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Based on the popular video game from Blizzard Entertainment, it’s the ultimate battle between Orcs and Humans in Warcraft starring Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, and Daniel Wu. Is this a movie a faithful adaption that fans of the franchise will love, or is this yet another example of a bad video game movie.
For those who know me, they can attest that I am a huge video gamer. I love shooters, platformers, and open-world games. One of my favorite genres is real-time strategy (RTS) games like Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Halo Wars and Warhammer 40K: Dawn of War. But my favorite RTS of all-time is Warcraft. Since 1994 I’ve been a fan of the series. I’ve played all three games and all the expansions. I’ve spent countless hours in the fictional world of Azeroth pointing and clicking my way to victory. My favorite race to play is the Orcs, because let’s face it, they are really wicked looking and cool. The units, weapons, and structures look a hell of a lot more bad ass than the generic Humans. As much as I loved Warcraft, I never got into World of Warcraft (WoW), because I really wasn’t into MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) as much as I was into RTSs. And I pretty much stopped playing PC games once I got addicted to getting achievements on my Xbox 360.
Warcraft the movie is a direct adaptation of the original 1994 PC game that takes place during the events known as The First War. The Orc realm of Draenor is dying so the Orcs build the Dark Portal, an inter-dimensional gateway to other worlds. The Orc warlock Gul’dan uses his wizardry to drain the life essence from all living creatures in order to transform it into a dark magic known as the Fel which is needed to open the portal. With the rift open, Gul’dan sends warchiefs Durotan, Orgrim, and Blackhand to lead the first waves of attackers to clear the lands for colonization.
Meanwhile in the peaceful human kingdom of Azeroth, King Llane Wrynn is receiving reports that many of the villages are being burned and survivors are being abducted. He sends his strongest knight Anduin Lothar to lead a team of scouts along with Medivh, a powerful mage known as The Guardian, to investigate. As the Orcs and Humans clash throughout the land, each faction begins to realize that forces within their own ranks may be working against them for their own agendas. It’s up to leaders like Durotan and Lothar to determine if war is the only answer.
As a huge fan of the game series, I loved Warcraft. I felt like it was Blizzard Entertainment’s love letter to their fans for decades of loyalty. It’s extremely faithful to the source material from everything to the looks of the characters and set designs to even the plot twists. Unfortunately, the movie really only caters to its fans. I can see that for casual audiences, Warcraft really won’t be that fantastic when you can compare it to other fantasy movies like The Lords of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies.
The absolute positives of Warcraft are the Orcs. They were bad ass. The best way to describe them is to imagine that the Incredible Hulk had sex with the members of the heavy metal rock group GWAR and their illegitimate children were raised under Klingon warrior tradition. I cannot emphasize just how cool the Orcs were. The CGI was fantastic. The characters were extremely expressive and photo realistic. Their faces and bodies had scars to show their experience on the battle field as badges of honor. They were super scary and intimidating, and their armor and adornments were wicked as hell. They have gargantuan weapons and ride ferocious wolves. This is what bad guys are supposed to look like. The most impressive of the Orcs was the leader Gul’dan played by Daniel Wu and his second in command Blackhand played by Clancy Brown. Even the Orc’s battle themes full of deep bass rocked the speakers of the theater.
But what I also liked about the Orcs was that the movie didn’t make them all to be mindless beasts. Some like Durotan played by Toby Kebbell and Orgrim Doomhammer played by Robert Kazinsky were given motivation that peace may be an alternative in order to secure safety and prosperity for their clans. Of course they are warriors who believe in the honor of battle, but the characters also become empathetic to the audience as you see they care about their families and brotherhood. It’s through these characters you get foreshadowing of the Orc civil war that plays out in the PC game sequels as well as the destiny of Durotan’s infant son and future Warchief Thrall. Once again if your a fan of the games or read the tie-in novels, then I really think you’ll love how the movie depicts the Orcs.
Unfortunately, on the other side of the coin is the Humans and I’m sorry, but I found their storyline to be rather boring. Even in the games they are pretty boring. They don’t even really get interesting until Warcraft III when Arthas becomes the Death Knight. But I digress. In this movie, the Human characters suffer from multiple aspects. I found the casting to be odd mostly with Ben Foster as Medivh the Guardian. He just didn’t look the part to me. I was more impressed by Ben Schnetzer as the mage-in-training Khadgar. And while Travis Fimmel as Lothar in the action and combat scenes was really impressive, his acting in the other scenes felt odd and forced. Speaking of forced, the humor in the movie felt like the filmmakers were trying too hard to give the film added “Marvel” humor to cut the tension. There is absolutely nothing wrong with organic comedic moments to add a bit of humor to an overly serious tone, but the jokes felt completely out of place.
The movie’s biggest saving grace is its visuals. Even when the storytelling and acting may fall a little flat, the grandiose landscapes and epic battles scenes balances it out. The movie is really stunning at times to watch, especially in 3D. While I may not have liked Ben Foster in the movie, but when he was performing his spells and incantations, his eyes would glow and the magic would surround and illuminate him. It looked amazing. The fight choreography was jaw-dropping and brutal. Many of the hits in battle made me cringe in my seat at how viscous the carnage of the blow was. I wanted more.
The biggest problem that I can see people having with the movie is that it’s not made for casual audiences. Let’s be honest though, people could say the same thing about Peter Jackson’s homage to the Tolkien novels. Tolkien fanboys will proclaim that those movies are masterpieces while non-nerds will just say they are too weird and geeky. Where some may complain in Warcraft about things like Paula Patton’s make-up looking fake or not as impressive as the CGI Orcs, fans of the game and tie-in novels will be able to point out that is how she’s supposed to look. She’s supposed to just look like a green Human because she is a half-breed. Fans will also love how the movie is littered with Easter Eggs and nods to all the games of the franchise. Even Leroy Jenkins would be impressed.
Director Duncan Jones and Blizzard Entertainment really have done a spectacular job bringing a simple point and click adventure to life. The movie isn’t overly complex and convoluted which makes it easy to follow for even noobs, but it’s also not a watered down version to cater to non-fans. Will this movie impress casual audiences? Probably not, but they weren’t going to break box office records anyway to see this film. This is a film made by fans of the game for the epic gamers that keep the community strong. This was made for the people who attend BlizzCon each year in record numbers. This was made for the people who have invested time playing the games, reading the books, and learning about the lives of the wizards and warriors from Azeroth. This was made for the people who cosplay as the characters. Warcraft, simply put is a movie FOR THE HORDE!
As a huge fan of the video game series, I absolutely loved Warcraft. It has not only all the characters, units, and storylines of the original game properly represented, but it also has so many Easter Eggs from the sequels that fans of the real-time strategy franchise will love. Unfortunately, for those who have no clue about the game, the movie comes off as a generic run-of-the-mill fantasy movie. The visuals and character CGI look spectacular, especially in 3D, but unfortunately the acting and dialogue fell a little flat. If you are a fan of the games, then check out Warcraft as soon as you can. If you’ve never heard of the games, but do like fantasy movies like The Lord of the Rings films, then check it out at a bargain matinee.