Movie Review: Warcraft

Also known as Warcraft: The Beginning, this film based on Blizzard’s phenomenally popular MMORPG which used to be an RTS series is extremely pretty but suffers from an incoherent plot and an uncontrolled urge to be spectacular at the expense of just about everything else.

Cast and Crew

Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar
Paula Patton as Garona
Ben Foster as Medivh
Dominic Cooper as Llane Wrynn
Toby Kebbell as Durotan
Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar
Robert Kazinksy as Orgrim
Clancy Brown as Blackhand
Daniel Wu as Gul’dan
Ruth Negga as Lady Taria
Anna Galvin as Draka
Callum Keith Rennie as Moroes
Burkely Duffield as Callan
Ryan Robbins as Karos
Dean Redman as Varis

Story by Chris Metzen
Screenplay by Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt
Directed by Duncan Jones

Premise

The Orc’s world Draenor is dying. The mage Gul’dan uses the life energy of Draenei captives to open a portal for a warband to cross into Azeroth. Once there, he intends to capture large numbers of the natives and use their life energy to open the portal again to bring the entire Orc Horde across to their new homeworld. One of the warchiefs within this advance party, Durotan, begins to have doubts about the use of such magic – called the Fel – and the price it demands.

In Azeroth, a young mage called Khadgar is found examining the bodies of some villagers killed in an Orc raid. He discovers that they were killed by the Fel, and insists that the King summon the Guardian, Medivh, as his power will be needed to counteract such terrible magic. Lothar and Medivh lead a party to investigate these invaders and find out more about them, but they are attacked and only escape when Medivh manages to turn the Fel against the Orcs. They are able to capture a half-Orc woman, Garona, who helps them start to understand the terrible threat that faces all of Azeroth and what they’re going to have to do in order to stop it.

High Points

  • Lothar’s fight with Blackhand
  • Computer-generated scenery porn, delivered regularly
  • Griffin vs Orcs is an awesome bit of pure-CG glory

Low Points

  • The Alliance council scene is people being self-interestedly arrogant according to all the clichés you’ve ever read or seen on screen, presumably to make sure the humans are in sufficient peril but really it just makes them look like entitled idiots
  • Lots of scenes cut away too early, you want to find out what is going to happen but you can’t because it won’t show you. As the film progresses, it starts to feel like that’s the only way they could think of to maintain any sense of tension
  • Garona gets saved in battle twice, very conspicuously, by men. She’s seen doing her fair share of killing, but then becomes the damsel in distress at random moments for no apparent reason
  • Everyone just forgets about a certain antagonist still being around, presumably because they’re under orders to leave him for the inevitable sequel
  • The final scene is made largely from cheese and overused tropes
  • Medivh’s character origins and development are criminally neglected throughout the film

The Scores

Originality: I don’t know how much of this story comes directly from the backstory of World of Warcraft, as I’ve never seriously played anything since WarCraft III. Thus I’m going to judge it based on that of a casual observer of the Warcraft universe. There are some interesting ideas here, and it does put a bit more nuance than usual on the idea of invaders from another world, especially as the plot develops. It doesn’t follow through very well, but that’s something to deduct from another score. 4/6.

The effects are mostly exceedingly good. The various cities and locations are rendered beautifully, and they feel like the locations in the games. The Orcs themselves are CGI creations of great detail and effectiveness, although they occasionally betray themselves in that slightly weightless lack of physicality we have become so used to seeing in modern films. The biggest problem with the effects it that they tend towards excessive spectacle on numerous occasions, and this is where they usually break down. Smaller-scale magic looks amazing, but some of Medivh’s larger works degenerate to looking too fake, possibly because of their sheer implausibility. 5/6.

The story is an incoherent mess. There’s no other way to put it. I suspect a number of other scenes would be required to fully explain what’s going on here, and I’m sad that they weren’t included, even though the film is quite long enough as it is. Since it’s clearly meant to be the first part of a series the story doesn’t even finish properly, and the conclusion such as it is makes little sense even given what comes before it. I think there is a good story in here somewhere about Medivh and Gul’dan and the nature of the Fel, but I’m sad that it wasn’t given a chance to be told properly. I’m also sad that the triumphant final scene is about as predictable as the sun coming up in the morning. 2/6.

The acting comes up short largely because the script is pretty poor. These may be a supremely talented cast, but by and large they don’t manage to get much out of a script which leaves them little room for proper expression before it whisks us away to another scene. What the actors do almost universally well is their interactions with the large number of things which wouldn’t have been there when they were filming, especially the Orcs in their performance capture rigs. 4/6.

The emotional response is weak. As the film developed (and more importantly failed to develop) I became more and more indifferent to everything going on in front of me and started wondering when it would end so I could go and eat some chocolate or something. 2/6.

The production delivers visual spectacle, the feel of Warcraft and the chaos of battle extremely well. Sadly it backs this up with distinctly uninspired music and some very jumpy, slightly uncomfortable editing. 3/6.

