Paula Patton as Garona in Warcraft
The makers of Warcraft, the film adaptation of the popular video game series first introduced in 1994 on the MS-DOS platform, were less concerned about competing with perceptions of the video game and more with comparisons to another story featuring battles between orcs and humans. Director Duncan Jones, the son of the late David Bowie and director of Moon and Source Code, makes repeated references to The Lord of the Rings as the gold standard for such stories and a challenge for the cast and crew to surpass.
Compared to his previous science-fiction works, Jones says, “The spectrum of what is fantasy is much smaller than what is science fiction, so I love the opportunity to do a film that reaches the same bar as The Lord of the Rings. I wanted to give fantasy a new voice and a new feel, and that’s what we tried to do with Warcraft.”
“We wanted to give New Zealand a bit of a rival,” Jones jokes. “It would be nice if there were a bit of a rivalry for fantasy films, and we wanted to give an energy that’s a bit different but still achieved the same level of success.”
Where the film departs from the stories that Peter Jackson first released 15 years ago based on stories that J.R.R. Tolkien published six decades ago, Jones says, is that Warcraft takes a more modern view.
“What Tolkien established in those books is something that might feel a bit dated. The humans and all of the good-looking characters are the good guys, and the monsters are the bad guys. We had an opportunity to try something different. All of the races have their heroes, and they are all reasonable if you look at things through their eyes.”
For Jones, part of the challenge of making Warcraft was attempting to strike a balance between satisfying fans of the game while still drawing in audiences who had little knowledge of the video-game series.
“I’m a big fan of Pixar because their films work for both kids and parents, while working on two completely different levels,” he explains. “The ideal situation is that people who love the game can bring people who don’t know anything about it and communicate through them the reason why they spend night after night playing the game.”
One of those players is cast member Robert Kazinsky, the English actor best known for “True Blood” and Pacific Rim, who plays one of the orcs in Warcraft through the use of motion-capture technology. An avid gamer, Kazinsky recounts his enthusiasm for being part of the project.
“I’d have been a fluffer to be in this. I would have swept the floor. I would have killed many puppies to be part of this film, and I would have done any part in it. I think I actually offered to pay them to be in it,” Kazinsky says. “This game has been part of my life for years, so it feels like it’s come full circle for me. There’s nothing, nor rain, nor sleep, nor snow, nor armored ogre that could stand in my way from being in this.”
Because Kazinsky’s orc character was created largely using computer animation, he found it a challenge to act out a character whose features would be created long after shooting wrapped.
“Fortunately Duncan created a set that was safe for us to play in. You can only do that if you go fully for it and don’t hide behind your ego. You’re essentially out there in a costume made entirely of your imagination.”
Creating the actual orc later still had its benefits compared to co-star Paula Patton, who plays a human-orc hybrid and thus had her character created through make-up and prosthetics. She endured hours of sitting in the makeup chair, while Kazinsky notes, “All I had to do is shave every day.”
Early during filming while creating her human-orc hybrid, Patton had a moment where she questioned whether she could endure the lengthy process that Warcraft demanded.
“I’m not going to lie to you, I had a moment. I went to hair and makeup, and there was no mirror, so I went to the bathroom and nearly had a heart attack. I didn’t think I could do it,” she says. “But it then became collaborative with the costumes and makeup and hair, and putting all the finishing touches like the contacts that obscure my vision. I came to embrace it, so I loved it in the end.”
The plot of Warcraft contains significant material about tolerance and the clash of cultures, which gives it perhaps a better message than the video game, which like so many games allows users to gain power based on the number of orcs that the player kills.
“Don’t think you can go around killing people and get stronger in real life,” Kazinsky insists. “Actually, maybe you will, but you’ll be in jail doing it. Stay out of jail!”
Warcraft is in theaters June 10.