The world of World of Warcraft is big and complicated and confusing — or rich and complex and engaging if you’re one of the many millions of players who’ve ventured into Azeroth for some online adventure. It’s all a matter of perspective. So it should come as no surprise that the Warcraft movie hitting theaters this weekend may leave some newbs scratching their heads while longtime WoW players have fangasms in their seats.
So in the name of JOURNALISM, I reached out to the Reddit community at /r/wow for some help. With only a glancing understanding of the game’s deep lore, I needed an expert to give me a player reaction that would help me better appreciate the epicness of the film. I found one.
Sean Yarbrough is 29 and he’s been playing World of Warcraft since it launched in 2004. His main character is an Undead Rogue named Foxxlol on the Mug’thol server. His favorite dungeon is Wailing Caverns. His favorite raid is Karazan, and lest you doubt his passion for the game, he has this map of the Azeroth continent of Kalimdor tattooed on the underside of his left forearm.
That’s what commitment looks like.
After the movie we had a beer and discussed the movie, and here are a few of his thoughts.
Me: What’s your first impression of the movie?
Sean: It was amazing. I would recommend it to everybody.
There were so many characters I had a hard time following them sometimes. Was that easier for you?
That was all plugged in for me. I knew the lore behind it. I knew exactly where it was going. There were some moments that didn’t make any sense or I don’t remember reading about, but for the most part it all made sense to me.
How closely does the movie stick to the lore in the game?
Probably about 80 percent.
What were the major departures?
One thing that bugged me quite a bit was Garona [played by Paula Patton] and Lothar [Travis Fimmel]. I don’t think I remember anything about them being romantic together or into each other. I don’t remember anything like that. There is lore that is like that, like with Thrall and Jaina Proudmore, but I don’t remember reading about Garona. What I remember about her is that she’s a famous orc rogue, and she didn’t seem, in the movie, to be very nimble and all over the place as far as rogues go.
Anything else seem out of place?
Whenever they flew to Dalaran, Dalaran was floating. And back in those days, Dalaran wasn’t floating. It was actually located in the Arathi highlands. So that kind of bothered me.
Where does the movie take place in the lore? Is it before the start of the game?
Yes. In World of Warcraft lore, the very start goes back to what they call the “Warlords of Draenor.” That’s where orcs first came from. They came from Draenor. So the whole thing with the dark portal and all that stuff, that’s from the very beginning. Like whenever the game first came out.
So what did they get right in the movie?
The locations for one thing. Also, Orgrim Doomhammer was amazing. I loved seeing him walking around with Doomhammer.
What was your favorite location you saw from the game?
There’s a scene where Lothar is riding his horse through, I believe it’s Elwynn Forest and he’s going to Duskwood. He’s crossing the bridge to go from Elwynn Forest to Duskwood and there’s a Murloc in the water that has his hand up, and I thought that was the coolest part.
And it made the murloc noise!
Right. That was a nice touch.
What were some other details you liked?
The sheep was pretty good. [In WoW, one of the most popular spells, “Polymorph,” turns an enemy into a sheep.] Seeing Doomhammer was great. In the beginning with the library where Khadgar’s [Ben Schnetzer] walking around, and the shade that was there, that felt just like in the game.
Imagine watching this movie without ever having played the game. What do you think the big questions would be?
Where did Fel energy come from? What is Fel?
A couple of times I didn’t understand what was happening with the green magic.
For somebody like me I know where it came from.
And it would be really boring to explain that in a movie.
No I beg to differ. I think you could explain it very quickly in about five minutes at the very beginning of the movie.
But that sounds like the worst kind of exposition, the kind where a movie stops everything to explain something.
I’m thinking like in Lord of the Rings.
Like in Fellowship of the Ring, where there’s a prologue that tells you this is the One Ring, and this is why you should care?
Right. Why wasn’t that in Warcraft? Maybe they didn’t want to do it because it would resemble Lord of the Rings too much or something. I don’t know. But I could see why it would be confusing to a regular audience member.
