WARCRAFT director Duncan Jones talks sequel plans and changes from the source material

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THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR WARCRAFT! READ ON AT YOUR OWN PERIL IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET!

So you may have heard that I bucked the international critical trend and really enjoyed Warcraft. Despite that previous sentence though, I am not oblivious to its many faults. However, despite what a few vocal fans of the long-running video game franchise may be shouting about, I don’t count changes from the source material as one of them. I’ve long been a supporter of feature film adaptations being just that: Adaptations. You don’t need to stick to the source super-rigidly. And Warcraft doesn’t in a few very key places.

And speaking to i09 to answer a number of burning questions about the movie, director/co-writer Duncan Jones explained exactly why they decided to deviate from what already came before.

There’s three different factors that would have an impact on making those kinds of changes. One of them would be, ‘Are there already pre-existing pieces of lore that dovetail and actually, over twenty years of storytelling, some things fits perfectly and some of it is actually in complete conflict with itself. So what do we do in those situations?

Secondly would be, as a filmmaker, we’re trying to make a film, which is a very different medium than a game, especially when you have twenty years to tell your story. Can I find ways to streamline things that keeps the spirit and the DNA of the lore? But at the same time just makes it practical? Because, it’s not a game. And it’s not The Iliad. I can’t talk about who-begat-who-begat-who. Which you kind of have to if you’re going to start throwing extra depth and explanations of who caused that, and then having to explain who that person is and who caused that. You just kind of go down a rabbit hole.

So there’s the simplification and the need to streamline. Third, once in a while there’s also the fact that it [something] would be cooler. But there’s not too many of those. I would say that most of the changes from the lore really fit into those first two categories.

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Students of the video game’s lore – and I certainly don’t include myself in that number, as my love the of games is not that fanatical – would have noticed several tweaks. Some are merely aesthetic, like the fact that magical city Dalaran is now suddenly floating (Jones says “[We just thought] it would be cooler”), but there are others that affect major characters in this epic saga quite a bit. Most noticeably, in the game the heroic Frostwolf clan orc chieftain Durotan (Rob Kazinsky) is not killed in combat by the dark Orc mage Gul’dan (Toby Kebbell), but rather murdered in cold blood by his guards. They also killed Durotan’s wife Draka in the same incident instead of her escaping and dying while trying to save their son. Also, in the game half-Orc Garona (Paula Patton) is actually mind-controlled by Gul’dan to assassinate human King Llane (Dominic Cooper) in front of his son, whereas the movie has Llane intentionally sacrificing himself to Garona so that she can rise to power among the Orcs and hopefully use that influence to bring about peace from within the Horde.

So why did Jones feel these characters needed to be tweaked like this?

In the games, those characters and their storylines are painted with pretty broad brush strokes. And I think when you’re making a movie, you have to work at a different level of fidelity. And you have to add a little more definition and three-dimensionality to who these characters are, why they do what they do, and what they’re thinking about when they’re not yet doing what they are going to do! And so I think films are different in that respect.

And for me, to engage an audience, both of fans but also people who are not fans, I need to make these characters that people are going to care about. If Durotan is going to go up against the Horde, if he’s going to go up against Gul’dan, why is he going to do that? Why is he going to out himself and his family and his wife and child in a position where they can be in danger? All of that has to be explained, and it has to come out of the mouths of characters who you believe would do these things.

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One of the biggest repercussions from these changes is that the human city of Stormwind is now not overrun by the Orc Horde by the end of the movie, an event that was brought about in the games by Garona’s mind-controlled murder of Llane. But according to Jones, we had already seen enough destruction by that point.

I kinda feel like we’d bitten so much off with what we were trying to achieve. We had to introduce all of these characters, introduce all of this world to people who may not know anything about it. I think the fact that they got the portal closed was enough. You know, whatever happens next will happen next. But that kind of felt like a pretty good chunk size. In two hours, we can get that done. Anything more, you’re kind of running into a convolution of epilogues and of story.

One other major change is that in the movie it’s eventually revealed that the magical Guardian Medivh is in fact by the Horde’s invasion of Azeroth after he was corrupted by the twisting magics of the Fel. But game fans know that the Fel actually relates to the demonic Burning Legion, and in this case, specifically to ultimate big bad Sargeras who actually possessed Medivh since he was young, tricking him into doing his bidding. But Sargeras wasn’t even mentioned in the movie. That doesn’t mean that he’s not out there though. Probably.

I think that there is a looseness of the Source of the Fel. We know that Gul’dan’s got it. We don’t know how he got it. We know that Medivh’s got it. We don’t know how he got it. I think there’s enough of a looseness there that the existence of Sargeras can still exist within this retconning. And how much detail we ever get into that? You know, Sargeras originally being a protector and being uncorrupted and then him trying to set the Orcs against Azeroth. Is that going to explain to me why Lothar is doing what he’s doing? It’s too much.

But you know, it’s all still there and it’s all still possible. I would be thrilled if we get the chance to do a trilogy and maybe there’ll be a little bit more of that kind of background stuff? But I would rather say, “This is where we’re starting.” Maybe we’ll know a little bit more about the Fel, because I think that would be useful, but let’s move forward with the story we’ve got and start to deepen that out a bit.

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There was no Sargeras in the movie, but there was… somebody else, as Glenn Close surprisingly showed up as some weird robed character offering mystical advice to mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) when he calls on the mystical Kirin Tor for help. But who is she?

Glenn Close is… well, we use the name Alodi, which is a guardian…kind of the original guardian and the retconning that we’ve done with that she is a guardian that comes from so far back that the Kirin Tor themselves don’t remember her in their understanding of war. So that kind of works for us and I think it builds from enough elements of the lore that, again, it’s one of those things where there may be pieces missing, but the pieces that are there are not wrong.

I would assume though that we would probably learn more about Alodi in the sequel. And thanks to China, there’s a damn good chance of that sequel happening now – which suddenly makes the movie’s last-minute rebranding in some countries as Warcraft: The Beginning a lot more fortuitous. And Jones and original game designer Chris Metzen already have some plans for what they want to do, and it definitely involves Durotan’s son Thrall who we see in the final shot of the movie… just don’t expect these plans to happen immediately.

If we do have the chance to do more movies… to me, this story is about the Orcs losing their home. And Durotan trying to find a new one for his people. I would love, by the end of the trilogy, for us to know where the new Orc home is. And Thrall is obviously going to be massively important in that story.

[Chris] and I have discussed in very loose term what the trilogy will be. We all want to relax after this film. It took three-and-a-half years. And we’ll kind of get back into it if people like this film enough to warrant us having the chance to make a few more.

The interesting thing is going to be the emphasis we spend on specific characters that may not be the same emphasis that’s in the game. But again, that kind of gives us a little bit more flexibility and freedom to see things from perspective that follows the same lore, but sees it from a very different perspective than you saw it in the game.

And which characters would Jones like to use? One really cool baddie, it seems.

I would love to see Lich King. You know, I would love to see these other things. I would love to see someone else tell those stories so that I could watch them as a fan.

Scourge here we come, people!

Warcraft is in cinemas now.

Last Updated: June 15, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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