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During my attendance at the Warcraft premiere on Monday, I learned two things. For one, enjoying the film relies heavily on your affection for the Warcraft IP; this is a film made from the ground up to be true to the origins of the story with a heavy dose of fan service. Two, I wish I had brushed up on my lore before heading to the theater.
You may be surprised to find that the famous characters featured in the film aren't as easily recognizable as you may expect. For a long time these deep and captivating characters have been bound by the limits of video game technology. The power of modern CGI graphics introduces them in a way that is realistic (especially in IMX 3D), well beyond anything the franchise has seen before.
To put it simply, if you walk into the film knowing who is who and what is what, you can spend less time trying to piece things together and more time admiring what a $160 million budget and thousands of hours of acting, direction, production, and animation have resulted in.
To help prepare you for the biggest video game film release of the year, I'm going to go over each of the major characters and what you need to know about them.
Titles: Lion of Azeroth, Champion of Stormwind, Last of the Arathi
Played By: Travis Fimmel
In World of Warcraft: Is it believed that Ashkandi, Greatsword of the Brotherhood, is the weapon wielded by Lothar during his final days. This weapon is obtained from Nefarian in Blackwing Lair.
Background: Although Lothar's parents are never clearly revealed, it is inferred that he comes from a lineage of royalty that descended from Arathi founder Thoradin. He spent many of his early days training, rising through the ranks of the military and eventually becoming a significant leader.
Lothar is considered one of the greatest knight champions of mankind. He was highly adept in battle, willing to put his life on the line for the sake of his comrades. He was revered for being a charismatic leader interested in the unification of the Humans against evil, particularly for the sake of closing the Dark Portal which has spurred an invasion of Orcs into Azeroth.
Film Role: Lothar is the primary protagonist of the film. You will see him battle Orcs and lead troops into battle on many occasions with plenty of fantastically-delivered dialog. He is one of the film's best characters and helps to balance out the strong presence of evil.
Titles: Darkness Incarnate, Destroyer of Dreams
Played By: Daniel Wu
In World of Warcraft: Shadowmoon Valley features a vision of Gul'dan. He also plays a role in the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
Background: Gul'dan has a heavy influence on the history of Warcraft's lore. His merciless evil as a leader of the Shadow Council and member of the Shadowmoon clan has resulted in thousands of violent—and usually unnecessary—deaths, some of which are portrayed in the film. He's one of Warcraft's most powerful Warlocks, so he doesn't kill his enemies through normal means, either.
To become an entity of great power he was tasked with conquering Azeroth and freeing Sargeras, the leader of the Burning Legion. As part of conquering Azeroth he led an aggressive push by the Orcs through the Dark Portal into the Eastern Kingdom prompting the events of the film.
Film Role: Gul'dan is the primary antagonist of the film. He manipulates Orc leadership into fulfilling his wishes, sometimes through intimidation with his nearly unparalleled magical power. His dark Warlock spells allow him to stand out in the film, bringing a torrent of evil with him everywhere he goes.
Titles: Chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, Son of Garad
Played By: Toby Kebell
In World of Warcraft: He can be visited in Frostfire Ridge within the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
Background: As the son of Garad, Durotan was tasked with leading the Frostwolf clan at a young age. He is a beloved Orc who has displayed a history of selfless, well-intended leadership. One of his primary goals is the survival of his exiled clan, which chose not to drink the Blood of Mannoroth and become corrupted. As such, his clan showcases what traditional Orcs are most like, which is much different than many people would assume. They face pressure from other clans including Gul'dan's Shadowmoon.
Some of his good intentions were derived from his Shamanistic heritage, which led to his uncompromising interest in the well-being of the world around him. Speaking of which, he's the father of Thrall, which might explain why his son became such a commonly liked leader and powerful Shaman.
Film Role: Durotan gets a lot of face time in the film. His behavior and actions help to reinforce the fact that not all Orcs are warfare-crazy and evil. His bravery for the sake of the right cause pairs well with that of the Lothar-led humans, making for great synergy.
Title: The Emissary
Played By: Paula Patton
In World of Warcraft: She can be found in the Twilight Highlands as a quest giver.
Background: Garona's existence was the result of an experiment by Gul'dan, which bred an unnamed Orc with a Draenei female. Due to her Human-like appearance she was tortured for many years at the hand of Gul'dan. Despite this, she would grow up to become an important element of Gul'dan's forces, where she would eventually serve in special assassination missions.
It wasn't until later that she arrived in Azeroth, and warned the Humans of the Dark Portal while she was working with Khadgar and Medivh in Karazhan. This was just the beginning of a massive invasion that would shape the world, and Garona would need to decide what her role would be in the sequence of events.
Film Role: Garona serves as an important figure in the film by bridging the gap between Orcs and Humans. Her days spent in Human captivity allows some of the notable characters to learn about Orcs and what they are. Remember, Orcs were unknown by Humans until recent events in the timeline.
Titles: The Last Guardian, The Prophet
Played By: Ben Foster
In World of Warcraft: He is featured in Caverns of Time: Opening of the Dark Portal as well as in Karazhan.
Background: As the son of Archmage Magna Aegwynn, and court conjurer Nielas Aran, Medivh grew up with capability to wield great magical power. He is one of the most powerful mages in Warcraft lore, capable of using spells that others don't dare to try. With this comes great responsibility.
As a Guardian, he spent a great deal of his adult life in the Ivory Tower of Karazhan where he studied magic for thousands of hours and saw visions. He would teach Khadgar, who lives on to this day as a master of the art of magic.
