Warcraft: 8 things we learnt from director Duncan Jones

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It’s time to delve a bit deeper into Azeroth. Warcraft – the first cinematic adaptation of the outrageously popular franchise of video games from Blizzard – roared onto our screens this month, and with it, orcs, wizards, trolls, kings, queens, and at least one dodgy green demon. To discover more of Azeroth’s secrets, we went directly to the source (code): director Duncan Jones. For the horde!

WARNING: there are multiple spoilers for Warcraft throughout this article.

1. Duncan Jones wanted to modify the Universal logo, but couldn’t


Many filmmakers have fiddled with their studio logos in the opening credits: Universal became ‘Univershell’ for The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas, while Waterworld even incorporated the Universal logo into a neat bit of exposition. But that same studio were less willing to turning their famous globe emblem into something resembling Azeroth.

“I tried to do it,” says Jones. “They wouldn't do it, for whatever reason. It was something I would have loved to have done. I started to see people online talking about it saying and I was like, yeah, it would be really cool. But unfortunately not.”

2. A sequel would focus on a grown-up Go’el – AKA Thrall


Durotan – played with impressive performance-capture prowess by Toby Kebbell – is the film’s lead orc, a thoughtful warrior with divided loyalties. Early in the film, his wife Draka gives birth to a baby, named Go’el. At the film’s end, Draka sets Go’el adrift on a river, like Moses. And much like Moses, Go’el is meant for big things.

Warcraft fans will know that Go’el grows up to be Thrall, a legendary leader of the Horde. Jones confirms that should a sequel take place, Thrall would be the lead character, in what he describes as a “Spartacus-style story”. “Film number two, if we ever got the chance, would very much be Thrall's emancipation,” says Jones. “Orgrim, who was kind of the back-up to Durotan, will have more of a teaching role."

3. There is an explanation for Garona’s dual orc-human heritage


Much online discussion of the film centered the parentage of Garona (Paula Patton), the half-human half-orc at the heart of the film. The general argument went: how could she be the progeny of two races who have never met? Jones is reticent to give too much flesh to a story that was not included in the film, but boils it down to timing and editing. “When you get into the edit, things get taken out [in order to] make sure there is a certain amount of pace to the movie,” he says. “There was a little bit more coherence to who she was and where she fits in in earlier cuts.”

Jones also acknowledges that Warcraft’s own lore is unclear. “There's a contradiction about whether she's half-orc, half-human, or half-orc, half-draenei, which is this different race we see at the beginning of the movie. It's more ambiguous than I wanted it to be. If we get the chance to do an extended edition, that'll be back in there.” Warcraft fans can only hope that the film gets a three+ hour Peter Jackson treatment when it comes to DVD and Blu-ray.

4. There's an Evil Dead reference that got cut


Warcraft is littered with nods to fans of the game, from the Insane Health Potions to the Polymorph Spell that turned an unlucky character into a sheep. But there was one reference to spoke to Jones’ love of 1980s cult horror: the props department made up The Book Of The Dead as an affectionate nod to Evil Dead 2. But it didn't make the cut: “Unfortunately it didn't get the camera time.” Perhaps one for the deleted scenes?

5. Lothar goes barefoot because Travis Fimmel likes to be barefoot


In the film’s final act, Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) loses his shoes to the clay gollum in Medivh’s Ivory Tower, and spends much of the rest of the movie barefoot. This creative decision spawned largely from the fact that Fimmel enjoys shedding his shoes whenever possible.

“I was made aware that Travis liked to be barefoot,” as Jones explains it, “and I thought, that's kind of interesting, I wonder if there's a way we can make that work.” The director particularly enjoyed having his lead actor shoeless “when we started doing the Sergio Leone-inspired final duel with Blackhand. We could do these fun over-the-foot shots, looking at who he's facing off against.” Jones doesn’t elaborate on why Fimmel likes going barefoot. But Fimmel is Australian, which may be all the explanation we need.

6. Glenn Close’s character was originally a man


A cameo that surprised everyone occurs halfway through the film when Ben Schnetzer’s Khadgar stumbles into a mysterious pitch-black realm and meets...Glenn Close.

Jones talks about going deep into Warcraft lore to dig up the character, and “the deeper you go into the Warcraft lore, the more of a rabbit hole you find yourself in.” One character plucked from the rabbit hole is Alodi, a half-elf and the first guardian of Azeroth, who was originally male. “But we decided it would be nice to have this strong female character.” Alodi appears in Warcraft comics, where he restructured the transfer ceremony used to link the Council of Tirisfal with the Spearhead, and fought the dreadlord Kathra'Natir, as we all remember.

7. The studio did not want to use the game’s original music


The music from the Warcraft games is much loved by the fanbase; many fans were disappointed to find a largely new score for the film (written by Ramin Djawadi, composer of the Game Of Thrones theme). Duncan Jones says he “certainly appreciates, as a fan myself, that [using a new score] might feel like a missed opportunity, but I love the work that Ramin did.”

Jones insists that there are elements of the game music in there – “when we see Stormwind, we hear a little bit of the Stormwind music” – but notes that Blizzard and the studio were keen to tread their own path in this regard. “I think that there was a general sense from the studio and the producers that they wanted to make sure the movie was its own thing, as opposed to feeling too directly tied to the game by using its music. I think it was a calculated move on their part. But I'm glad that Ramin was there to make it work as well as it could be done.”

8. Tauren could play a larger role in the sequel


Tauren are a race of nomadic cow-like people ("Basically they're minotaurs", as Jones puts it) from the Warcraft universe – and if Warcraft 2 happens, the filmmaker is keen to include them. “If we get the chance to do another one, Taurens would come up – especially in this Spartacus story that we're talking about.” Jones again concedes there are “many restrictions” he has to work within. “But if I can be clever to find a way to get out of the restrictions, or make them work for me, then I'll do that. I'll pitch it to Blizzard and hopefully they'll see the benefits of doing it.”

Warcraft is in cinemas now. Look out for the full Warcraft Empire Podcast Special, due soon.