Warcraft is a movie that I was looking forward to for a long time. I’m a six year veteran of the widely successful World of Warcraft and the world of Azeroth has always captivated me on the level of Tolkien (I know there are many who would disagree with me on this, but this is just my personal opinion). The scope of the world that Blizzard created is massive and I enjoyed and will continue to enjoy pretty much every part of the land I explore. My background knowledge of Warcraft prior to seeing the movie was quite extensive, but when I watched the movie, I threw away everything I knew and judged the film as just that: a film.
Warcraft is the third feature film directed by Duncan Jones, the son of the late David Bowie (one of the most phenomenal artists of all time in my opinion). Prior to doing work on Warcraft, Jones worked on Moon, a phenomenal and thought provoking sci-fi indie flick, and Source Code, a fun, action-packed adventure with emotional character development at its core. Given those two movies, I really believed that Jones, who has apparently been playing in Azeroth since Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (the first game in the series), could make Warcraft the first actually good video game movie. I’m happy to say that I believe this film is actually pretty good.
Critics have been destroying this film on both
Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic by given the movie bad ratings. However, I don’t tend to judge a movie based on what the critics say. I was actually really surprised with the way this movie turned out and I don’t think it deserves the bad scores that it got. While this movie does have problems, it also has plenty of positives going for it. I think if you just give this movie a chance, you can have a great time.
Let’s first talk about the general plot. There will be minor SPOILERS here so here’s your warning:
A world known as Azeroth has been invaded by otherworldly beings called Orcs, who had to leave their planet of Draenor because the world was dying. Fueled by the Fel, a powerful magic given to the Orcs by the sorcerer Gul’dan (played by Daniel Wu), the Orcs attempt to colonize Azeroth via brute force. Humans find out about Orcs and feel like the colonization is bad so most of them want to destroy them. However, there are some humans who want to work with the Orcs. The same thing goes for the Orcs. While many want to destroy the humans and control Azeroth, many want to work with the humans so that the two races can coexist. Orcs and Humans get set on a collision course with each other and the result will decide the fate of Azeroth.
Though those were minor spoilers, the rest of this article contains some MAJOR SPOILERS. If you haven’t seen the film, there are many parts of the movie that will be spoiled so feel free to exit now if you would not like this movie to be spoiled.
Now, let’s talk about the world as a whole. The environment of Warcraft phenomenally fleshed out. While it is primarily computer generated, Azeroth looks real and this is a great testament to the rapid growth of graphics technology in movies. In the movie, we see famous locations from the game like Stormwind, Dalaran, Kharazan, Elwynn Forest, and even The Blackrock Mountains. All of these locations seem like they were torn straight from the game and that made me happy, but even for a casual moviegoer, these places will look extremely nice. Every scene was breathtakingly beautiful and that made me really happy. I can’t keep talking about state of the art technology without praising ILM for the work done on the Orcs. This is some of the best if not the best motion capture I’ve seen. Orcs don’t exist so to make something that looks phenomenally realistic is truly a feat.
Speaking of the Orcs, they are amazing in Warcraft. Almost every scene with the Orcs was wonderful because of the acting/motion capture performances, complex themes and motives, and atmosphere. I say the word “almost” because there is one scene in particular in which a lot of Orcs didn’t really look too real and that was the final battle. However, I can’t really blame this because the budget would be significantly higher of every Orc in the entire movie had to be handcrafted to perfection. However, every time an Orc had to show a change of emotion, ILM made sure to show us how to really do CGI well. Durotan, Orgrim, Blackhand, Draka, and Gul’dan were all fantastic Orcs and I was able to distinguish them based on their distinct behaviors and certain details. Each Orc was given a personality and the actors played them really well. Paula Patton’s Garona was a half-orc/half-human, but she didn’t play a motion capture character. She played a really good character and showed a lot of emotion, but she wasn’t really Orc as much as she was a human. However, Duncan Jones did a really good job infusing the two races as there were behaviors of Garona that closely resembled those of an Orc.
Since we’ve just talked about Garona, let’s look at the other characters (we got a nice segway there btw). I’m going to start with the human characters.
