Other than a release date (December 18, 2015), and a director (Duncan Jones), not much has been known about “Warcraft,” the movie adaptation of Blizzard’s best-selling game series. But with the game publisher’s annual BlizzCon holding a panel revealing concept art and some small storyline details, the floodgates haven’t exactly opened; only a trickle of information has begun to pour through.
For those who may know “Warcraft” only as, “that thing my friend hasn’t left his basement for three days while playing,” a brief primer. The video-game series first hit stores in 1994 with the original “Warcraft: Orcs & Humans;” and then continued throughout various real-time strategy games before exploding with the massive multiplayer online role playing game, “World of Warcraft.”
The story itself is basic fantasy fare. An invading army of monstrous Orcs (called The Horde) go through a portal into human lands, and can only be stopped by a pact between Humans, Elves, and Dwarves (called The Alliance). What lifts Warcraft to “Lord of the Rings” levels for fans? An engrossing, often emotionally charged mythology — and as the series continued, a chance to play as both sides.
Back to BlizzCon, the panel showed off various concept art later confirmed as being developed by Industrial Light & Magic (ILM). Interestingly, ILM may be busy that weekend: “Star Wars: Episode VII” will also hit on December 18, 2015.
The concept art itself mainly confirms you’ll see the locations you’d expect from a fantasy movie: Draenor, home of the Orcs; Dalaran, a magical floating city; Ironforge, home of the dwarves; and Stormwind, the capital human city. And all of the designs seem relatively in line with their looks from “World of Warcraft.” Expect there to be some changes for the movie-world (similar to how New York City geographically changes on film to make things simpler for action and continuity), but for the most part the concept work has already been done by the game.
Far more interesting was the morsel of plot Jones revealed to the crowd. The movie will be the story of the human leader Anduin Lothar versus Orc leader Durotan, which should make this movie an excellent tie-in for Durotan Doritos. But more seriously, given the avid fanbase for the property, we can figure out quite a bit about the plot (or at least, what we think the plot will be).
According to Jones, both Lothar (whose name is rumored to be inspired by “Lord of the Rings,” abbreviated as LotR) and Durotan want to do what is right for their people, and prevent war. This is in line with the mythology of the game, as Lothar is a reluctant leader, forced to pick up arms against the raging Orc Horde. Meanwhile, Durotan isn’t actually even their leader: he’s a magic-wielding Shaman and best friend of the actual Orc leader, Orgrim.
What’s most interesting about their characters — and potential, major spoilers here — is that they both die hideous, emotional deaths before the major final battle. Durotan reveals an insidious plot to use dark magic to Orgrim. Orgrim stops the plot, but not before Durotan has his arms chopped off by the betrayers, so he can never hold his own son again. He bleeds to death on the ground, knowing that he gave the Orcs an advantage, but may never see them win.
Right after this, Lothar is slaughtered, smashed to smithereens by Orgrim’s hammer (called “Doomhammer,” so you know he’s not messing around) in one on one combat. His death spurs the Alliance to give one final push to victory.
And one final tidbit that could end the movie as a tease for a sequel, and send Warcraft fans screaming with joy in the aisles: though the Alliance wins and peace is restored for a time, Durotan’s son is named Thrall. Thrall is the greatest leader of Orcs in the history of the game, and the one who would later lead the next invasion of the land of Azeroth, setting the stage for “World of Warcraft.”
So there you go: lots of info to download, not least of which is that the movie seems to be adapting plot points from pre-WoW games, but using WoW designs for the locations. Will the movie be able to please gamer fans and casual moviegoers? We’ll just have to wait until December 18, 2015 to get the answer.