Overall, this film could have been good, but it isn’t. 1/6.

Warcraft receives a total score of twenty-one out of forty-two.

What They Left Out

Spoilers be here!

Honest.

You’ve been warned.

 

So the thing that the plot really starts to turn upon is Khadgar’s discovery that someone must have helped the Orcs open the portal from the Azeroth side, and the subsequent discovery that this mysterious helper was Medivh, possessed by the Fel. Medivh claims that he’s sorry, but he can’t remember what he’s done while under the Fel’s power, but we have absolutely no clue at any point as to how he came to be infected by it, what it really is, and later on why Khadgar was strong enough to resist it. There’s a bit of waffle from Khadgar’s conversation with Alodi, but that was seriously lacking in anything substantial.

Sadly I think this information is vital to understanding what is left of the plot in the film as shown. Medivh as fully possessed by the Fel is described as a “demon” in one line, and certainly looks like a demon, but what is a demon in the Warcraft world? Why would a demonic force want to bring the Orcs to Azeroth?

Why doesn’t anybody seem to be interested in these questions? I appreciate they have surviving to do, but they don’t even want to stop and think about it afterwards.

The film I would have liked to see would involve Medivh encountering the Fel and slowly succumbing to it as even he remains unaware of what’s happening, then trying desperately to do something about it before it takes him over completely. There are hints of this throughout the film, but too much is left unsaid and unspoken and unexplored, and in the end I don’t really understand how the middle of the film really hangs together, let alone the extremely odd things which happen at the end.

I understand that there is a substantial amount of content which was cut before release. This might not have helped, but then again it’s possible it explores exactly the things I think are lacking, and therefore I’m going to hope that an extended Blu-ray release is on the cards so that we can find out one day.

6 replies on “Movie Review: Warcraft”

  1. So, the plot of this game is basically adapting the first Warcraft RTS – Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, fairly closely. I say “farely” because the first two Warcraft games didn’t have any real named “hero” characters on either side – those weren’t introduced into the Warcraft franchise with Warcraft III (which in turn took the concept from Starcraft).

  2. Brian says:

    Apparently, the Chinese are seeing the movie in droves, so the chance of a sequel is becoming much more likely.

  3. JD DeLuzio says:

    Griffin vs Orcs is an awesome bit of pure-CG glory

    *Hrumph*. Is it as good as this?

  4. Blackadder says:

    This movie follows the story of the first Warcraft game from the 90’s. The movie characters presented were in the game but were talking heads providing minor points of back story as part of the why you are about to do this mission stage. The movie does gloss over the Fel and the demon in Mediehv but because I am a warcraft nerd … (this is extremely summarised and may be minor detail inaccurate)

    10000 years before the movie, a demon race called “The Legion” was attracted to and attempted to invade Azeroth. They were defeated and were looking for a way to return.

    Azeroth was not the only world the Legion was attempting to conquer and while they lost on Azeroth they won on others. As part of attempting to conquer Draenor they infused Gul’Dan with the blood of one of their demon leaders and imparted to him the power of the ‘Fel’.

    Gul’Dan became the first Warlock. Warlocks used life energy from others and sometimes themselves to harness magic. Using this power Gul’Dan offered the Blood of Manaroth to the other Orc tribes. The frost wolves under the leadership of Durotan refused but most other tribes agreed. This is why there are red and green orcs. The green orcs were those exposed to the Fel and this became a hereditary condition.

    The Orcs were a race to whom war was a continual way of life. Each tribe has a chieftain and these chieftains follow the leadership of a warchief. The ability to challenge for leadership is via a duel ritual called the Mok’gora. This was considered sacred to the Orcs and as a side note Gul’Dan had prior to the movie never been in one.

    Meanwhile on Azeroth, the Council of Silvermoon was dedicated to preventing the return of the Burning Legion to Azeroth. This group of High Elves created a secret order that comprised of a mixture of the Azerothian races and created the Council of Trisfal. The Council of Trisfal harnessed the magic of Azeroth and appointed a guardian to protect the realm in the case of the return of the Legion.

    70 years before the movie, the guardian Aegwynn battled the legion demon lord Sargeras, one of the prime leaders of the Legion, and ultimately prevailed. Sargeras last counterstroke was hiding his essence in her unborn son Med’iehv. Med’iehv became a host avatar for Sargeras and the rest is in the movie…….[/spoiler]

    The game World of Warcraft is set about 35-45 years after the movie and the expansion set for August this year is looking to be a final confrontation between the player characters and the full force of the Legion.

    • Blackadder says:

      Can someone please spoiler most of my post from the end of the spoiler section to the “and the rest is in the movie…….” please

    • Matt says:

      Okay some of that should definitely have been in the film. You can’t havo an adaptation to another medium which leaves out some of the really important bits of backstory. Especially when exploring them would have made the plot more interesting!

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