Warcraft comic con 2015

Director Duncan Jones has been coming to Comic Con with Warcraft for three years now. With the movie finally set to arrive in theaters just under a year from now, Comic-Con finally got a first look at some official footage from the video game adaptation, and it’s definitely something to talk about.

The footage on display has simultaneously some of the most beautiful visual effects footage I’ve ever seen, along with some of the most niche, heavy-fantasy, somewhat confusing story elements in recent memory. As someone who hasn’t ever dove into the world of Warcraft, I’ll do my best to break down what we saw in Hall H.

Check out our Warcraft Comic Con 2015 panel recap after the jump!

Legendary Pictures pulled out the massive screens in Hall H for a roll call with the main members of the cast in this sprawling fantasy epic. Here’s your first look at some of the characters from Warcraft:

Above you can see Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar, Paula Patton as Garona (a half-elf, half-human), Ben Foster as Medivh (a wizard), Toby Kebbell as Durotan, Dominic Cooper as King Llane Wrynn, Rob Kazinsky as Orgrim (an orc), Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar, Clancy Brown as Blackhand (an orc), Ruth Negga as Lady Taria and Daniel Wu as Gul’dan (far right in the second photo)

The character designs are spectacular, and the special effects that bring the orcs to life are every bit as good as the work done on Avatar. While some sequences still need a little work so as not to look like video game cinematics, others look impressively photo-realistic. The problem is telling them apart and getting a grasp on what’s going on.

As a person who’s not familiar with Warcraft mythology, characters, races, and locations, I found the footage a little hard to follow. There’s definitely an angle that adds some humanity to the orcs, and makes them as real as the Na’vi in Avatar, but trying to figure out what they’re doing in the footage was disorienting and thoroughly confusing.

The main reason that the footage was hard to understand or comprehend was that it was just a series of scenes. From orcs entering the village of a different, green-skinned race of orcs, to several wizards and/or sorcerers (like Medievh and Gul’dan) using magical powers. The sights are astounding, and the casting of magic looks very cool, but without a frame of reference for why Gul’dan was opening a massive portal for some orcs to walk through, it was hard to follow.

From what I can gather, Gul’dan aims to use the orcs to raid Azeroth in an effort to get more human slaves to help power this portal that runs on souls. They’re desperate for any help because they need food and water, and it seems like this task will get them what they need. Other orcs have already been helped by the “death magic” that Gul’dan possesses and it seems like their only chance for survival.

Of course, this act of desperation leads to an epic fight with the orcs and humans. And in the middle of that, Paula Patton‘s half-human, half-orc character will likely have some struggles since she doesn’t feel like she really belongs in either camp fully.

But for fans of the movie, this looks like exactly what they’ll want. In fact, star Rob Kazinsky is an avid Warcraft player, logging about 600 days played on the game. He played so much that he lost a girlfriend and his self-esteem, but now he’s in the Warcraft movie so the actor asks, “Who won this round?”

The real important quote from Kazinsky is his standing behind what he’s seen from the movie so far, “I’m a gamer and I know what I’m expecting you’re expecting, and Duncan Jones has made the movie you want to see.” That’s a pretty ringing endorsement, and it doesn’t sound like it’s just because he’s in the movie.

Even so though, this seems like a really hard sell to general audiences. It’s very deep fantasy, and as someone who is a little more in tune with that genre than most casual movie goers, that could be a problem.

For example, I’ve seen footage from the movie and had these characters introduced one by one, but I still couldn’t tell you which orc is which, with the exception of Paula Patton as the half-human, half-orc. That’s something that could get easier for viewers once a more comprehensive marketing campaign begins, but that could be also be an issue in the future.

Warcraft comic con posters Orgrim

On the other hand, the core of the story is about opposing forces, doing what they think is right or necessary, and the characters who get caught in that conflict. So if it’s done the right way, it could work just as simply as any other compelling story.

Having said that though, there’s still a lot to like about what was seen. The magic powers look bigger and more bad ass than any kind of magic we’ve seen on screen before. It’s much different than Harry Potter. In fact, the feel of the movie was best described by the equally out of the loop Angie Han who said it looks like John Carter meets Lord of the Rings. It’s hard to disagree, for better or worse.

There’s also some cool action moments like one of the human warriors jumping off the cliff on the back of some kind of feathered, flying creature (it’s not a bird, but it could be a griffin for all I know). And we catch glimpses of some creepy elves with glowing eyes, and a village that seemed to be situated in a volcano maybe? And let’s not forget about the cool armor and weapons designed by the team at Weta.

But Duncan Jones is hoping this is a movie that everyone can enjoy, whether or not they’ve ever played a minute of Warcraft. He says, “We wanted to make a film which everyone would be interested in beyond the Warcraft audience, a similar challenge to Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies, which had to appeal to non-Tolkien fans. We’re hoping we can do the same.”

Honestly, I think it’s going to be a uphill battle to get a massive, non-gamer audience for Warcraft. But a movie with millions of fans should still do pretty well at the box office. At the same time, there’s a chance that it’s just too early to get a firm grasp on what this movie will be, and it still has the chance to blow us all away. After all Duncan Jones is already thinking about sequels. We’ll just have to wait and see how the first film delivers.

Warcraft hits theaters on June 10th, 2016.

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