Title: Warcraft / Warcraft: The Beginning Production company: Legendary Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment & Atlas Entertainment Distributed by: Universal Pictures Directed by: Duncan Jones Produced by: Thomas Tull, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Alex Gartner & Stuart Fenegan Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Clancy Brown Release dates Australia: June 16, 2016 United States: June 10, 2016 Running time: 123 minutes Rating: Pg-13 (US) / M (Australia)
Warcraft is one of those weird borderline films. On one hand, it’s getting ripped to shreds by the critics; on the other hand, it’s a really well done movie that brings the epicness of the World of Warcraft onto the big screen. I’ll say this straight up: I do not know if I enjoyed it for the fantasy movie it was made as, or as someone who has a deep knowledge of Warcraft lore that I was able to get more out of seeing it than the common person. Luckily for me, I had my family to use as “the common people” as none of them know much about Warcraft other than it’s a game I spend waaaaaaaay too much time playing on my computer. I’ll let you know their thoughts more at the end of the review; but for now, let’s head through the Dark Portal and enter the movie version of the world of Azaroth.
Story Overview The story is the very beginnings of all things Warcraft. Gul’dan, an Orc Warlock, gathers with a Warband of Orcs which include key Orc Chieftans like Durotan, Orgrim Doomhammer, Blackhand and others to lead the Warband through The Dark Portal into the world of Azaroth since the world of the Orcs, Draenor, is completely dead. Durotan is able to sneak his pregnant mate, Draka, through the portal with him. Draka begins to give birth in the transition between worlds, leading to a still birth of her child. Gul’dan uses “The Fel” (aka Fel Magic, a dark source of magic that uses life as a fuel) to return the child, later named Go’el (Who would, long after this movie, become Thrall), back to life.
From here, we get a lot of things happening all at once. We’re introduced to The Alliance side of the movie. Characters like Anduin Lothar, the Guardian Medivh, the mage Khadgar and King Llane Wrynn are introduced to us. Khadgar and Lothar are given a lot of screen time as they are our mains for the story. They take the time to track down Medivh in Karazhan to explain the corrupting touch of Fel Magic and the arrival of the Orcs. Following the trail of Fel Magic that Gul’dan and the Orcs have left in their wake, we get the first big battle scene and a Half-Orc Half-Human called Garona is captured by Lothar and Khadgar.
More exposition follows from Garona. She is able to convince King Llana Wrynn, Lothar & Khadgar to meet with Durotan after Durotan sees how the Fel Magic is corrupting the Orcs. More violence follows between Orcs and Humans as Orgrim Doomhammer betrays both sides to Gul’dan, who in turn made the meeting into a trap. Lothar loses his son to Blackhand, who lost his hand in the first fight between the two sides. This creates a personal point to the fight between Lothar & Blackhand.
Medivh reveals that he is corrupted by the Fel Magic and loses himself completely to the dark magics within him, leading to him helping Gul’dan in his plan to reopen the Dark Portal and bring the rest of The Horde through to Azaroth. Khadgar returns to the Korin’Tor (The Mages that reside in the floating city of Dalaran) and meets a secret spirit that helps him gain the knowledge to defeat Fel Magic. Meanwhile Gul’dan gives the order to destroy and kill The Frostwolf Clan, which Durotan is the Cheiftan of. Draka is able to escape from the extermination of her clan and is able to place the baby Go’el into the river before being slain herself.
Once again we get a final fight between Orcs and Humans in front of The Dark Portal while Khadgar and Lothar confront Medivh at Karazhan. Medivh turns demonic. Blackhand is changed by a gift of Fem Energy from Gul’dan. Khadgar defeats Medivh, who in his last moments of life, helps the humans escape during the battle with the Orcs. Garona, with a plea from King Llane Wrynn, kills him in order to secure herself a high standing with the Orcs. Lothar, not knowing this, flies in and get’s Llane’s body before getting captured and forced into Mok’Grah (A one on one fight to the death) against Blackhand. Lothar defeats Blackhand and leaves with Llane’s body.
The film ends with the funeral of King Llane Wrynn. Lothar takes up Llane’s sword and vows to hunt down Garona and the Orcs to the ends of Azaroth, creating The Alliance. Elsewhere, a baby Go’el is found by a family as they travel near the river.
