For the Horde! For the Alliance! Which side will you choose when the live-action Warcraft movie hits theaters on June 10th?
Director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) has already confirmed some major plot details, but audiences are probably wondering how many creative liberties the franchise's first film will take with Blizzard's deep and beloved history. The film is set to occur around the events of the First War (Orcs vs Humans) and pull heavily from the iconic trio of PC strategy games released years before World of Warcraft. However, as with any great big-screen fantasy adaptation (read: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, etc), changes will be made in order to create a better cinematic experience.
Many major figures from that era of accepted canon will be appearing in the film – like Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), Durotan (Toby Kebbel), Medivh (Ben Foster), and Orgrim (Rob Kazinsky) - but there have only been whispers regarding the film’s adherence to Warcraft's finer points. Writer Chris Metzen mentioned that lore would be bent for the sake of the film, likening it to Marvel's Ultimate universe at Blizzcon 2015.
There's only a few weeks remaining until the forces of the Alliance take on the forces of the Horde, so here are 12 Things We Want To See In the Warcraft movie.
12 An Honest Attempt to Portray Accepted Lore
A slightly-skewed timeline will likely be introduced in the film, but would Legendary really risk angering the vicious legions of Warcraft fans by introducing massive deviations? Aside from the whole Durotan/Lothar team-up, we think not. We hope (and expect!) to see accurate depictions of accepted canon, including an introduction to the Draenei race, their relationship with the Burning Legion (massive army of intergalactic demons), and some explanation of how Gul’dan (orc shaman) is originally manipulated by Kil'jaeden (demon lord of the Burning Legion). These events drive violent clashes between orcs and Draenei, leading to the eventual destruction of the orc’s home world, Draenor, and the invasion of Azeroth, the human world.
Kil'jaeden isn’t cast for the movie, but even a little Orc History 101 would be appreciated on this topic. Gul'dan and the Shadow Council are assumed to be largely responsible for the corruption of the orc race and the creation of the portal between worlds, so contextual clues throughout the movie will help Legendary avoid continuity issues and keep avid fans happy.
Plus, ignoring well-written lore will only lead to questions. If Medivh isn’t under the control of Sargaras (Burning Legion’s Utimate Big Bad Baddie), then why is he helping Gul’Dan open the Dark Portal and invade Azeroth? If orc clans aren’t divided on the issue of drinking demon blood, why are some green and some brown? More importantly, what is causing the rift between war bands, and why is the Frostwolf clan exiled? Look for plenty of crunchy lore nuggets to be stuffed into this fantasy epic.
11 More Trademark Weapons
The trailers have teased glimpses of iconic Warcraft weapons like the Orgrim's Doomhammer and Stormwind's Great Royal Sword, but we want more! There's an almost infinite number of legendary weapons scattered throughout the Warcraft franchise (including books, games, and comics), so there's no reason at least one or two more shouldn't pop up in the live-action film.
One perfect inclusion comes to mind: Gorehowl, the legendary axe wielded by Grommash Hellscream, who's been confirmed via IMDB and possibly spotted in this featurette (2:22 mark, in the background). While Grommash and Gorehowl didn't take part in the initial invasion of Azeroth (Warsong Clan kept back on Draenor), slight adjustments to canon would allow this fearsome warrior and his epic axe to grab some screen time.
There's also been some speculation that the Black Dragon Sword could be the movie version of Quel'Zaram, Anduin Lothar's iconic two-handed blade from early lore. We're confident that the blade will cleave through orc flesh all the same regardless of title.
10 Color Classes for Orcs
This is where things get a bit tricky. With nearly 20 years of games and literature to pull from, the Warcraft film will have to decide how to differentiate between the multiple orc clans. They've already introduced the brown and green orcs to identify the factions (green corrupted by demon blood, brown refusing to partake), but will they take it one step further? We wouldn't mind.
The sprawling history of Warcraft includes grey orcs (like the Blackrock Clan from Warlords of Draenor) and red orcs (also referred to as Fel or Chaos Orcs from Warcraft III), all of which could make an appearance in the franchise's first film. Although these color variations weren't included in the first set of games, they could be used to infer each clan's level of blood-lust or indicate just how corrupted they have become by the Burning Legion's influence.
Blackhand (Clancy Brown), leader of the Blackrock Clan, appears to play a major role in the orc-on-orc conflict, so it wouldn't be terribly surprising to see a bit of color coding at some point in the film.