The film’s human protagonist, Anduin Lothar, is played by Travis Fimmel. I think Lothar in this movie is played out pretty well. Sure, his character is quite cliche in that he’s a Gung ho type hero, but Travis Fimmel really looked like he was having a ton of fun. He got to do some pretty awesome things in the movie like the fights with Orcs (especially the one in Elwynn Forest). He also has this pretty epic scene in which he proceeds to take down Blackhand with one blow. Lothar also has some nice character scenes as we see with the loss of his son and his friendship with King Llane, who I’m going to talk about next. I’ve seen a ton of people on the Internet claiming that Lothar is a discount Aragorn, but here’s what I have to say: Lothar has elements that Aragorn doesn’t have like the son and some fun lines and Aragorn has elements that Lothar doesn’t have like his roguelike behavior and mysterious background. I think that while Lothar is not as good of a hero as Aragorn is, he’s serviceable to the Warcraft universe.
Next up, let’s talk about King Llane (played by Dominic Cooper). I really like Dominic Cooper as an actor and I thought that he was good in this role. I also understand that young kings can exist as many have in our own world. However, I felt that Cooper was a bit miscasted and I think an older actor would have been able to give off that wise vibe. With that said, though, King Llane is a badass king with some badass scenes. Whereas other kings watch over the battles and direct their armies from a distance, King Llane dives right into the action with the coolest sword ever. The dude had a helmet shaped like a silver lion for crying out loud. I thought it was interesting to see the king in non-royal clothing at times because that’s something that goes against the typical movie king and it added a unique feel to the character.
Lady Taria, played by Ruth Negga, was the queen and that’s about it. She said barely any lines so I can’t really talk much more about her except for the fact that she connects Lothar and Llane.
Khadgar, played by Ben Schnetzer, is a mage in training. I’ve seen from a lot of reviews that he was really miscasted and that he made the movie worse. However, I think that Khadgar as a character was fine and that there was a range of emotion. However, some parts of his story was missing. For example, there’s a part in which he talks to a group of really powerful wizards, but those wizards never show up again. If they did, the story would make much more sense to Khadgar because that scene would have actually shown his resourcefulness. I like his arc because he starts out as an apprentice and ends as a full on wizard. Even the way he gets from start to finish is nice, but the only thing that made me cringe was his unrelenting thirst for knowledge. The guy spoke like a true Tai Lopez and it made me laugh. It was pretty cool to see all the spells that Khadgar was able to do… unlike those of another wizard.
The film really falls apart for me when it heavily features Ben Foster’s character, Medivh. Like Dominic Cooper, I really like Ben Foster. He’s been in a lot of good stuff lately and I was really looking forward to his take on Medivh since he’s a prominent figure in the lore of Warcraft. However, Medivh was really confusing and I could imagine general audiences turned off during his scenes. Firstly, Ben Foster was definitely miscasted. He didn’t look like the guardian of Azeroth (the film actually calls him that) as he looks too young. Secondly, he didn’t have great line delivery. I understand that wizards have spells, but the actor should make me believe that he is a wizard by truly speaking these spells. He just sort of blandly said the spells. Thirdly, he’s mostly there to set up the future movies. This is most apparent when he talks to Garona and hints that he is her father. That scene just felt off. Fourthly, I didn’t understand why he was The Guardian. He’s supposedly friends with Lothar and Llane, but there aren’t signs that explain that. These signs are necessary for character development. They would have also came into play when Medivh becomes a bad guy because he’s corrupted by the Fel. He just didn’t seem like a good guy during the film since he was mysterious for half of the time and evil for the other half. With that said, he has some cool scenes so there’s that.
Okay, those are the main humans in the movie. Let’s get to the cool characters of the movie – the Orcs.
We’ll start with Durotan, played by Toby Kebell. This guy was the man my favorite character in this movie. He was powerful and every scene he was in was epic. Toby Kebell’s motion capture performance showed a huge range of emotion and I understood every action/decision that this character made. I really felt that he was the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan in that he was a strong ruler, but he was also a father and husband trying to cope with his son (Thrall) and wife (Draka). There’s one scene in which he jokes with Draka about the baby and that to me showed deep character. His action scenes were really cool, too. The one in which he fights Gul’dan was particularly brutal and epic.
I really liked Orgrim Doomhammer for what he was. He didn’t have many lines, but his character was conflicted and capricious, which made him an interesting character. His role revolved around Durotan. Sometimes he was on Durotan side and other times he wasn’t. I really liked the one scene in which Durotan and Orgrim are joking about the land. The Orcs weren’t so dark and bleak in this movie. There were scenes in which the Orcs were multifaceted. While Orgrim didn’t show that much range of emotion, I really liked the way he looked and the way he walked around. Rob Kazinsky, who I like a lot as an actor, acted this motion capture role very well.