Characters Travis Fimmel as Sir Anduin Lothar: Since this character is the one that we spend the most time with, I’d say it was a really good performance from Travis in that regard. He was steadfast and came across as a natural warrior and leader. We could have done without the forced “connection” moments between him and his son in the story as it really didn’t need to be there. Otherwise, the eyes of Lothar are the best ones to see through this story. Paula Patton as Garona: A weird addition at this stage in the story. The character of Garona served as a bridge between the two races. There’s no real explanation as to why she is the way she is, nor do any of the other people in the story care. But the performance was solid from Paula. She came across as someone who was stuck between worlds without actually fitting in with either of them. Ben Foster as Medivh: For someone who played a recluse. Ben’s Medivh was chewing the scenery. He always came off as someone who didn’t always know what he was doing nor did he even seem like he knew anything about the character he was. His performance only get’s good in the third act when he turns against the heroes. This is mainly because he’s meant to be acting like a ham. Dominic Cooper as King Llane Wrynn: All you need for this character was to act like you are in control of everything during a time when the world around you is falling apart and Dominic nailed it. He came across as royal but kindhearted, especially to Garona for no real reason. A solid performance. Toby Kebbell as Durotan: A large and logical Orc, Toby’s Durotan came off better than the versions we’ve seen in the games. Every moment the character spoke, he sounded kind and wise, but also tough at the same time. It’s amazing to see a huge CGI Orc emote so much, and I believe a lot of that had to do with the way Toby spoke as the character. An exceptional casting choice. Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar: I know this character has a huge history in the games, but you got the perfect example of a young mage with a lot of power but not the knowledge needed to make the most of it. This was done really well and not in such a way where he came off as comic relief, which is how a lot of other movies would have cast the role. Ben’s appearance was a bit off putting at first, but by the end of the movie you really were cheering for the characer to succeed. Robert Kazinsky as Orgrim Doomhammer: Coming off as a second banana to Durotan might sound like a bad idea, but it really worked well. An Orc of tradition, Orgrim is one to stick to his clan and believed he was doing the right thing. After the betrayal by Gul’dan, he was done. His character didn’t do much besides try to back up Durotan’s claims against Gul’dan. A real shame since Robert’s performance was really subtile but good. Daniel Wu as Gul’dan: Evil personified. Nuff said. Gul’dan used Fel Energy to corrupt the Orcs and bring his plan of having a new home for the Orcs to destroy to fruition. Daniel’s voice just oozed evil with every word to the point of being chilling to listen to. Loved every minute he was on screen. Clancy Brown as Blackhand: A huge Orc who loses his hand due to a gun blast from Lothar. He really didn’t do much except smash things and growl. He was there to give Lothar some personal stake in the finale of the movie and did that really well. Clancy couldn’t do wrong here and didn’t. Callum Keith Rennie as Moroes: I just love that this character was included in the movie. He’s one of the first bosses you would find in Karazahn’s raid zone. Here, he is the main helper to Medivh and that’s it. So Callum did well in that role. Shame the story didn’t show him in his undead cursed form that we’ve all seen in the game.
There were also other noted characters in the movie like Grommash Hellscream, Kar’Gath, Lady Taria Wrynn, Draka, a young Varian Wrynn, a baby Thrall, King Magni Bronzebeard & Lothar’s son; but all are so minor or unnoteworthy (As is the case with Lothar’s son, who is used to give us a moment with Lothar himself through his son’s death) that I can’t really say anything of there performance other than that they were in the movie.
What Worked Just about everything I can think of worked. The world looked amazing. Areas like Stormwind, Ironforge and Karazahn are huge and look great. The aesthetics in general are just breath taking. There’s been no expense spared here. The Alliance armor looks both fantasy yet so detailed that it looks too good to be true. The Orcs actually look like there were 7 foot – 8 foot Orcs on the sets with the human actors. At no point during this movie did I think that there were CGI creatures on the screen. The Orcs had size, weight and were just THERE! I can’t praise the CGI crew for this film enough, as everything they made just looks great and helped to create the world of Azaroth on the big screen. The casting choices for the characters looked and sounded like their in-game counterparts, some even doing a better job than the ones Blizzard hired for the game. As a fan of the games, I can’t really find much fault with anything I saw in those 2 hours.
What Didn’t Work As a movie fan, there’s more than a few plot holes in this film. It could be the amount of characters that just suddenly appear and we’re just meant to accept them as they are (Garona for example is a huge reason I think this way). The plot seems to be all over the place as we juggle 3 stories in the one act; and the sudden jump cuts from one story to another all of a sudden do not help at all. To be honest, everything to do with Garona just didn’t sit right. No one explained why she is a Half-Orc, Half-Human creature, why she knows all languages, and is just accepted too easily by King Wrynn and everyone else for something that is completely unknown. Another thing that hurts the film is that it’s not very forgiving to people who know nothing about the Warcraft lore, and it gets them lost very quickly.
Final Thoughts As a Warcraft fan, I loved the movie. Everything just worked for me as I could hear a name or see a location and just know what was going on. However, this didn’t help my family who got lost a few times during the film and I had to explain who Gul’dan was, more about Fel Energy and how it worked, and pretty much all things Orc related. But it didn’t stop them from enjoying the film either. Mum in particular loved the whole fantasy world that it created and wants to know and see more, so I’ll be giving her a set of Warcraft novels to read over time. My little brother loved the movie as it was full of action and the Orcs were amazing to see on screen. Overall, it seems like the critics who panned this film due to it not being as good as Lord of the Rings (Seriously, what film could live up to that level?) are just being a bunch of dicks. I highly recommend seeing this even if you aren’t a Warcraft game fan.
To be honest, it’s quite easy to write this movie off due to it being a version of a video game. But if you give the movie a chance to let you get lost in the world, it’s very enjoyable… It might help to have a Warcraft lore fan or World of Warcraft player on hand to fill in some gaps.
A great world to get lost in if you give it a chance