When Warcraft, the live-action movie based on the MMORPG video game series and novels, arrived in theaters in 2016, it was neither the box office or critical hit that many had been hoping for. Now, nearly two years later, the movie’s director is explaining why that may be the case.
In an interview with Syfy to promote his new Netflix movie Mute–which is also being hailed as something less than a smash hit–Duncan Jones is very open about the troubling production. From the sound of it, filming of the movie sounds incredibly contentious.
“Warcraft was a political minefield as far as filmmaking goes. And I think a lot of the rewriting in that, over the course of making the movie was really, really difficult and at times disheartening,” he says. “Just being forced to make changes and compromises just due to the politics and the nature of that film. So, that was a real heart-wrencher. But I’ve learned a lot and I’ve become more mature and able to deal with those kinds of situations because I’ve been through it now. But at the time, that felt pretty traumatic.”
At the heart of the issue, Jones believes, was turmoil at Legendary Pictures–the studio producing Warcraft. “It was mainly studio politics. You know, Legendary had an incredibly turbulent period while we were making Warcraft,” he says. “They were associated with Warner Bros. They left Warner Bros. and joined Universal. They were sold to Wanda, this Chinese conglomerate. They lost or replaced a number of their producing staff halfway through our movie.”
Jones also points out the importance of the Warcraft brand to Blizzard, the studio behind the game. “We were also working with Blizzard, who understandably were very careful about what happened with the movie because their bread and butter was the game Warcraft, which was bringing in a billion dollars a year for them,” he explains. While he admits that the movie’s returns would likely be “small potatoes” compared to what Blizzard makes from subscriptions to the game, it was still very protective of its brand. “It was really a very active political landscape,” he says.
Still, the experience of making Warcraft hasn’t necessarily turned Jones off to doing approaching another big-budget property. However, he would certainly approach it in a different way. “I’m a lot wiser now,” he says.