War. War never changes…but Warcraft does.
As of June 9th, 2016 (the day before the official US nationwide release,) Warcraft had already grossed $171.7 million worldwide. Which is pretty good, when placed next to the fact that the movie had a budget of $160 million. This is impressive considering it’s Metascore is only a 32, and on RottenTomatoes it splat quite hard at 26 percent. Critics are not being very kind to it, but audiences are generally walking away happy.
As a fan of the series, Blizzard games, and lore in general, I attended Warcraft in 3D knowing that I wanted to write a review for it. With this in mind, I invited my sister along, who knows nothing of the world or the lore, and has just heard of WoW and gets the general idea that it is, in fact, a video game that is very popular. I did this with the intentions of getting a somewhat unbiased, uneducated, and objective viewpoint on this whole experience. This is no small step for Blizzard, and I wanted to see the movie for all that it represents, but I also wanted to know how it stood up as just a fantasy movie in its own rite.
First, I want to get the 3D out of the way, for anybody that cares. It’s good. It’s not Avatar, but neither is anything else. When I removed my 3D glasses throughout the movie, the entire screen would be blurry, as opposed to just main characters or a few set pieces. There was an ever present sense of depth, which was cool, in fight scenes, and when magic was happening.
Okay, now to the nitty gritty. The lore has changed. Of course it’s changed. When Blizzard kicked off the Warcraft lore train in 1994, it was for an RTS for MS DOS. It’s 2016 and this is a movie. The changes throughout the movie weren’t anything that majorly changed the world or events, but minor changes were made for the sake of easier understanding, and overall reduction of unnecessary complications and details. Some fans have voiced distaste for a few of the changes, but for the most part, it is my understanding that fans are okay with the changes they’ve made. I think it is important to keep in mind that blizzard has a 22 year old universe here, that is arguably as large as what Tolkein poured into his books, if not larger. Change had to be made to bring it to an audience in 123 min.
With this in mind, there is still quite a bit of story that needs to be told in this movie. The first 40 minutes or so is lightning fast, and can be pretty disorienting for the viewer, if they are unfamiliar with the world. The beginning of the movie is a rapid fire introduction of every main character, setting, race, and even several factions within those races. Oh, and two different realms. Arguably, this movie kind of kicks off in the middle of everything, and relies heavily on the viewer to either know what’s going on, or to figure it out quickly. All of this gets thrown at the audience heavily sprinkled with fan service (there was even a murloc at one point.)
Once the plot gets beyond those first few baby steps, however, the movie launches full steam ahead into, what is actually, quite a decent story. The general idea is that there are two worlds. One world has Orcs, and Draenei (blue centaur type beings,) and the other has Humans, and the other stereotypical fantasy world races and creatures. On the Orc world, an evil warlock named Guldan (Daniel Wu), has all but destroyed the realm, and corrupted the various shamanistic clans, with Green “Fel” magic. He has enslaved the peaceful blue Draenei people and uses them as sacrifices to open an enormous magical gate to somewhere else. This somewhere else, is Azeroth, where the humans and everyone else live pretty peacefully.
Gul’ dan has enough sacrificial power to get a large chunk of Orc warriors, and himself, to the other side where they intend to sack the humans and take them as prisoner to open another gate to get everyone else through. The humans have no idea this is coming, and the few uncorrupted Orcs, have no idea how ruthless and dishonorable they will have to be to claim this new land. The Humans rely on the “guardian,” to protect and assist their king in fending off this horde of other-worldly warriors.
The acting is pretty good. I’d say it’s as good as the acting in lord of the rings, and is up to par when compared to other films in the fantasy genre. Ben Schnetzer does a fantastic job as the awkward young mage Khadgar, as he follows Travis Fimmel’s Anduin Lothar around the world, from battle to battle. In terms of emotional connection, none of the characters come close to Toby Kebbell’s Durotan. Kebbell does an excellent job of portraying Durotan’s inner struggle, as he reluctantly leads his people to follow someone he doesn’t trust into war for a new home. He makes it clear how difficult his decisions are, not only as a clan leader, but also as a new father. In contrast, Anduin’s interactions with his own son are little more than a plot device, and i feel that if Blizzard wanted to create Anduin’s son just for this sole purpose, they should have hashed it out more and put more detail into it. Paula Patton’s acting as Garona definitely left much to be desired, and after watching various interviews with her, I don’t feel she was as committed to the character or the world as much as she should have been.
All of this being said, I think it is very important to keep in mind that this is a video game movie. Judging it objectively as just a film is almost unfair, because Blizzard had a unique challenge. The lengthy pre and post production process, paired with the changing directors and scripts are only the half of the journey this movie had to make it to the big screen. Blizzard made a movie in a sub genre, that traditionally pumps out bad movies. They had a choice in my opinion. On the one hand, they could sacrifice a lot of the lore, and hope to make a good movie in general in an attempt to please non-fans of the franchise. On the other hand, they could commit wholeheartedly to making minimal changes to the lore, in an effort to improve it, while focussing on pleasing fans of the series (there are undeniably a massive amount of them after all.) I think its clear that they went with the other hand and aimed to please fans of the series over critics, and I think the movie should be praised for that. A lot of people judged this movie with World of Warcraft in mind, and this is a gigantic misstep. This story takes place several decades before the World of Warcraft story events. This story is a very fast paced, and violent one, with an ever present sense of urgency. There aren’t a lot of stories like this one, even in the fantasy genre. Generally a good chunk of every fantasy movie is spent building the world and showing the viewer who the characters are, and where they come from. This luxury just isn’t present in the story of Warcraft. Knowing this, Blizzard could have tried to do a little more to educate people of the world and the lore. I think it would’ve been a fantastic idea to do something like the Star Wars movies do with the scrolling text at the beginning.
Wrapping up, I want to make it clear that, while I certainly don’t think this movie is perfect, as a fan of the series and the lore, I am certainly happy with the project as a whole and walked out of the theater very pleased with my ticket purchase and my experience. I hope that it continues to do well at the box office worldwide, and Blizzard decides to continue the story. If I had to give the movie as a whole, a score out of 10, I’d give it a solid 7.
Acting: 6/10 (Garona…)
Final score: 7/10
“…..For the Horde.”