Note: There’s a lot than can (and has) been written on this subject, but I noticed that virtually all the articles I was seeing tended to shrug off the concern of spoilers on the basis that the franchise is over 20 years old by now. While this is certainly understandable, I decided there was a niche for a more general overview for people who want to go in with a blank slate. I have also seen more than a few comments on social media along the lines of, “The Warcraft trailer is so confusing, I can’t even tell who they’re supposed to be fighting!”
A few things set the Warcraft universe apart from many other popular fantasy settings. One of the most important aspects of Warcraft is that the “sides” (known in-game as the two major factions) are not as cut-and-dried as in traditional good vs evil fantasies.
The Alliance is generally what you’d think of as the “good guys” in more traditional fantasy stories like the Lord of the Rings. Gallant knights in shining armor, gruff but honorable dwarves, etc.
The Horde is mostly made up of races you’d normally think of as the “bad guys,” and in the time period the movie is set in, these are the Orcs, aka the giant green people you’ve seen in the trailers.
The Horde and the Alliance are almost constantly at war in the Warcraft universe, and the upcoming movie will be showing the birth of this decades-long conflict. While “faction pride” is a big thing among fans who like to root for one side or the other, the narrative usually tries to make the point that both sides are at fault; even the “monsters” can be the good guys and even the “good guys” can behave like monsters.
I think this is the part that’s leaving a lot of people who have seen the trailer scratching their heads in confusion. It’s not clear from the trailer who the good guys are or who you’re supposed to be rooting for.
That very thing is the hallmark of the Warcraft franchise. It’s not like the Jedi vs the Sith, the Order of the Phoenix vs the Death Eaters, the fellowship of the ring vs the forces of Sauron, etc. The viewer will be presented with both sides of the conflict, and the narrative will not tell you that either the Orcs or the Humans are the heroes you should root for. That’s what you’re supposed to argue with your friends about when the movie is over.
There is also something akin to a third “faction,” though it’s never really referred to as such. Both the Horde and the Alliance, on occasion, must put aside their differences to fight a common enemy who is forever scheming to wipe out everyone.
This is another hallmark of the franchise. There is an ongoing tug-of-war between those among each faction who cannot forgive the atrocities the other side has committed, and more neutral characters who strive to convince their brethren to work together for the greater good.
And finally, the movie is based off of the original real-time strategy game Warcraft, approximately 30 years before the setting of the extremely popular and more well-known MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing game) World of Warcraft.
If you enjoy the movie and wish to dive deeper into the Warcraft universe, subscribe to the blog and stay tuned for my upcoming posts on getting started in the World of Warcraft game. In the meantime, check out my Top 10 Favorite Places In World of Warcraft. If you’re a former Warcraft player looking to get back into the game, I wrote a post on the upcoming World of Warcraft: Legion expansion due to release this August.