Warcraft made a splash at Comic-Con this year—both on the floor and in Hall H, and fans have been waiting ages for news. But if you’re not familiar with the series, you may be confused as to what all the fuss is for. Don’t know your Gul’dans from your Durotans? Here’s our complete guide to the Warcraft film.
So, this World of Warcraft movie...
Hold it right there.
It’s not World of Warcraft. It’s Warcraft.
There’s a difference?
World of Warcraft is the huge MMORPG—Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game—that you might be more familiar with more recently, but it’s not the originator of the... well, the world of Warcraft. Before World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment made a series of PC strategy games set in the same fantasy universe.
(These games were originally meant to be based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer fantasy games, but the deal went nowhere, necessitating Blizzard to write their own story.) These PC games were called Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos.
So World of Warcraft takes place several years after the events of those strategy games—in fact, the MMO takes place nearly 3 decades after the events of the first game.
So which one is this one based on?
Naturally, the first game, Orcs and Humans. Warcraft will tell the story of how the Orcs, manipulated by demon entities called the Burning Legion, came to the world of Azeroth from their own planet, Draenor, for the very first time.
Wait. They’re space orcs???
Sure! Well, they don’t have laser guns or anything, but the orcs of Warcraft come from a different planet to the Humans: Draenor. A few orcs were corrupted by these demons with the promise of power, and they persuaded their fellow orc clans that in order to survive (Draenor was a harsh world) they had to invade another world.
With the help of a human traitor, the orcs, lead by the evil warlock Gul’Dan, constructed a Dark Portal that bridged Draenor and Azeroth together.
The Orc you keep showing a picture of is brown. Aren’t orcs green-skinned?
They are—and they are in Warcraft as well, eventually. While native Orcs are brown skinned, part of the process that brings the Orc clans together under the thrall of the Burning Legion involves drinking the blood of a demon. This grants them increased strength and a sort of blood rage, but also turns their skin green. Yes, like the Hulk but with more permanence.
Eventually, even Orcs who didn’t drink the blood—some clans disagreed with Gul’Dan’s plan and refused, like the Frostwolves. More on them in a second—found their skin turning green, simply because of exposure to demonic energy.
Cool. You mentioned those Frostwolf guys. Aren’t all the orcs bad guys in this?
Nope! Part of Warcraft’s storytelling has always been about a sort of blurring of lines. Not every Human is good (Remember that traitor guy I mentioned earlier?), and not every Orc is bad. The Frostwolves are just one group of dissenters who refuse to drink the demon blood. They’re led by Durotan, played by Toby Kebbel in the film.
Right. So who else is important in the movie?
The movie’s cast is fairly split between the two sides—The orcs of the Horde, and the humans of the Alliance. Here’s the main cast that we know of so far, split into each faction:
- King Llane (Dominic Cooper)
- Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel)
- Lady Taria (Ruth Negga)
- Medivh (Ben Foster)
- Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer)
- Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton)
- Durotan (Toby Kebbel)
- Orgrim (Rob Kazinsky)
- Blackhand (Clancy Brown)
- Gul’Dan (Daniel Wu)
If you want to know more about each of these characters, here’s a handy guide I wrote about each of them—it’s largely spoiler free, but I go into some detail about who exactly all these people are. Sure these are spoilers for 20 year old games, bear in mind—but hey, there’s a movie coming out soon, so you might want to avoid them!
Wait. There’s an Orc on the humans’ side? I thought you said they came over from a different planet!
Garona is a weird case. She originally worked for Gul’Dan as a spy, and was sent over to Azeroth as a liaison between Gul’Dan and the human helping him construct the portal. While she was there, Garona became friends with the Mage Khadgar, and she decided she wasn’t too keen on her master’s plans. So she warned the humans about the impending Orc invasion and decided to fight with them. Like I said, bad guys and good guys on both sides.
All you those people you mentioned are Orcs or Humans, right? There aren’t any other fantasy races in this?
There are, actually—in the very first game, there were only Orcs and Humans (hence the name), but later on more races were introduced: Dwarves, Gnomes and High Elves joined the Alliance, Tauren (a race of cow-people) and Trolls joined the Horde. By the time of World of Warcraft, each side had a few other races join their cause, but they won’t be a factor in the movie.
Although it would be true to the game not to see any other races, it’d be kind of a bit boring (and Warcraft fans are much more familiar with these multi-racial factions from the current games.)
In fact, we already know there’ll be more races in some form: a trailer shown at a Blizzard fan convention last year featured Elves at the very least, and we’ll probably be seeing some more fantastical characters too.
Trailers? Are there any clips I can watch?
Sadly, no. That trailer was only for fans attending, as was the most recent footage shown at Comic-Con. But, you can read a description of that Comic-Con footage here.
Better than nothing, I guess. There’s a lot of focus on a baby Orc in that description. Who is it?
The child mentioned is Durotan and his wife Draka’s son. He has an Orcish name—Go’el—but is more commonly known by another: Thrall. He’s not important to the first movie, but he eventually grows up to become a leader to the Orcs and the Horde as a whole, and a pretty major player in World of Warcraft. You’ll probably be seeing more from him in any potential sequels.
Right. So that’s pretty much what I need to know going in, but one thing: Why are people so excited about this?
Lots of reasons. Warcraft itself is incredibly popular, thanks to the success of World of Warcraft, which has become a pop cultural force in its own right over the last decade, played by millions and millions of people. Plus, a movie adaptation has been in the works for years—Sam Raimi was originally attached to the project in 2009 but that fell through, before Duncan Jones (director of the awesome sci-fi film Moon) signed on—so fans have been waiting a long time.
Plus, video game movies have a pretty bad rep, for good reason: they’ve mostly been terrible. Warcraft’s popularity, combined with the fact that it seems like the creative teams behind it are at least talking like they understand how to adapt a video game to film, has a lot of people hoping that this film could break the trend and bring video game stories and worlds to wider audiences.
There’s also the fact that post-Lord of the Rings, there hasn’t been much in the way of big-ticket fantasy on the big screen, and people looking for more of that are pinning their hopes of Warcraft being a success and kick-starting a new wave of cinematic fantasy. So basically,there’s a big fanbase and a lot of expectation that Warcraft could be the start of something special.
Warcraft is due for release in June 2016. Want to know more? Check out the links below for more information.