‘Warcraft’: 35 Things to Know About Universal’s Massively Ambitious Epic Fantasy

     November 6, 2015

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With the feature film adaptation of the insanely popular video game World of Warcraft finally coming to fruition, you no doubt have some questions about this feature film iteration of the MMORPG. Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones co-wrote and directed Warcraft, which aims to tell a tale in which there is no good side and bad side. Instead, Warcraft focuses equally on the humans and the orcs, with cutting-edge technology bringing the orcs to stunning life via motion-capture.

The story of Warcraft takes place in the peaceful realm of Azeroth, home to the humans. When orc warriors flee their dying home world in search of a new colony, landing on Azeroth via portal, a conflict arises that will decide the fate of both sides in spectacular fashion.

Last spring I had the pleasure of visiting the Vancouver set of Warcraft alongside a handful of other journalists, and we learned a lot about the film and how Jones was bringing the video game to life. While I’ve separately shared a more detailed report on how the film aims to finally break the “video game movie curse”, here I’ve put together a formidable list of tidbits I learned about the movie while on set.


warcraft-poster-durotan-toby-kebbellAlthough many may be skeptical of a film based on World of Warcraft, there were a few takeaways that made me confident Jones was putting together something special. Behind the scenes, the project was filled with passionate fans of the video game (including Jones) who were ensuring that fans of the game wouldn’t be disappointed, but these folks were equally focused on crafting an experience that would be just as appealing to non-fans. In essence, Warcraft is an unabashedly nerdy fantasy epic told on an absolutely massive scale, all the while using incredible cutting-edge technology to bring this vivid world to life. While I don’t want to jinx anything, I’m pretty confident that Jones, producers Charles Roven, Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Alex Gartner and Stuart Fennegan, and the team at Universal have put together something we’ve never seen before.

So, with that said, here’s a brief primer on the characters of Warcraft followed by 35 things to know about the film. Warcraft opens in 3D on June 10, 2016.

Who’s Who in Warcraft?

Humans

  • Travis Fimmel is Sir Anduin Lothar, the commander of the Azeroth military who grew up with the king and was childhood friends with Medivh.
  • Ben Foster is Medivh, the Guardian of Tirisfal and a reclusive and mysterious protector.
  • Dominic Cooper is King Llane Wrynn, the ruler of the human kingdom of Stormwind.
  • Ruth Negga is Lady Taria Wrynn, the Queen of Stormwind.

Orcs

  • Paula Patton plays Garona, a character who is half orc and half human.
  • Toby Kebbell is Durotan, the noble Chieftan of the exiled Frostwolf clan.
  • Rob Kazinsky is Orgrim Doomhammer, Durotan’s childhood friend and the right hand man to Blackhand.
  • Clancy Brown is Blackhand, “The Destroyer”, one of the most fearsome orcish chieftans.
  • Anna Galvin is Draka, Durotan’s wife.
  • Daniel Wu is Gul’dan, a sinister orcish warlock and the leader of the Shadow Council.

Things to Know

  • warcraft-movie-orgrim-rob-kazinsky

    Image via Universal

    In terms of tone and VFX, the film is described as Avatar meets Game of Thrones.

  • The armor is so heavy that the actors needed ladders to get up on their horses.
  • Of the main cast, Rob Kazinsky was the only one who had faithfully played World of Warcraft
  • Jones loaded the film with Easter Eggs for fans, including one for Sam Raimi who was initially attached to direct.
  • When Jones came in as a director the film had an existing script by Charles Levitt, but the filmmaker added a twist: he wanted the story to be an equal balance between orcs and humans as opposed to only human-centric.
  • Blizzard designer Chris Metzen consulted on the film, offering input on the set designs. Some of Blizzard’s own concept artists worked with the movie’s team of concept artists to realize the worlds. They also helped design the weapons.
  • Everyone walked a fine line between being loyal to fans of the game and being accessible to people who know nothing about World of Warcraft.
  • When Rob Kazinsky first walked into the throne room, he got tears in his eyes.
  • Kazinsky, an avid World of Warcraft gamer, was at one point ranked 10th in the world.
  • warcraft-movie

    Image via Universal

    For the team behind the film, it was never about making a video game movie—it was about making a good standalone film.

  • The movie deals with themes of nationalism, as the orcs leave their dying land of Draenor and go to Azeroth looking for a new home, which is where the humans live.
  • Throughout the film, there’s conflict between Medivh, Lothar, and King Llane.
  • There are dwarves in the film.
  • Lothar has a pet and a son.
  • There is not a principal murloc character in the movie.
  • The film allows the audience to relate to Lothar and Durotan equally.
  • They initially tried to scout real locations for the forests and fields, but decided that the Warcraft world has a hyper-real element that could only be captured on a soundstage with a mix of practical and CG elements. There were only two days of location shooting for the entire production.
  • One of Jones and producer Stuart Fenegan’s initial ideas was that the orcs had to be CG. In order to compete with Apes and Lord of the Rings, they needed to embrace CG characters.
  • warcraft-movie-duncan-jones-travis-fimmel

    Image via Universal Pictures

    Toby Kebbell likened motion-capture to playing the video game Titanfall.

  • Kazinsky’s Ogrim and Kebbell’s Durotan are like Butch and Sundance and have been best friends since they were babies.
  • The film stays in the main body of Azeroth for most of the film, with appearances by Woodforest, the Lion’s Pride, Karazhan, and Blackrock.
  • The Elwynn Forest set was one of the production’s biggest and most fully realized, standing at 200 feet by 100 feet big. Every single leaf had to be hand-painted.
  • The design department has people devoted to going through the video game and picking out things to include in the film.
  • Every single set has an homage to the video game.
  • The film uses a number of real horses, which were brought to a full gallop in the Elywnn Forest set.
  • If the movie is successful and gets a sequel, Kazinsky says the story is already written because it’s all in the game lore.

  • One character in the film—a golem—was actually designed by an artist in Slovenia. Duncan Jones saw the design online, reached out to him, and used it for the film.
  • The Doomhammer is CG most of the time, but the film also has loads of practical weapons for both humans and orcs.
  • Weta designed the weaponry and armory, which ranges from Dwarf guns to crossbar guns to giant hammers.
  • warcraft-movie-durotan-toby-kebbell

    Image via Universal

    The costumes for the orc characters were designed in full, in real-life, before being scanned into the computer.

  • They re-used the armory set for the prison set, which they changed over in only 8 days.
  • Given the amount of horses on set, some of them were scared by loud noises. They used tampons as earplugs.
  • The horses were scanned into the computer so that they could have custom-designed armor.
  • The battle scenes have a Saving Private Ryan feel to them. They’re not stylized, but shot as if they were real.

For more of my set visit coverage, peruse the links below.

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