Duncan Jones - the British director of well-regarded sci-fi movies Moon and Source Code - has signed on to direct Legendary Pictures' Warcraft film, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Jones, a self-described gamer and son of pop legend David Bowie, all but confirmed the news when he tweeted: "So the gauntlet was thrown down ages ago: Can you make a proper MOVIE of a video game. I've always said it's possible. Got to DO it now!"
Based on Blizzard's vastly popular fantasy game series, the film's due to start shooting this year from a script by Blood Diamond's Charles Leavitt, with a view to a 2015 release, the report says. Legendary originally signed Sam Raimi, director of the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man films, to helm its Warcraft project, but they parted company after Raimi began work on Disney's Wizard of Oz prequel, Oz: The Great and Powerful.
Jones's heart must have leapt at that news, because he had already declared himself "hugely jealous" of the opportunity Raimi had to do video games justice on film. In an interview with Badass Digest a couple of years ago, Jones identified Warcraft as the project that could break the abysmal record of movie adaptations of video games.
"I really believe World of Warcraft could be the launch of computer games as good films," he said then. "And from the little I've read of interviews with [Raimi] the way he's approaching it makes so much sense... it's not worrying about how the game plays, it's about creating the world of the game and investing the audience in that world."
In the same interview, Jones described himself as a "real gamer", unlike other film directors jockeying to associate themselves with the video game medium who didn't have the time to actually play. "I'm just slightly insane and I stay up all night playing games," he said. "In the day I'm working and at night I play games."
With a projected budget of $100 million, the Warcraft film is a big step up for Jones, who made Moon and Source Code on relatively modest budgets. He's also a less obvious choice to bring Blizzard's world to life than Raimi - whose films, like Blizzard's games, are known for their sense of humour and cartoony intensity.
In contrast, Moon and Source Code attracted attention for their low-key style, strong performances and cleverly constructed scripts. Moon is a retro science-fiction flick starring Sam Rockwell as an astronaut going crazy with solitude, while Source Code is a post-Inception brain-teaser about a soldier, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, experiencing the end of another man's life over and over again. (As one Twitter wag put it, "The WoW film went to @ManMadeMoon because nobody else had as much experience with films involving respawning.")
Still, Jones's passion for his new project and knowledge of the source material seems clear. "I love everything Blizzard is doing," he said in the Badass Digest interview (back in the days before Error 43).
With the script under wraps, there are few indications what form Legendary's film will take. For its part, Blizzard has said little about it since a panel session at BlizzCon all the way back in 2007 (when the film was rather hopefully scheduled for release in 2009).
At that point, Legendary and Blizzard were definite that Warcraft would be a live action film. Blizzard's Chris Metzen - who can lay more claim to being creator of the Warcraft universe than any other individual, and who's serving as a producer on the movie - said he expected the story to be set a year or two before the beginning of World of Warcraft's storyline, and to concentrate on the war between the Horde and Alliance from an Alliance perspective.
"Thematically, it's about cultures in conflict, the cycle of violence," Metzen told the BlizzCon audience, including yours truly. "It's not so much a quest movie. It's absolutely a war movie."
But a lot can change in five-and-a-half years. Will Metzen's vision mesh with Jones's and Leavitt's? Or - as a friend just put it to me - will we end up with "Lord of the Kung Fu Pandas"?
Here's hoping Jones' memory extends back to Blizzard's classic trailer for the original World of Warcraft release, below. That's a vision for Warcraft on the big screen that any fan could get behind.
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