How I Would Write the World of Warcraft Movie
The news that Legendary Pictures is trying again to move forward with a World of Warcraft movie fills me with nothing. Not excitement. Not boredom. Not even mild interest. They’ve been trying to get such a movie off the ground for years, and even Spider-Man director Sam Raimi was attached for the longest time.
But Hollywood being Hollywood, the development has gone nowhere. I don’t think I will ever fully understand why these movie-making companies can never just make the damn movies. But that’s also why I don’t want to work in Hollywood.
For what it’s worth, some dude named Charles Leavitt has been brought on to write a new script. Apparently he’s written some other movies for Legendary before, and they like him. So la de da for him. I’m going to file the World of Warcraft movie in my ‘When Pigs Fly’ folder alongside the Halo movie. I never believe a movie is going to get made until production actually begins. It’s why I don’t usually write about this kind of news.
But then I got to thinking…how do you cram the entirety of the World of Warcraft franchise into a 2-hour movie? What would the story be? Who are the characters? Do you stick with established lore and continuity, or do you throw all of that away and write a totally new adventure?
Being both a huge fan of Warcraft and something of a creative person myself, I’ve decided to try my hand at the script for the World of Warcarft movie. One that sticks to the established story, but takes some liberties as well. Join me after the jump to see my idea!
First of all, a little back story for my readers who may not fully understand World of Warcraft or what the fuss is all about.
Basically all you need to start with is a basic understanding of the Lord of the Rings films, because it was a huge influence on Warcraft. The games are set in the ancient, medieval world of Azeroth, which has the usual kingdoms, castles, knights, dragons and whatnot. Fairly standard fantasy stuff. The story of Warcraft is that an evil wizard opened a portal to another dimension, one filled with the monstrous, barbaric orc race. These orcs invaded Azeroth, and the games are about the ongoing war between the orcs and the humans. The first few games were all real-time strategy games, where you command your armies and do battle as either the orcs or the humans. They let you pick whichever side you wanted to play.
Then they switched from strategy games to role-playing games with World of Warcraft, the massively popular online game. In World of Warcraft, the developers recreated the entire land of Azeroth, and every player gets to design their own individual character and go on mystical quests and visit distant lands to tell their own story. I once wrote an article how World of Warcraft is the best role-playing game ever. I stick by that claim.
So herein is the problem with a World of Warcraft movie: what do you base the story on? From the very first game to the latest updates of WoW, the story of Warcraft has spanned years, if not decades of fantasy adventures. There have been dozens of main characters and an almost endless supply of plots and stories, starting with the opening of the Dark Portal all the way to the battle with Deathwing the Dragon in the latest WoW expansion. There is simply no one single main story that defines Warcraft, no one single main character or star. So how do you possibly boil down all the plots and characters from half a dozen games and expansions into one single 2-hour movie, even with sequel options?
I’ll tell you how.
My movie would focus on what I think are the two greatest narratives in the entire Warcraft lore: the Fall of Arthas and the Rise of Thrall.
Both stories take place in and around Warcraft 3, at the height of the great war. They star recognizable protagonists and have easy to understand stories about the cost of leadership and about embracing your humanity. I would tell the two tales parallel to one another, using the war as a backdrop, and then have them collide in an epic climax at the end. This isn’t how it happened in the games, though. The two stories didn’t have anything to do with each other, despite taking place at roughly the same time. This would be a big change from the established Warcraft continuity, but I think the change would be worth it. Geeks can be very fickle about adaptations of their favorite properties, so it would be unwise to completely ignore the existing Warcraft stories and characters. The fans of the game would hate you for it.
Just look at The Avengers movie this summer. It treated the superheroes with respect and seriousness, and it went on to make a billion dollars in a matter of weeks. Same with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They played the material straight, without any winks or giggles to the camera about the material, and those films were huge successes. But at the same time, the filmmakers had to take some creative liberties to translate the properties to the big screen.
Warcraft needs to go the same route to be successful. It needs to be a serious take on the material, starring familiar characters, but with a few liberties taken to make for a better story.
Now let’s get to my idea.
We open in the human kingdom of Lordaeron, ruled over by the great King Terenas Menethil II. The war between the Alliance and the Horde has been raging for decades, with some children having never known peace. King Menethil is a great war hero, but he’s getting old, so the time has come for him to appoint the handsome and gallant Prince Arthas Menethil as the new commander of the armed forces. Everyone in the kingdom loves Arthas, and he’s a pretty alright guy. He’s a trained Paladin, a war hero in his own right and he’s ready to be king.
