I love this cinematic. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost in my mind, anyway, is that for the first time since the trailer for The Burning Crusade, we’ve got ourselves a trailer with a little bit of humor in it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the cinematics for both Wrath and Cataclysm, but there is only so much dark doom and gloom I can take. We’ve dealt with the worst of what the world has had to offer in the past two expansions, and frankly, I could use a breather from it all.
Warcraft has always been a franchise that’s had a quirky sense of humor at its heart, and we haven’t seen that humor in recent trailers. Given the themes of the prior two expansions, that was understandable — how can you make light of the Lich King? How can you make a joke about Deathwing literally ripping the world apart? These were dire times, and they required a suitably dire cinematic to get the urgency of that point across.
Mists of Pandaria is an entirely different sort of expansion, and the cinematic reflects that. But there’s far more to this cinematic than meets the eye — and it’s the deeper meanings that continue to delight me.
Perhaps the most vivid image in the cinematic is the quintessential fight between human and orc. These guys aren’t joking around; they’re full-out intent on killing each other as quickly as possible. And that is, at its core, what Warcraft is and has always been about. It hails back to a time before World of Warcraft, a time when Warcraft was quite simply Orc vs. Human, Alliance vs. Horde, in a never-ending struggle. I’ve mentioned more than once that Warcraft is a cyclical story that winds around itself. We fight, something happens, we get along and kill it, we celebrate, and then we promptly start fighting again.
What’s more telling with this cinematic is the image of orc and human. Plenty of people have pointed out the similarity between the two characters and the characters featured on the cover of Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. The title of that game is a deliberate reference to the Dark Portal, but it’s also a reference to the darkness that the orcs have brought to Azeroth. More important than that, however, is how that story eventually ended.
This was not a story of Horde domination. This was the story of the Second War — and that was when the orcs attempted to continue the victory they’d obtained in Warcraft I and all out conquer the entirety of the Eastern Kingdoms. From there, they could move to the rest of Azeroth, once they’d established a foothold and wiped out human civilization.
But it was also a story of betrayal. The various orc tribes began fighting with each other, Gul’dan withdrew the Stormreaver and Twilight’s Hammer clans, and the orcish forces of the Old Horde pretty much splintered. In the end, the Old Horde was defeated, and brutally so, not only by the might of the Alliance but because it had, quite simply, torn itself apart in its apparent overwhelming lust for power.
Does any of that sound oddly familiar to you? Ring any bells? Because Garrosh Hellscream is attempting to do exactly the same thing over in Kalimdor, starting with Theramore and moving on from there. See what I mean? Warcraft lore is cyclical — and this cinematic has subtly but clearly pointed to where that cycle begins, here.
But then, wait — we have an interruption in that age-old battle. The pandaren have long been thought to be nothing more than a myth, but they are absolutely real. Unlike the days of Warcraft II, we have the pandaren clearly in the middle of everything. And as Chen pointed out in his reveal of the sweeping vistas of Pandaria, they outnumber our forces at the moment. They fight for family and for home. And we are on their turf. They fight to preserve balance and harmony — and we are neither of these things.
That’s why I love this cinematic. It’s a subtle, very clever nod to the days of old and a finger clearly pointed to the future. We don’t know where we’re going from there, but it’s not going to be a repeat of the same old, same old. The pandaren will not allow it to be.
There’s been an amazing amount of reaction posts to the Mists of Pandaria cinematic all around the blogosphere, with some really great observations — and some really funny ones as well.
Personally, what struck me most vividly about the Mists trailer was THAT BADASS ORC. Seriously, that orc was a thing of beauty. I’m only half-joking here – we’ve come a long way since the thick knots of walking muscle that appeared in the Vanilla and Burning Crusade trailers.
Cataclysm – Patch 4.2: Rage of the Firelands: Alex has chosen this as the ultimate best movie in all of creation. He keeps talking about how incredible it is, Thrall asks for guidance from the spirits and gets a vision from Ragnaraos himself! Or, as Alex said he calls him, “Little Rag.”
That is the best place you could hope for a trailer to leave you – excited, anticipatory, and impressed. If this world is even half as beautiful as the trailer would suggest, I am going to be ridiculously happy wandering around it at the end of September.
And here comes the Alliance. Admiral Chestyhunk. Captain Hunkachunk. Slam Beefchin. Sizzle Beefslab. Reportin’ for duty with a very sharp stick. He’s going exploring on this jungle island full of ruins that look radically different. This is NEW! STRANGE. Secondary note: I hate to see you leave, Captain Beefypecs, but I love to watch you go.
However, I think the cinematic doesn’t have a lot of “weight” to it. It’s funny, and has some nice humour, but I don’t think it’s particularly memorable.
Then the human hands his oar-spear over to the Orc. Think about this…a new enemy has shown up that is clearly more powerful than Horde and Alliance (as stated previously, the two characters are basically perfect stereotypes of their factions) and they have to work together to face it. For a brief moment the two realize that their fighting each other was futile and useless…and the Panda has taught them that.
I think the one thing everyone can agree on is that the new cinematic is a definitive, direct departure from the cinematics that came before. No longer do we have a giant enemy boasting about the end of the world and that we aren’t prepared to bring about their demise. Instead, we have a break in the game, a pause, a moment to reflect and wonder. Perhaps that cinematic really does have a villain of sorts. It’s not Illidan, the Lich King or Deathwing — it’s the threat that we bring to the world all by ourselves.
It’s open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft’s next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!