Warning: Potential spoilers are contained herein! Read at your own risk!
To call World of Warcraft a juggernaut of the MMO world would be an understatement. It took the world by storm in 2004, and is likely the Warcraft most younger users are familiar with. Yet the entire franchise began 10 years earlier with the RTS Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. One of the original Real Time Strategy games, its success spawned four additional games of that genre, the wildly popular MMO, and other properties associated with the franchise, such as Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft. It wouldn’t be unfair to call Blizzard Entertainment’s creation an institution. With millions of fans across the globe, it’s a small wonder that it’s taken twenty-plus years for a movie to come out. In typical Blizzard fashion, though, they held out for quality and someone who could reflect their universe the way they – and their fans – would want to see it.
In anticipation of the release of the movie, here is a look at the mythology and lore of the series.
Orcs & Humans
The conflict between the orcs and humans sits at the core of the movie, and there’s plenty of history that’s portrayed prior to Warcraft: Orcs & Humans. The whole ball of wax – and, indeed, the Horde faction – starts off on the planet of Draenor. By all accounts the orcs and their neighbors, the peace-loving Draenei, lived in (relative) harmony. Of course, it’s a bit more complex than that.
You see, the Draenei were from another planet entirely and had fled to Draenor to escape the dark titan, Sargeras. Long story short, he was an immensely powerful member of the Pantheon who had decided, after scouring the universe for eons, that creation needed to be purged due to its corruption. He sought out various powerful members from different worlds and had extended an offer to the Draenei to assist him in conquering the cosmos. A portion of them declined the offer and then escaped their world to avoid certain death.
Kil’jaeden, one of those that accepted the offer, eventually located Draenor. Instead of a direct assault, he used guile to turn the Draenei’s neighbors fully against them. All the orcs had to do was drink a bit of demonic blood to gain power. Of course, he left out the part about bloodlust and servitude, but Gul’dan and most of the orcs were eager. Draenei civilization was ravaged, and now Sargeras had an army at his disposal to cross into another world, a world that he sensed was very powerful: Azeroth, the home of the humans.
There are a ton of characters we could look at in more depth. Warcraft mythology is rich and deep, after all, which is one of the reasons why fans love the games so much. Here, we’ll take a gander at just a handful, especially those that are pivotal to the lore of the film and its potential sequels.
Portrayed by: Travis Fimmel
Lothar is one of those majestic military leaders that graces the pages of history from time to time. He was a childhood friend to both the future king (Llane) and Medivh, who are spotlighted below. He joined the army of Stormwind, rising through the ranks to eventually become its leader, all prior to the First War.
There’s plenty to be said of his actions during the First War. He led the armies with distinction and valor, holding much of the enemy at bay within the Swamp of Sorrows, the lands adjacent to where the magical Dark Portal rested that brought the orcs to Azeroth.
What we expect to see: Lothar having to go up against his old friend, Medivh, and having a hand in killing him. Perhaps we’ll also see him evacuating Stormwind as the orcs draw near.
Portrayed by: Toby Kebbell
Durotan is the main protagonist of the orcs, a noble warrior who rejected the demonic offer brought to him by Gul’dan. He was friends with another well-known warrior, Orgrim Doomhammer, and the two were friendly toward the Draenei. It probably didn’t hurt that early in their lives the Draenei had saved them from death. Durotan’s rejection of the demonic blood led to his entire clan being exiled. For lore-hounds, Durotan is also the father of the most famous orc of Azeroth, Thrall.
Durotan, at least according to canon, spends most of his time camped in a hidden valley for the duration of the war. It’s only at the end that he decides to stand up against Gul’dan.
What we expect to see: Durotan won’t be hiding for long, we figure, otherwise it’d be pretty boring. He’ll be siding with the humans in driving back the orcs. We know we’ll see baby Thrall, though, which means we’ll probably also see Durotan’s assassination near the very end of the movie.
King Llane Wrynn I
Portrayed by: Dominic Cooper
Llane, as already mentioned, was a childhood friend of Lothar’s. According to lore, he isn’t king at the beginning of the orc invasion, and he’s pretty young to boot. The Prince was sent away from Stormwind in order to protect him after the orcs attacked the city, but he was forced to take up the mantle of ruler after his father died. Llane would fight the orcs successfully with his friend Lothar for a decade before Medivh’s traitorous actions were revealed.
Unfortunately, Llane would never see Medivh brought to justice, as he would be assassinated in the final defense of Stormwind.
What we expect to see: Llane getting chummy with Garona. He’s one of the few who accepts her, but that ends pretty badly in the end…
Portrayed by: Paula Patton
Garona is ultimately another orc protagonist, but a tragic one. Good old Gul’dan essentially created her through forced breeding of an orc warrior with a Draenei, then held her captive while torturing and magically aging her. To say her mind was broken would be an understatement. She was constantly tested, as Gul’dan would send others to kill her in order to keep her skills at their peak. She served as his spy, crossing into Azeroth in one of the first orcish forays. It was then she met Medivh and Khadgar, and there where her loyalties began to falter. Eventually, she would come to realize Medivh’s treachery and later don the armor of Stormwind to fight against her people.
What we expect to see: Like we said, Garona is tragic. Despite her friendship with Llane, she’s ordered to kill him and cannot resist due to Gul’dan’s hold. A young Prince Varian will witness the assassination, and she’ll disappear into the world.
Portrayed by: Ben Foster
This mage has been mentioned in almost every section, so it’s about time we addressed the elephant in the room. Medivh himself wasn’t inherently evil, so let’s get that out of the way – before he was born he was possessed by Sargeras during a confrontation with his mother while he was still in the womb. Who we see in the movie, therefore, isn’t truly Medivh at all, but Sargeras using an unwilling host to further his ends. Those ends include betraying the humans and all of Azeroth by opening the Dark Portal to Draenor, despite Medivh struggling against the power that holds him captive. His apprentice, Khadgar, finds out, and with the aid of Garona they escape to warn Llane.
What we expect to see: Medivh helping Gul’dan open the Dark Portal. Lots of subterfuge. Eventually he’ll battle against his childhood friend, Lothar, as well as Garona and his apprentice, Khadgar. Medivh will die, but we might very well see his spirit intact, as he does return from the dead much later on in the series.
Portrayed by: Ben Schnetzer
This young man was so adept in the art of magic that the Kirin Tor sent him to study with the greatest of them all, Medivh. It wasn’t long before he sensed something was wrong with his master, however, and through information gained from Garona came to realize what Medivh was doing with the orcs. He helps warn Stormwind, returns to fight his mentor, and is eventually the one to deliver the killing blow. Later on he’ll become one of the greatest wizards to ever live.
What we expect to see: Probably not a whole lot at the beginning, but we should see the revelation of Medivh’s treachery and Khadgar killing him. Khadgar is also magically aged and weakened by Medivh right before this happens.
If Warcraft: The Beginning does well – and all signs point to it doing so, based on international markets – it’s interesting to take a look into the future to see what Blizzard might pursue. Lore-wise, the series should proceed into the events of the Second War, which would open up the cinematic universe to just about every known race there is while solidifying the identity of the Alliance and Horde. Much of that is contained in Warcraft II, so it makes sense that the movies would continue to follow the RTS series into Warcraft III for a trilogy.
After Warcraft III, though, we head into World of Warcraft territory, and that opens up, at present, six expansions. That begs the question: how many movies might we see if they continue to do well, and where does it end?