Warcraft: The Beginning – everything you need to know

Blizzard’s Warcraft games are treasured by the gaming community, not just for their substantial contributions to the real-time strategy and MMORPG genres, but for their beautiful cinematics which were often – and continue to be – leagues ahead of the competition. With passionate development teams and even more passionate fans, the idea of a Warcraft film is one that has been tantalizing gaming’s collective consciousness for more than a decade.

Finally, that dream will be realized this June, when Warcraft hits theaters courtesy of Legendary Pictures. Depending on where you live, it may simply be called “Warcraft,” or “Warcraft: The Beginning.”

Whatever you call it, the film is a monumental task with a truckload of hype that’s had its fair share of bumps along the way. But, and this is the important part, it’s also real. The Warcraft movie is finally happening, and eyes will be watching to see if it can be the first truly great video game adaptation film.

Before the invasion begins in June, here’s everything you need to know about the Warcraft movie.

The Director

Director Duncan Jones may not be a household name like Michael Bay or James Cameron, but he knows his stuff, and is well-regarded by the sci-fi fandom in particular. His two previous films, Moon and Source Code both hover around 90% fresh on reviews aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, and have been praised for their originality and strength of vision. From the sound of things, he’s got the right idea for Warcraft.

“Here was a unique opportunity to take a game that I knew well and loved and try to craft something that would invite an audience to see what all the fuss was about,” he told The Guardian (opens in new tab). “I wanted to give people a sense of why so many people play and care about the game.”

The Cast

While the actors and actresses in Warcraft are all experienced and talented, the movie isn’t riding on star power. Expect a lot of fresh faces (or in the case of the orcs, voices) you may not recognize. The number of players in this interdimensional drama is also quite large, with villains and heroes on both sides. That said, there are a few stand-outs to pay attention to:

Robert Kazinsky, who plays Orgrim, is a major nerd who credits WoW with saving his life (opens in new tab). A bit hyperbolic, sure, but he’s arguably the most vocal and excited actor of all the Warcraft crew. Clancy Brown, who you may recognize as the voice of Lex Luthor, Mr. Krabs, and about a billion other morally questionable personas, will lend his talents to the role of Blackhand – a high-ranking member of the Horde.

If you want to do further research, we’ve listed some of the most important roles below.

Travis Fimmel (Vikings): Anduin Lothar
Dominic Cooper (Captain America: The First Avenger): King Llane Wrynn
Toby Kebbell (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes): Durotan
Robert Kazinsky (Pacific Rim): Orgrim
Paula Patton (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol): Garona
Ben Foster (3:10 to Yuma): Medivh
Ben Schnetzer (The Book Thief): Khadgar
Clancy Brown (Justice League): Blackhand
Daniel Wu (The Man With The Iron Fists): Gul’dan

Don’t just go digging through WoWpedia though; Legendary has helpfully provided several character profile videos to give you a sense of who these players are, as well as character-specific posters so you can show your love for your favorite warrior:

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The Special Effects

For their first film adaptation, Blizzard has partnered with Legendary Pictures, the same production company behind visually intense blockbusters like Pacific Rim and Jurassic World. To create the orcs, Legendary turned to Industrial Light and Magic, a division of Lucasfilm that has worked on everything from the aforementioned Pacific Rim and Jurassic World to The Great Gatsby and There Will Be Blood.

“Warcraft is a huge-scale movie. This is really the high-wire act of studio filmmaking,” said director Duncan Jones in a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Jeff White, visual effects supervisor at ILM, went even further. “I think we really broke some ground with the faces. The first shot that we delivered was a close-up on Durotan. Very subtle,” he said in the same featurette. “It was really our way to show all the filmmakers, ‘Yes we can pull these orcs off.'”

Speaking of the featurette, here it is:

Lest you be worried that the movie will be all CG spectacle and no substance, worry no more. There are also plenty of practical effects that remain true to the games, as you can see when actor Robert Kazinsky tours the Lion’s Pride Inn:

The Plot

Despite the majority of Warcraft taking place on a planet called Azeroth, much of the central conflict can be traced back to another world called Draenor. This is where orcs live, and at the start of the film, it’s dying. Foul magic has tainted the land, making it unstable and inhospitable. Desperate for a solution, the orcs turn to the orc warlock Gul’dan.

Gul’dan promises a home for his race, and constructs a portal to Azeroth. The powerful creatures surge forward into this new land, where they encounter the native humans. Faced with opposing goals and unrest on both sides (the refugee orcs need a place to live, the humans need to defend their home, both factions have leaders that think the other group should be exterminated), the two groups clash.

Eventually, heroes Anduin Lothar (a human) and Durotan (an orc) come together to unravel the conspiracy that has pitted the races against one another and attempt to save Azeroth from falling victim to Draenor’s fate.

The Game vs. The Movie

When you hear “Warcraft,” you might think of the popular MMO, World of Warcraft. But the events of that game take place several decades after what’s being depicted in Jones’ film. The events shown in Warcraft most closely mirror the 1994 RTS game, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans.

Warcraft lore as it currently stands includes many different fantasy races, including two different types of elves, gnomes, dwarves, goblins, trolls, cow-people, panda-people, even extraterrestrials. Don’t expect to see the more fantastical races inhabiting Azeroth except for potential cameos and bit parts though, as the First War is mainly between orcs and humans – AKA The Horde and The Alliance, respectively.

These factions may sound familiar. The two groups have aired their grievances many times over the years (mostly by way of swords and axes), and players have always been able to take control of heroes on both sides of the conflict in the games. The Warcraft movie also follows this line of thought, and will try to show the war from both sides.

The Soundtrack

The Warcraft movie soundtrack was composed by Iranian-German composer  Ramin Djawadi. Djawadi has been scoring films for more than a decade, but his most famous works include Iron Man, Pacific Rim, and the Game of Thrones theme. You can get a taste of his work bringing Azeroth to lyrical life thanks to this preview of the main theme:

The Trailers

Just because the movie doesn’t take place at the same time as World of Warcraft doesn’t mean you won’t get anything out of it if you’re a longtime player. We’ve already spied plenty of landmarks and geography in the full-length trailer, and set shots (opens in new tab) reveal that nasty gnoll Hogger is still at large. See what you references you can spot!

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