Duncan Jones's 'Warcraft' Absolutely Nailed How Magic Should Be Represented in Film
While the latest video game movie may have its fair share of issues - magic isn't one of them.
This article contains spoilers.
Over the weekend, the long-awaited Warcraft movie brought the incredibly detailed universe of the video game franchise to life for the first time. It was a big moment for gamers, who finally saw this deep, iconic mythology illustrated on the big screen; important elements imported included the early days of [Azeroth](http://wowwiki.wikia.com/wiki/Azeroth_(world), the iconic Dark Portal, the Burning Legion, the planet of Draenor and even one of the most popular orcs in the fantasy genre: Thrall. Although, to be fair, you probably didn’t pick up on any of that if you haven’t played any Warcraft video games.
Not only does the universe span thousands of years, but Blizzard Entertainment, the game’s publisher, has worked hard to make sure that every little detail is present and meaningful. One of the most important, most iconic elements from the universe is magic.
Magic in the Warcraft universe is defined as an ambient field of energy that pervades the world around it. From a practical standpoint the term is used to describe anything non-natural, such as spells, powers or enchantments, which are different from the grounded reality of curses, diseases and poisons. In Azeroth, each force of magic is born from a specific form of these ever-present energies and harnessed by individuals or organizations to help defend worlds or bring about their very destruction.
While many forces of magic exist within Azeroth, let’s just focus on the few within the Warcraft movie.
Used by the Guardian Medivh and the mage Khadgar in the film, Arcane magic is one of the most common forms in the Warcraft universe. Derived from the phase transitions of mana, arcane energy is considered to be so similar to an element that it might as well be one. Due to this similarity it can be manipulated in order to bend and control other energies such as fire, time and life to the user’s will.
These arcane energies were once concentrated in a single location known as the Well of Eternity, but after its destruction these energies spread throughout the world through the atmosphere, allowing talented individuals like Medivh and Khadgar to train in its manipulation. Arcane energy does exist throughout the world, but is most powerful along ley lines that crisscross the lands of Azeroth. In many cases these lines of power are harnessed by powerful mages in order to manipulate arcane magic.
Used by Gul’dan and the corrupted guardian in the film, Fel magic is considered to be the primal force of chaos and destruction in the Warcraft universe. Often used by members of the Burning Legion, fel energies often revolve around the art of destroying and converting life energy through sacrifice which frequently results in the corruption of the user. This corruption manifests in physical transformations and seeps into the world around them, corrupting and spreading like a disease the more it is used.
In almost every case fel magic requires a sacrifice from its user but that sacrifice doesn’t have to be massive in capacity, with even a few fish or small animals being enough for some of the fel to seep through. Due to the nature of its corruption though, many avoid fel magic while others seek to utilize it against those who created it.
One of the best things about the Warcraft movie is that it actually kept close to every concept of both arcane and fel magic. Take Karazhan for example, which is the tower Khadgar and Lothar visit in order to contact the guardian Medivh for assistance early on in the film. Built on top of a series of converging ley lines, Karazhan was originally designed to be a massive font of arcane energy for Medivh in order to give him the power to protect the realm of Azeroth.
In the film we saw Medivh consistently returning to the tower in order to restore his energy by resting in a giant pool of concentrated arcane energy - a principle that any World of Warcraft player would easily recognize. This is further complimented with additional spells arcane mages would typically use within the video games as well, with classics like arcane missiles and teleportation spells looking near-identical to the animations you’d encounter in World of Warcraft for example.
This sort of detail carried into fel magic throughout the film too, providing a much more detailed vision on the big screen compared to what you might find in the video games. In the film every spell cast with fel magic felt terrifying to witness, showcasing the bright-green energy coursing through its user, draining the life from its victims and corrupting the land around it. Hell, they even showed the effects of corruption on Gul’dan by creating the giant, twisted spines coming out of his back and the pulsing green mutations on his followers after he granted them power. More importantly though, Warcraft absolutely nailed how dangerous fel magic is supposed to appear – namely with the transformation of Medivh into at the end of the film as Karazhan is corrupted when he steps into the pools along the ley lines. Its absolutely terrifying to see how quickly it consumes the well and spreads throughout Medivh’s body and thats a damn good thing to see this early on in the Warcraft timeline.
Why? Well, to put it plainly: Blizzard is just getting started.
Magic is absolutely everywhere in the world of Warcraft and exists in hundreds of different forms throughout. While the arcane and fel certainly are a good start; it’s probably world noting that nature, chi, blood, holy, dark, void, runic, voodoo, geomancy and necromancy all hold significant places within the Warcraft universe as well. Each practice is backed up by a detailed storyline bridging from the creation of all things and each is host to a load of followers that have stories similar to Gul’dan, Medivh and Khadgar. It’s a lot to take in, I know.
The important thing about Warcraft’s representation of magic though, is that the film established a solid and accurate foundation which can be expanded upon as new movies are released. While it may not seem like much just yet, it’s definitely something to look forward to even if the traditional plot is slightly modified down the road. Let’s just say if you think the undead army of White Walkers from Game of Thrones looks scary? Just wait until you see the Lich King and his undead army rise in the next few Warcraft film adaptions.