Enthusiast Networks and Film Enthusiast has learned that Warner Bros has teamed up with production company Ruffian to develop an interactive, live action film for video game Middle Earth: Shadow of War.(See our interview with Neil Huxley here) In a statement provided to us, we learned that it will be directed by Neil Huxley for a marketing campaign designed to show how much further the Nemesis system has come since the first game, Shadow of Mordor. Huxley is no stranger to video games, having directed trailers for Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ghost Recon: Future Soldier and Mad Max. This is, however, his first attempt at directing a live action experience of this magnitude. To accompany him, the studio has brought on Game of Thrones Director of Photography Fabian Wagner as well.
Called “Friend or Foe”, the cinematic features Talion (played by Ashley Beck), Orcs, Warchiefs, Wraiths and more. It’s designed to emphasize the advancements in the Nemesis system and how it has become intertwined throughout the game. In the original Shadow of Mordor, the Nemesis system saw enemies remember you. The result would be a sarcastic or gloating remark from the enemy Orc in question, but not much more in depth. In Shadow of War, the system is much more advanced, and has been changed to trigger certain events and story arcs. As a result, there is an extremely high replay value as some players may never experience certain instances.
Huxley commented on the advancements by saying:
“The Nemesis System is fascinating because it remembers all of your choices. Now it has become a far more extensive and deeper part of the experience for players, so the goal was to highlight this in an interactive way. If you kill a character, or a character kills you it has consequences, so every time you play you’ll get a different experience. This gives an instant replay factor, more so than most other games. People won’t see me for weeks when this game comes out!”
Friend or Foe is the first live action foray of The Lord of the Rings franchise since The Hobbit film in 2014. It includes a massive battle including over 300 extras that even required the Ukrainian Army to help organize. Since one commercial won’t show off the true variety of the Nemesis system, Huxley filmed seven of them. Each one has an alternate ending, complete with brutal action and fight choreography in order to show how your choices impact the game.
It’s unfortunate these are only just commercials for a marketing campaign as the Wraith strikes and special effects would make for an incredible feature length film. I’m Italian, and just like garlic, there’s no such thing as too much Lord of the Rings. The Orcs are all designed using prosthetics and real actors rather than CGI. This was a calculated choice and results in some intense realism. Huxley noted that it was the only option during production.
“Using prosthetics was never a question in my mind. The whole point of the campaign was to connect on a visceral level with these characters so that the moment of choice has an emotional gravitas, otherwise the film would fall flat. I think in-camera prosthetics on humanoid characters, when it’s done right, always looks more believable. It was important to make them this way to carry the narrative. You sense their intelligence on screen, and so you relate to them. Plus this approach allowed the amazing VFX team at MPC to use their firepower for set extensions, sky replacements and everything else they had to deal with.”
There is a much higher level of realism when using prosthetics over CGI. This also allowed Huxley and Wagner more freedom of movement with the actors while filming. It was important to the team to maintain continuity with the franchise, so they hired UNREAL’s Rogier Samuels who worked on prosthetics in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films.
Between Huxley’s work in post-production and VFX, Samuels’ experience in prosthetics and Wagner’s time behind the lense on Game of Thrones, they were able to create a commercial that looked as good as any feature film. It was importantly to Huxley that they kept that level of dedication with the franchise, and he was happy with what they accomplished
“A bar had already been set by the LOTR franchise, and this quite simply had to look just as good as that. Thanks to the whole team bringing their A-game, the finished work definitely holds up against any cinematic experience. This is what we set out to do, and this is what we accomplished.”
The film can be seen below, and all of its alternate endings can be viewed online at the official site. You are offered three results showing what happens if you decide to save your ally, as well as three for trying to slay your nemesis. We also have footage in our interview with Mr. Huxlely as well, with the marketing campaign kicked into high gear in anticipation for Shadow of War’s launch.
Shadow of War launches on October 10th, 2017. Check out the live action below.