ANAHEIM, Calif.--Hundreds of attendees here at BlizzCon took time off from playing StarCraft II and the newly announced World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, to attend a spirited panel on the upcoming WOW movie, plans for which finally seem to be coalescing. Blizzard COO Paul Sams and chief creative officer Chris Metzen joined Legendary Pictures' CEO Thomas Tull and chief creative officer Jon Jashni onstage to dish on the current production status of Blizzard's first movie, which the company has been trying to get off the ground for a good five years now.
The audience of diehard fans seemed pleased with Blizzard's choice to partner with Legendary on the WOW movie, given the cheers that erupted at the mention of the company's recent fan-favorite hits like 300 and Batman Begins. Tull reiterated several times his company's commitment to creating "not a video game movie," but rather a grand fantasy epic--one on the order of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation--that just happens to be based on a video game property. He also said Legendary is targeting a roughly $100 million budget for a film it hopes to release in 2009, and confirmed emphatically that the movie will be live-action rather than animated. No firm decisions have yet been made on director, cast, or the use of practical versus computer-generated special effects.
Blizzard lore-master Metzen then took over to discuss the story aspects of the movie. Metzen first considered setting the movie at the Warcraft franchise's origin, during the clash between humans and orcs seen in the original game. But given the need for a storyline relevant to the critical mass of World of Warcraft players, Blizzard has instead opted to set the movie firmly within the WOW timeline, specifically about one year before the game itself begins. In answer to a fan question, Metzen said this won't be a quest or journey film, like The Lord of the Rings. Instead, "it's absolutely a war movie" that will focus on the large-scale conflict between the alliance and horde.
The film's storyline will be presented chiefly from the alliance perspective, which met with considerable boos from the devoted assemblage, though Metzen said the creative team would do its best to represent all of Azeroth's races in some fashion. Familiar characters like Thrall and Jaina Proudmoore may appear, though those names were only given as examples of the caliber of existing characters that will show up in the movie. Metzen also said a new hero has been devised specifically for the movie, and that he will be "badass."
As the fan question-and-answer session drew to a close, Metzen and Tull addressed a couple of the most important lingering questions. What rating are Legendary and Blizzard targeting? The final rating is clearly in the hands of the MPAA, but Tull did say the team desires to create a movie with as much intensity as it can muster, while allowing as wide an audience to see it as possible. He once again mentioned The Lord of the Rings as an example of a highly intense film that maintained a PG-13 rating. How about the direction of the inevitable sequel? Tull: "Let's nail the first one, and we'll go from there."
Before leaving the eager crowd with so many unanswered questions, Metzen tossed Blizzard's legions of fans one last bone in the form of a single piece of concept art depicting Teldrassil, the gigantic world tree that grows north of Kalimdor in World of Warcraft. Tull also mentioned nonchalantly that hopefully the next time all of these fans are assembled in one place again, he hopes to have a little more--like a teaser trailer--to show them.