The first PC game I ever really got into was Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness. Many an afternoon I spent tying up my parents phone line to direct dial my buddy across town so we could play 2v2 against the computer AI in Blizzard’s masterpiece RTS. Warcraft 2 would set me down the path of being a Blizzard fanboy, which I still am proudly to this day. I’ve sunk years of my life into the Blizzard franchises, Starcraft, Diablo and none more than Warcraft. I was there Day 1 for World of Warcraft and though my playing habits have changed throughout the years, you can bet when a new expansion hits I’ll fire up my old paladin and gallivant around the world of Azeroth for a few brief months at least.
The Warcraft movie was long rumored among Blizzard fans. It seemed natural that a world built on heroes, story, quests and adventure would translate well to the silver screen. A movie though is still a movie, and a game is a game. A good summer blockbuster movie needs a strong script, interesting visuals, and probably most important good acting. Warcraft shines at moments in these three places, yet also falters regularly.
First off lets talk the plot. The movie decided to basically go with the story of the first game as its plot device. This is the story of the mage Medivh, know as The Last Guardian, and his lust for power that ends up opening the path between the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor that would setup the conflict of Orcs vs Humans for years to come. While it does make sense to start at this point in the Warcraft timeline from a “lets start at the first game” standpoint, the problem with this part of the timeline is it only involves Orcs and Humans. Warcraft has become a world full of interesting beasts and races, Dwarves, Dragons, Trolls, Undead, and countless other interesting beings. The story of the Last Guardian ties us down to only Orcs and Humans being around for anything more than a cameo and I thought that was a real shame. If we can get past this I thought the plot was pretty serviceable. There is an incredible amount of name dropping going on in the beginning of the movie, if this was done just for the hardcore fans, thats cool, but I’d be curious to hear what a non super fan thought of all this and if it was distracting. One other complaint I suppose was there isn’t a lot of closure going on with the story. It comes off as an Act 1, if we’ll ever get Act II and III in movie format remains to be seen.
Where Warcraft shines is the visuals. The orcs have been fully photo realistically rendered and they look great. Skin is hard to get correct and orcs don’t wear a lot of clothes so the digital artists had there work cut out for them, but seemed to be up for the challenge. The art direction they went with the orcs were to make them pretty massive, they were all about 7 feet tall with 3 foot wide backs, which were weirdly featured a lot by the way, I hadn’t seen that many back muscle shots in a movie since Tom Hardy’s Bane. The environments looked pretty accurate from the game world although they didn’t get a chance to go to any real interesting places as the story took place in probably the most generic part of the world, a forested land and a barren mountain. We caught glimpses of the Dwarven kingdom of Ironforge and few shorts of the streets of Stormwind as well as the floating city of Dalaran. I wish the movie got a chance to breathe in these places a little more as they looked amazing. Much of the movie takes place in some rather boring armory and throne room interiors which sadly have a green screen background quality about them. Overall though, Warcraft was a great looking movie and if a sequel gets made I look forward to the series expanding to some more exotic locales that make the Warcraft universe unique.
Lastly I’ll talk about the performances. The lead character Lothar is great. He is charismatic and you’ll end up liking the guy, the other humans though are pretty bland. The king doesn’t really look like a king but just some guy with a bad haircut. A King in a fantasy world should be an imposing figure , this guy looks like he’s about 160 lbs soaking wet, I just never got the battle hardened king vibe from him at all. The mages aren’t much better, the young mage, Khadgar, is a total dipshit and the older mage Medivh is introduced to the audience as a shirtless hippy sculpting a clay golem. I wish they would have spent a little of their budget on casting a few bigger names or took a little more time on finding people who looked the part. The acting , to the their credit, was for the most part was fine.
The main Orcs, Durotan and Orgrim have a lot of personality and its interesting to see the real performances come through their digital avatars. The main antagonist, Guldan, was also a standout. He oozed pure evil and looked the part as well with bones spikes and glowing eyes. Also I have to give a shoutout to the Lothar’s gryphon, he had the best fight scene in the movie , just wrecking a squad of orcs while Lothar was chilling in the foreground of the shot.
If you’re a Warcraft fan, you’ll dig this movie, otherwise I think you can safely wait it out. This is a great world to do some world building so I hope the movie does turn into a franchise cuz the potential is there for a great 2nd and 3rd movie within the rich tapestry of the Warcraft world.