?

Duncan Jones: The story is rooted in both sides of the conflict. There are good and bad characters on both sides, and conflicts within both races, and we see the families and relationships on both sides, especially the father-son relationships, which means the most to me now, having recently lost my father and also going through the process of becoming a father myself.

Given your background, how did you strike a balance between digital and practical effects?

Duncan Jones: When you talk to filmmakers who make movies like this, the general feeling is that the best approach is to use a hybrid of digital and practical effects. This was the same approach I took with Moon, my first feature, which made heavy use of miniatures and models, but also contained CGI, like in the scene where GERTY the robot walks through a corridor, which was all digital. We had amazing physical sets in Warcraft: The Beginning, but the Orcs were all CG-created, and I wanted every scene in the film to have that combination. I would describe the look of the film as having a pop sensibility to it, bright and hyper-real.

Was your realistic and relationship-based approach to the story at all influenced by Dawn of the Planet of the Apes?

Duncan Jones: When I saw Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it left me delighted and horrified, because of the approach we’ve taken with our human characters and the relationship between the humans and the Orcs. But our film was shot before Dawn was released, so there was no intentional influence there, and the stories are completely different. As far as humanity and realism goes, I think fantasy and science fiction audiences are already more willing to accept the realism of these films and invest in the characters than audiences in any other genre.

That concludes our interview, but we’d like to thank Duncan very much for his time. Be sure to check out Warcraft: The Beginning when it hits theatres this Friday!