I talked a little about Garona, played by Paula Patton, but I want to expand on that a bit. Her character had a ton of emotion and I really liked what Paula Patton brought to the role, which was the strength and will of a true warrior. As I mentioned before, Garona was a practical effect, but the Orc features still distinguished her character and made me believe that she was half-Orc. I wish her character was expanded on because I felt like it was incomplete in that it was missing one or two scenes that could have explained her trust in humans and Orcs both (considering she killed Llane to be the person who can bring the war between Orcs and humans to peace). However, this character gives me a lot to be excited for in the future movies.
Blackhand, played by Clancy Brown, was a cool Orc and that’s about it. He didn’t have much of a character, but he was serviceable to the plot. He was the henchman to Gul’dan, but I liked how he was more about tradition as opposed to just blindly following his leader. I especially liked the gladiator tradition scene that he had with Gul’dan and Durotan (the latter fought while Blackhand watched). I liked it even more when Blackhand himself entered a duel with Lothar as a part of tradition because that showed his loyalty to tradition over Gul’dan. He died, however, without being expanded on and that was a little annoying because it almost makes his story pointless (I don’t think his death will mean anything in the future movies).
I already talked about Gul’dan, played by Daniel Wu, but I think he was a good villain. He wasn’t great, but he had a scary look to him and I really believed that he was the reason that both Orcs and Humans needed to unite. However, he suffered from a bad case of generic villain syndrome. If you don’t know what that is, it’s when a villain wants to destroy everything and it isn’t believable. I personally know why he’s destroying stuff and getting fuel for the Fel, but the movie doesn’t explain it. The lack of explanation lowers the effect of the villain on the audience. Despite this, I still liked Gul’dan. There was one scene with Durotan that he had in which he took off his robe and revealed that he was all buff and that was awesome. It showed that he wasn’t just a villain who stood from a distance and that he was able to get his hands dirty. I also really enjoyed the voice for Gul’dan as it was really menacing.
That’s about it for the main characters. Next, I’m going to talk about some scenes that I liked and some I didn’t.
One scene that really stuck out to me was the Elwynn Forest duel. It was rough and it utilized a small battlefield as the basis for a claustrophobic war zone. The inclusion of the horses made this scene really cool since the Orcs were picking them up and throwing them. Like the Elwynn Forest duel, every other fight scene in the movie was magnificent in its unrelenting brutality and I give credit to Duncan Jones for pulling that off.
Also, I really felt immersed in the movie when there was any scene with Durotan. His character was conflicted and sentimental up until his tragic death, but I still felt that he was this overpowered Orc with a heart of steel.
Another scene that I really liked was the scene in which Lothar loses his son. The whole scene was a really cool battle between good Orcs/humans and the spies for Gul’dan (and Blackhand). However, when things seem positive, it ends in a tragedy that leaves Lothar speechless. Usually, the kid doesn’t die in a movie, but this movie changed it up a bit and I felt more invested in these characters because if this scene that made Lothar feel hopeless. This movie had the guts to kill off main characters and that must have taken guts.
There is no better scene to explain what I mean than the one in which Durotan himself dies at the hands of Gul’dan. Yes, he dies in the game, but movies tend to keep their best characters to set up a franchise. Warcraft, on the other hand, allows Durotan to be a more realistic character – one who cannot achieve his goal of bringing down Gul’dan, but one who can show others what it truly means to be an Orc. I really liked that battle and the ideological battle between the other Orcs afterwards as many chose to stray away from Gul’dan.
A scene that I really didn’t like was the scene right after the death of Lothar’s son. The writers seemed to just brush it off. I know that Lothar avenges his son in the end by killing Blackhand in the traditional duel thing, but up until then, this death doesn’t seem to affect the plot. The movie just keeps going and doesn’t take proper time to carry out the effect of the death on Lothar and the other main characters for the rest of the movie (considering Lothar’s son was part of the main team).
Overall, I think Warcraft is a good film. Sure, it has problems, but it isn’t all that bad – it’s actually pretty darn good in my opinion! I know critics are not liking this movie and that’s okay, but I don’t think that Warcraft is as bad as they say it is. If you are debating whether or not you should see it because of the reviews, I think it’s at least good if you like breathtaking visuals, fantastic action scenes, and the Orcs. On a scale of 1-10, I’m going to go ahead and give Warcraft a 7.