9 Looting. Lots and Lots of Looting
Every Warcraft player worth his or her salt knows that looting is a major part of the franchise. It's much more prevalent in the World of Warcraft games (where players are free to pillage for mountains of ever-improving gear), but the concept itself has been written into the history of Azeroth and Draenor for years. In early conflicts, orcs were known to steal weapons and armor from their opponents in an attempt to improve their chances on the battlefield. You can only imagine how excited orc warriors would to rip shiny plate armor and sturdy shields from fallen Stormwind soldiers, cobbling together their own mishmash set.
The 2013 Comic Con teaser showed an armored man preparing for battle, pausing to borrow a shield from a long-dead comrade. We hope to see more moments like this throughout the Warcraft film. Disarmed by an orc? Grab that abandoned battle axe and start swinging! Slayed a legendary Knight of Stormwind? Carry his fancy sword into battle so everyone knows of your conquest!
8 Additional Races
The title of the first Warcraft game is actually Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Since the movie is loosely based in the era of this first game (and around the First War), many fans incorrectly assume it will only feature those titular races. What they don't know is that several other races were involved in the conflict (via game or via later literature), including Ogres, Dwarves, Draenei and High Elves.
Trailers have already introduced at least one dwarf, and keen eyes have spotted High Elves partaking in a human council meeting. This leads us to believe they might enter the fray on behalf of the Alliance earlier than expected. As mentioned earlier, the Warcraft film franchise will be set in its own universe, leaving it free to re-interpret and tweak canon as needed. Hopefully, the live-action film will showcase massive Ogres fighting beside the ranks of the invading Horde, and at least a few scenes featuring Dwarves and High Elves in action alongside Alliance forces.
Oh - and trolls! There's always a troll raid!
7 The Birth of Durotan and Orgrim's Bromance
Early Warcraft canon establishes Durotan as a member of the honorable Frostwolf Clan and Orgrim as a member of the Blackrock Clan (those grey orcs we mentioned!). The two forge an unusual friendship as children that continues into their adult years. As the events leading to the First War begin to unfold, Durotan beseeches Orgrim to leave his corrupted clan behind and rebel against the influence of Gul'Dan. It's all a bit confusing and twisty, especially as the First War (where the film is set) comes to a head.
That aspect of their relationship, however, has already been tweaked to simplify matters for the two-hour film. In this timeline, the two warriors have grown up hunting and fighting together as members of the Frostwolf clan. This change will make their allegiance more linear and believable without having to explain the convoluted hierarchy of several warring clans. Hopefully, Legendary has enough creativity to develop two independently complex and intelligent individuals, allowing them to spin this Bromance into something audiences care to root for.
Side note: What do you even begin to call this power couple? DuroGrim? OrgTan?
6 Familiar Settings
Some careful trailer analysis has revealed several locations that will be familiar to World of Warcraft players. Locations such as Stormwind City and Westfall are fairly easy to catch, but closer examination shows fantastic renditions of the Hellfire Peninsula, Blackrock Pass, Dalaran, and even the Swamp or Sorrows.
Jones and his production team have gone to great lengths to appeal to hardcore fans. Their devotion shows in the under-appreciated, often-overlooked details like the Harvest Golems sitting in the fields of Westfall (bet you missed that one, huh?). They even created a full, working set for the Lion's Pride Inn IRL. It would be great if every major set from the film could be traced back to a single map or location in the games - those little tidbits are like Catnip for Nerds.
5 Epic Battles! Epic Gear! Epic...Everything!
Part of what makes the Warcraft franchise so strong is its ability to expand and evolve year after year. Countless updates have been introduced for each installment of the game, while years of comics and novels have worked to introduce exciting new events or re-write obsolete histories. Blizzard's habit of inventing new heroes, villains, and (most importantly) increasingly epic gear has kept fans of the franchise chomping at the bit for the better part of two decades.
In order for this film to succeed, it will have to capture the hearts of long-time players and casual fans alike. One way to do that: ensure that everything is as absolutely epic as humanly (Orc-ishly?) possible, without sacrificing the story. It's clear that hours and hours of effort were poured into crafting insanely-detailed weapons and armor, but Legendary will need to push the boundaries of epic to new heights if they hope to impress this generation of viewers.
Battles scenes shouldn't just be scaled for convenience - they must be coherent, well choreographed, and realistic. Magic spells should look and feel convincing, and can't be laughably powerful. The action needs to be raw and animalistic, relying more on motion-captured brawls than pure CGI sequences. Warcraft has a chance to redefine the way audiences vibe with video game-inspired movies, but it will need to pull out all the stops in order to do so.
