After years of having to travel to BlizzCon in order to see scraps of film clips (or viewing leaked footage shot from underneath chairs), the common Warcraft fan can now finally catch a glimpse of what the Warcraft movie will look like. And it looks awesome. That's a loaded opinion considering the sad track record of movies based on video games, and it's based on the mere 15 seconds of footage that Legendary Pictures and Blizzard Entertainment deigned to release ahead of the full trailer's reveal on Friday.
Fifteen seconds isn't a lot of time for drawing grand conclusions, but already there's enough on display to show that this is a film that's aimed at keeping the fans in mind, as well as what makes Warcraft 'Warcraft.' That attention even goes down to the CGI visuals which look vaguely like illustrations, which works as a serviceable nod to the 'cartoony' look that Blizzard has adopted for virtually every aspect of Warcraft. The Warcraft movie seems to have been designed with the knowledge that millions of people have already played games in the Warcraft universe, and thus there's no need to smooth things out for the wider world. That's a very rare direction for video game movies, and the teaser trailer shows we've probably got a lot to look forward to.
It's only fifteen seconds, yes, but Legendary managed to cram a world of Warcraft in them. (And their timing couldn't be better, as it's the perfect way to deflect attention away from the fact that WoW's subscription numbers are down to a 'mere' 5.5 million. Just the population of Singapore, then.)
Gryphons! Shoes! Or lack thereof
One of the iconic images of World of Warcraft has long been a dwarf riding a gryphon, and in this still of what looks like Anduin Lothar jumping onto a gryphon in flight, Legendary shows that it's sticking more closely to the lore than much early speculation believed. The big topic of the hour, though, is what the poor guy is doing without shoes. The best response I've seen so far is that he forgot to repair. -50 DKP, Lothar.
The Stormwind architecture is dead on
Video game locations often suffer from a lot of 'interpretation' on the parts of filmmakers, probably in the hopes of making their settings more palatable to a wider audience, but the teaser trailer's sweeping shot of Stormwind shows that we may be seeing little of that here. Sure, some locations are a little off and it's far more detailed, but any Warcraft fan would recognize this as Stormwind in second. The attention to detail is fantastic, right down to the different rooftop colors for the different districts, and the hard angles on Stormwind Cathedral. Bonus points: The famous statues leading up to the gate aren't there yet because the events they commemorate haven't yet occurred.
There are Harvest Golems in Westfall
Look to the right of this shot. Over in the pumpkin patch. That's clearly a Harvest Golem from the Westfall region of World of Warcraft (which seems to indicate that this, too, is Westfall, right down to the warm light it's almost constantly bathed in). If you'd asked me a month ago, I would have said that Legendary likely would have chopped out such things in an attempt to cling to some gritty, as real-as-you-can-get-considering take on Warcraft's classic showdown with orcs and humans. This shot, however, suggests that Legendary is embracing the Warcraft universe in its entirety, no matter how vaguely silly, and that's a pretty bold call.
Is that the Dark Portal?
Not only does this shot prove that we'll actually have some war in a movie called "Warcraft," but the structure at the top appears to be the Dark Portal. Even better, it looks exactly as it does in World of Warcraft. A portal between the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor (the world where the orcs originally came from and the subject of World of Warcraft's current expansion), it's arguably the most iconic structure from the entire Warcraft universe and a necessity for any tale that aims to tell the Warcraft story from its beginnings.
It might show us a big chunk of Azeroth
Dun Morogh? The Alterac Mountains? It's hard to tell (especially if we're using the events of Warcraft I as a basis), but it's at least good to see that the film will show us many different locations. Exploration is very much at the heart of World of Warcraft in particular, and limiting the setting to samey areas would do the license an injustice.
That questionable Stormwind CGI, though
This is one of those shots that look fine in motion, but which look at little off when frozen. On the one hand, it's packed with famed characters from the games—that looks like baby Varian on the left along with what may be a young Khadgar, along with what may be Antonidas or possibly Medivh—but up close they look almost drawn. I'm an admirer of the heavy-CGI look owing to its relevance to the series, but this looks a little rough.
That's almost certainly a shot of Stormwind, with the landscape and cityscape rolling down to the harbor being interpreted a little more liberally for realism. But here's to hoping it's also a rough cut. Part of me is excited about seeing what looks like a delegation of Dalaran mages (left), high elves (right), and dwarves (right), but all the same, most of the people in the shot (especially the soldiers) look as though they were basically cut and pasted in. Granted, there's still a year left to go before we see this thing in its final form, but Blizzard itself usually does better CGI work than this.
Karazhan, Medivh's Tower?
Almost certainly. And it's possible this is a shot of Medivh cooking up some dark magic in preparation for the opening of the Dark Portal. One of the best things about the trailer is how neatly so many of these shots seem to fit into known Warcraft lore, which shows that Legendary might be staying true to the original story. Handled well, that would be amazing; if not, it could end up as a cheesy farce.
Guns, orcs, and steel
One of the quirky things I've always loved about the Warcraft universe is that it mixes technologies that would usually be at odds with one another (such as powerful guns and swords) and that looks like it'll be the case here. (Although if this quick shot proves anything, it's that they're going for a vaguely Renaissance-era feel in which guns were still kind of situational and primitive.) Bonus: The area of the shot looks like it might be around the Black Morass, where the events surrounding the opening of the Dark Portal took place. Double bonus: The weapon the guy on the left is holding looks like it could be a Gunblade or something like it, as similar weapons are common for Hunters in WoW.
And then Legendary closes with this, an image of an orc smashing his club on ground. Look familiar? It should, at least if you've been a part of the World of Warcraft crowd from the beginning. As far as I can tell, that's a reference to one of the final shots from the original trailer from World of Warcraft that made so many of us giddy back in 2004, in which an orc goes around pounding a big, spiky club amid burning ruins. If so, it's a cool, subtle way to get the fanbase excited about a new step for Warcraft—and possibly a new generation as well.