So the film starts with a day of celebration in Lordaeron as Arthas receives his promotion, maybe even knighthood. Here we meet Arthas and several other important human characters, such as the king, and Arthas’ mentor Uther the Lightbringer. Picture a Game of Thrones-like medieval kingdom, with the occasional elf, dwarf or gnome thrown in for color. I’m talking big armor and heroic knights combined with the general squalor of a medieval city. The highlight of the celebration is a big gladiator tournament, which follows Arthas’ ceremony. He’s the guest of honor and looks out over the battlefield as the warriors and gladiators duel for everyone’s amusement.
It’s in the arena that we meet Thrall, our second lead character. Thrall is an orc who was raised by humans since he was orphaned as a baby. He’s been a slave his entire life, trained to fight in the arena and earn his master money. Thrall is a large, muscular and fearsome orc, and we need the audience to believe that the orcs are monstrous creatures. I recommend a Hellboy-esque makeup for Thrall and the other orcs, maybe a little CGI around the face. But the orcs should definitely be people in costumes and not completely CGI.
One of the things I love most about Warcraft is that the orcs, and the other monster races, are not automatically the bad guys. From the very first game you’re able to play as both sides, human or orc, and you can design each type of character in WoW. If you think back to Lord of the Rings again, the orcs and the uruk-hai were these faceless masses of evil soldiers, whereas the good guys were allowed to have independent and unique characters. Where was the orc equivalent of Frodo or Aragorn or even Eomer?
Well that’s what World of Warcraft brings to the table. There are just as many orc heroes and characters as there are human. And Thrall is the best of them all, in my opinion.
So Thrall competes in the king’s tournament, and after a few big exciting battles, he emerges as arena champion. Arthas, feeling rather generous, offers Thrall one wish. A lot of people aren’t happy with this, since Thrall is an orc, but Arthas waves away their concerns. He’s magnanimous. Thrall asks for his freedom, which again pisses off a lot of the human spectators. But Arthas is a man of his word and he grants Thrall his freedom – if he can keep it. Arthas points to the door of the arena and tells Thrall he’s free to go. But the arena is in the middle of the city, with hundreds of angry, orc-hating citizens between Thrall and freedom.
Thrall makes a run for it and he gets into a few scrapes along the way. But he is arena champion, so he fights his way through anyone blocking his path. He almost makes it when he runs into an even larger force of people ready to stop and kill the orc, no matter what Arthas said. Thrall gives it his all, but he’s very winded from the arena and the other fights. He’s caught and almost killed, but then he’s saved by our female lead, apprentice wizard Jaina Proudmore.
Jaina is young and beautiful, and is one of the only female wizards in the world, an accomplishment of which she is quite proud. Jaina was there when Arthas promised Thrall his freedom, and she’s determined to see that this orc gets a fair shake. She dispatches the thugs and helps Thrall, making a friend for life. Jaina watches as Thrall leaves Lordaeron for parts unknown. Jaina is a bold, wise young woman who also happens to be betrothed to Arthas. She meets with him and we get a little more back story on everybody. Jaina is studying under Archmage Antonidas, a real Gandfalf/Dumbledore-like chap.
And from here the movie will follow two paths: Arthas and Thrall.
We will see that Arthas doesn’t really get along with his father the king, no matter how they act in public. Nothing Arthas does is ever good enough for his father, who of course is hiding his own self-loathing for never winning the war. The king hates the fact that he’s getting old, so he takes it out on his son, expecting Arthas to be the warrior and ruler that he himself never was. So Arthas is driven by a desire to be better than his father, along with a burning resentment towards the man. We learn all of this while Arthas prepares to head out to the front lines.
Meanwhile, Thrall has walked as far as his feet can carry him, then he crashes in a heap. He’s found by some friendly orcs, who pick him up and carry him back to their war party. Here we see that orcs are just as brutal and barbaric as the humans think they are. They’re blood-thirsty brutes who bicker and fight amongst themselves and fool around with dark magic. Thrall is appalled, but he falls in line, finding a spot in the army. But since Thrall was never brought up in this barbaric life, he’s a bit smarter and craftier than his fellow orcs.
This becomes apparent on the battlefield in the first major battle of the movie. Arthas takes his forces directly at the orcs for an epic battle, but one that Arthas is not prepared for. Thrall, proving himself a mighty warrior with wicked mind for strategy, helps the orcs turn the tides and defeat Arthas’ army. Arthas retreats humiliated, while Thrall is invited into the council of Horde Warlord Orgrim Doomhammer!