What events from the lore would you want to see in a sequel?
I want to see the death of Orgrim. I want to see him find Gorehowl. [Another weapon.] It’s technically next in the story.
And what didn’t work for you?
I think they focus so much on the personal lives of Lothar and they’re trying to build up characters so you care about them, but the whole thing with Lothar’s son dying? Okay, I get it. I just feel like it’s a little too easy to be like, ‘Okay his son died, and now he’s just gonna go nuts, and he’s pissed.’ Come on. That’s every story ever, right? Your son dies. You want revenge so you turn into a badass. Dude, the whole point of Lothar was that he was chosen. He has this strength in him unlike every other warrior in the Alliance, and it’s just natural. It’s not because something happened to his wife or son or something. It’s just natural. He was born that way.
So you think they gave him a tragic backstory for no reason.
Yeah. I think they humanized him far more than they needed to.
What did you think of the effects?
Did it nail the aesthetic of World of Warcraft?
Yeah. Especially in that first scene where they’re in, what looked like Durotar, it looked like one lone human fighting against one lone orc and they were fighting near the crossroads. I thought that was amazing.
Were there any moments that you looked at and thought, ‘This IS the game.’
The first time I really thought that was in the first shot of Ironforge [with the dwarves]. I thought that’s just what Ironforge would be — exactly what it would be if it was real.
And the creature creation? The elves, dwarves, orcs?
Yeah the dwarves look spot on. The orcs look spot on. Elves? Not so much. There weren’t any Night Elves. There were two Blood Elves sitting at the council. They had glowing eyes, and mind you the Blood Elves were before the Night Elves lore-wise, but you would still assume the Night Elves would be there. I would have loved to have seen Teldrassil [home of the Night Elves]. I loved it, but I wanted more. It left me wanting more.
Do you wish the music had stuck closer to what’s actually in the game?
Yeah I do. I guess the music was kind of average. I wasn’t extremely excited about the score the way I would be playing World of Warcraft.
Another thing that annoyed me was humanizing the orcs way more than they are. There was one scene that bothered me where Durotan and Orgrim were sitting on a ledge staring out and they were slapping each other on the back laughing. I was like, ‘They wouldn’t do that.’ They would not do that. It’s just brotherhood and let’s eat meat. I just want to see them being orcs, you know? Not being like humans in an orc costume. That kind of bothered me.
What characters from the movie do you actually see a lot in the game?
Khadgar number one. You see Khadgar all over the place. He’s old in the game, so seeing him as a teenager or whatever they’re trying to depict there was spot on. That actor was spot on. He’s like stumbling and he’s kind of a goober, and he’s not used to it yet. He’s tipping stuff over as he walks. You see glimpses of him when he was younger, and that’s how he kind of was. He messes stuff up, and he doesn’t become the Guardian until later on in life.
Did watching this make you want to go back and play?
Yeah. Oh yeah. It’s like when you’re watching a movie and they’re having a beer, you want a beer. It’s the exact same thing. I see the places. I see the spots. And it’s nostalgia, and I want to be in it.
What’s your advice for new players getting into the game after seeing the movie?
My advice is try to have as much fun as you can. Talk to people. Communicate. A lot of World of Warcraft now, people don’t talk to each other. So reach out to people and talk to people.
So what was the best part of the movie for you?
The best part for me is easily the locations. They’re gorgeous. It’s the WORLD of Warcraft. Maybe that’s just because I’ve been there in game for years and years, and it’s just nostalgia. But they did an amazing job with those.
And the worst?
The worst part by far is the forced romance [between Lothar and Garona] that they’re pushing into it. I literally looked away a few times. I just couldn’t. There was one scene where it was just f—ing corny. Lothar was looking at Garona, and he was like, “Be safe. Come back,” or something. It’s like, “Okay just shut up dude. You do not know this person.” There’s no backstory to them. He thinks she’s hot. That’s it.