4 A Balanced, Two-Sided Story
The creative team behind the Warcraft film wants audiences to know that the story isn't as black-and-white as it may seem. This will not be a movie about evil orcs attempting to mindlessly slaughter innocent humans and conquer their kingdom. Simply put, it's not that simple; as we're sure to see early on, every human is not a hero and every Orc is not a monster. In order to successfully create an alternate Warcraft timeline that appeals to a wide audience, this tale will have to introduce two (or three?) well-executed backstories that don't automatically relegate orcs to the role of 'bad guy.'
One of the film's largest (and most important) deviations from Blizzard canon is the uneasy alliance forged between human knight Anduin Lothar and the Orcs of the Frostwolf clan. Showing a small contingent of orcs break off and engage in civil war against their corrupted kin is good, but helping audiences understand the copious amounts of manipulation and treachery that ushered in said civil strife would be better.
So how can director Duncan Jones can break away from formulaic plot lines and achieve a truly balanced film? Easy: establish the characters responsible for twisting the once-peaceful orc society (Burning Legion, Gul'Dan, Medivh), show audiences the war-torn realm of Dreanor, and humanize major orc characters. At least, as much as you can humanize any seven-foot, 385 pound behemoth.
3 Garona Absolutely Smashing the 'Strong Female Lead' Trope
For years, Hollywood has been plagued by the "strong female lead" trope. Yes, you should be reading that with air quotes. These cookie-cutter characters usually fall into the same trap: she's defined by a range of skills that are considered 'for dudes' (like combat or weapons training), she's dismissive and aloof, she stands apart from everyone else. As the plot progresses, audiences learn of her secret feminine side - this will predictably occur as she falls for a strong male character but refuses to acknowledge her feelings. In the later stages, she accepts these feelings (finding a way to reconcile them with her hard-ass exterior) and uses her aforementioned 'dude' skills to save the strong male character... so that he can go on and save the day.
See the issue?
These characters don't drive the plot. Much of their value in the story is derived from their strong 'for men' traits. However, because of her glaringly 'for women' traits, they are kept from being the true protagonist. Think Trinity from The Matrix. Garona (Paula Patton) is a character who could actually break this mold; her backstory is crazy enough to warrant its own spin-off, there's no Garona/Lothar romance in Warcraft canon to speak of, and she legitimately appears to be a strong independent half-orc who don't need no man. Her line in the newest trailer says it all: "I need no one to protect me." Let's keep it that way, shall we?
2 The Utter Destruction of Stormwind
***Possible SPOILERS for those of you who haven't played the games***
This has to happen. Has. To. Happen. Warcraft needs to shatter expectations if it ever wants to become a real film franchise, and this is a great way to do it. Every single fantasy movie ever uses the exact same formula, over and over and over - forces of good clash with forces of evil, evil kinda starts to win, hero has heroic moment and the good guys prevail, everything is fuzzy and warm, the end. Duncan Jones, Director of This Movie, Take Heed: Destroy Stormwind, or Forever be Cursed!
It's already happened in Warcraft canon. The good guys lose, it's as simple as that. We know that big changes are being made to drive the film's plot, but don't compromise on this point. Right when it seems that Alliance forces will turn the tide of battle and win the day, sucker-punch audiences. Hard. Destroy Stormwind, drive the humans from their proud city - hell, maybe even pull a Game of Thrones and kill off a major character.
Just because the film is creating an alternate Warcraft universe where orcs and humans team up doesn't mean that they should necessarily win. Want a sequel? Raze Stormwind. Want a trilogy? Sack Stormwind and mercilessly remove a major player, maybe introduce their offspring (we're looking at you Thrall, son of Durotan).
Want to succeed in the box office? Pray that the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern doesn't ever watch this movie. Seriously, he hates everything.
1 God Dammit, Leeroy!
Yeah, there's probably a zero percent chance of this happening but still - imagine if Duncan Jones and Legendary had the cajones to throw it in somewhere? It would be an incredibly clever, smarmy little tip of the hat to long-time fans and pop-culture addicts.
Even just naming a soldier Leeroy, or a horse, or an orc, or an anything would suffice, as long as we get to hear it: God damnit, Leeroy. God Damnit.
Anything else you want to see in the new Warcraft movie on June 10th? Let us know in the comments!