And here we begin to see more contrasts with what the audience has been led to believe about orcs. Doomhammer may look and act fearsome, but he’s really smart, far smarter than someone might credit the brutish orcs. He recognizes his people’s bloodlust, but he has given into it as well. Doomhammer sees promise in the young, untainted Thrall, and we get a father/son relationship between the two of them that is much better than the father/son relationship between Arthas and the king. Thrall soon sets about advising Doomhammer and helping win more battles and various other victories against the humans, such as supply raids and skirmishes. Thrall thrives in this new leadership position.
Arthas, meanwhile, is bitter and embarrassed at his loss, and continued losses. The Archmage Antonidas was killed in that first battle, so Jaina once again enters the fray as a magical advisor to Arthas, who begins to get more reckless and angry. Arthas can’t return home to Lordaeron because he’ll be viewed as a failure and a coward, especially by his father. So even after that crushing defeat, Arthas stays in the battlefield, prepared to push on against the orcs. Arthas is desperate for victory, and in his desperation, he turns to the dark arts. He seeks a weapon of great power that will help him crush the orcs, and some of his more evil advisors tell him of a great sword said to possess the power of a demon, a sword that will grant Arthas the strength of 10 men and the power to crush the orcs. It is Frostmourne!
Then the movie switches to a story of personal discovery for both Arthas and Thrall, and again the story works to flip expectations.
Arthas, the handsome and noble human, turns to the dark arts as he takes a squad north in search of Frostmourne. He leaves his army behind as he goes to find this decidedly evil weapon, regardless of the cost to his soul. Arthas wants to win and impress his father more than anything else. He’s driven in the wrong directions. Sure enough, Arthas finds Frostmourne, even though most of his men die to retrieve the weapon. Arthas makes a deal with the demon in the weapon, getting power in exchange for his soul. Arthas holds Frostmourne high before returning to his beleaguered army.
Thrall, the ugly and brutish orc, turns to the more natural, happier magicks as he starts to learn more about the background of the orcs. Thrall learns that orcs were not always these barbaric, bloodthirsty warmongers. Instead, orcs used to be a very shamanistic culture, like Native Americans. They worshipped and lived peacefully off the land, and Thrall begins to reconnect with the ancient gods. Thrall also begins to see that the orcs don’t need this war anymore; that warmongering has ruined his people, and that returning to nature is a better way.
So with both Arthas and Thrall having chosen their sides, we get the second great battle of the movie. This time, Arthas presses his advantage, wielding Frostmourne on the battlefield and leading his troops in a more powerful, brutal fashion. There’s a face-off between Arthas and Doomhammer, during which Arthas slays the Warlord of the Horde. And the more Arthas kills, the stronger Frostmourne becomes. But then Thrall steps up and grabs Doomhammer’s great weapon to confront Arthas. Thrall is now powered by the ancient, natural gods, and he is able to overpower Arthas enough to leads the orcs on a retreat.
Thrall is quickly chosen as the new Warlord as the orcs turn to him for leadership. Arthas is even angrier that the orcs were able to retreat, and of course he recognized the orc that he freed from the arena. How dare Thrall repay his kindness like this. Arthas is now over the line, having become the villain of the film. He wants to attack again, even though his army needs a rest. But Arthas pushes them back into battle anyway, against his advisors, especially Jaina. She can see that her beloved is gone, replaced by a madman and his demon sword. Arthas has pushed himself too far.
So Jaina sneaks off in the night and meets with Thrall, warning him of Arthas’ plans. Thrall is unsure what to do, but after speaking with Jaina, he knows how best to lead his people…
The movie then starts to build into what is expected to be the final battle. Arthas and the human army marches on the orc camp, intent on catching them off guard and slaughtering them all. The army crests a hill, and we pan down to the orc encampment…but it’s empty! The orcs are gone!
Thrall took Jaina’s advice and has abandoned the great war. We next see him and his people in a fleet of ships crossing the ocean, with Thall standing on the bow of the ship and looking off towards a new continent on the horizon.
Arthas, of course, is quite angry, though he doesn’t know that Jaina had warned the orcs. But the war is won, the enemy is gone. So Arthas returns home to Lordaeron, with most people happy. But King Menethil is just as bitter and angry at his son. The king knows the truth: Arthas didn’t win the war, his opponents ran away. The orcs are still out there, and the king wants them hunted down and killed. But Arthas is too far gone. He draws Frostmourne and kills the king right there on his throne. Then Arthas’ men, also corrupted by the demon, storm the court and start killing everyone. Arthas declares himself the new king, an evil king, and he takes the throne with Frostmourne in hand.
And that’s my movie! What do you think?