Film Role: Medivh's magical powers allow him to play a critical role in the film that leads to the events surrounding the Dark Portal.
King Llane Wrynn
Titles: King of Stormwind, Defender of Azeroth
Played By: Dominic Cooper
In World of Warcraft: A statue of him is found in Stormwind Keep. He is also featured as the Alliance king piece in Karazhan's chess event.
Background: Llane Wrynn inherited the crown from his father, King Barathen Wrynn. He would lead humanity during a long period of peace, which would later be brought to an end once the Dark Portal was opened by the Orcs. Prior to this, he would spend much of his time teaching his son, Varian Wrynn, including horse and combat training. Varian Wrynn would later assume leadership of Stormwind.
Film Role: Llane Wrynn is the top ruler of Stormwind during the film. Thus, he serves above Anduin Lothar as the ultimate decision maker for his people.
Titles: Warchief of the Horde, The Backstabber
Played By: Robert Kazinsky
In World of Warcraft: He is featured as one of the main characters in the Warlords of Draenor expansion.
Background: Orgrim Doomhammer was a powerful Orc Warrior who served as the Chieftain of the Blackrock clan. Before leadership, he was trained by his father, Telkar, and gifted the powerful weapon Doomhammer, which would later be handed to Thrall. He was responsible for many victories in battle, including crushing dozens of notable warlocks. He was also an effective negotiator, responsible for allying his Orcs with the Trolls and Goblins after the timeline of which the film is set.
Similar to Durotan he found Gul'dan and the Shadowmoon clan to be dishonorable. He would rally to fight against them. Much later, his respected actions would lead to Orgrimmar, Hammerfell, and others being named in his honor.
Film Role: Orgrim Doomhammer plays an important role alongside Durotan in fighting against the evil of Gul'dan. However, unlike Durotan's more balanced combat style he is an extremely powerful front-line fighter, and as such he is shown smashing enemies to bits on multiple occasions making for a nice introduction for viewers. His thunderous hits on armor-clad enemies is worth going to the theater if only to feel his power through the speakers.
Titles: The Apprentice, Young Trust
Played By: Ben Schnetzer
In World of Warcraft: He is immortalized in stone at the entrance of Stormwind, where he is shown stretching his arm out with a staff. He can be visited in Shattrath City.
Background: Khadgar is a mage who learned from Medivh while spending time in Karazhan. He is a well-known member of the Kirin Tor, where he was a secondary leader under Antonidas and Rhonin. He spends most of his time training in the arts of magic, which would later result in him being one of the most notable mages in history.
He has an unrelenting desire to learn the truth, making him a desirable ally for Human forces such as Anduin Lothar.
Film Role: Khadgar serves as the most commonly featured mage in the film, helping to deviate the battle sections away from relying too heavily on melee combat. He is also a source of punctual humor due to his quirkiness. His desire for truth makes him an important ally for Anduin Lothar and other Human leaders.
Titles: The Destroyer, Chieftain of the Blackrock clan, Warchief of the Horde
Played By: Clancy Brown
In World of Warcraft: His model is used for the Horde's king piece in Karzhan's chess event.
Background: Blackhand led raids with his tall, powerful stature, earning a fearsome reputation among his people. Gul'dan found his ease of manipulation attractive, leading to a strong bond between the two as they sought to conquer Azeroth.
Film Role: Blackhand serves as a right-hand man to Gul'dan with an equally frightening appearance. His brutality is put on full display throughout the film.
Titles: Mate of Durotan
Played By: Anna Galvin
In World of Warcraft: Draka can be visited in Warlords of Draenor.
Background: Draka is an Orc who most notably mated with Durotan to give birth to Thrall while living under the Frostwolf clan. Her conviction of honor made her a great companion for Durotan, and would result in her offspring carrying the same values.
Film Role: Draka doesn't play a large role in the film, but her appearances are important for tying together the events of the film and what will inevitably be a sequel.
Lady Taria Wrynn
Titles: Queen of Stormwind
Played By: Ruth Negga
In World of Warcraft: N/A.
Background: Taria Wrynn was a consort to Llane Wrynn, and as a result would serve as a beacon of hope for humanity.
Film Role: Taria Wrynn is shown in a few scenes alongside her husband, King Llane Wrynn.
King Magni Bronzebeard
Titles: Lord of Ironforge, King of Khaz Modan, Grand Explorer
Played By: Michael Adamthwaite
In World of Warcraft: N/A.
Background: Magni Bronzebeard is viewed as a hero among his people, particularly for his liberation of Ironforge. He was a member of the Explorer's Guild where he successfully navigated around Azeroth. He would later forge the Ashbringer in response to the existence of Frostmourne.
Film Role: If you like Dwarfs, you will admire that Blizzard went out of its way to include more than just Humans and Orcs in the film. A few other races are shown, including Magni Bronzebeard alongside a few other elite Dwarf council.
Titles: Warchief of the Horde, Liberator of the Orcs
Played By: N/A
In World of Warcraft: Thrall was previously the leader of the Horde and could be visited or fought within Orgrimmar. He has since played a part in many quest-lines and narrative pieces.
Background: Thrall is one of the most well-known heroes not only within Warcraft, but among all video game media. He is commonly liked for having a charismatic personality, distinguishable visual design, and remarkable Shamanistic power. He served a significant role in events of post-Dark Portal Warcraft resulting in his ascension to Warchief of the Horde.
Film Role: Birthed by Draka, Thrall comes into existence during the film and is used to lay the groundwork for a sequel.