Review of Warcraft: The Beginning

warcraft-the-begin

The quest to deliver a hit video game movie has eluded studios for many years. Not even a party of epically geared adventurers could complete such a quest… much less hack filmmaker Uwe Boll. MMORPG maestro Blizzard Entertainment has however decided to give the challenge a shot. Perhaps their fantasy tale can do for video games what Spider-Man did for comic books? Their talent for gorgeous cut scenes does seem to indicate that they can craft convincing CG effects and even more promising is the recruitment of Duncan Jones behind the camera. He is an excellent director, as anyone who has watched Moon or Source Code will attest to.

OVERVIEW

Based on the popular RTS and MMO games, Warcraft: The Beginning brings the conflict between Orcs and Humans over from PC monitors to the cinematic big screen. The movie begins on the dying world of Draenor, which the Orcs call home. In order to escape certain extinction, Orc warlock Gul’dan uses his unholy Fel Magic to open up a portal that leads to the human kingdom of Azeroth. He instructs his brutish minions to cross the gateway, where they begin claiming the human territory for their own. Unable to convince the neighbouring dwarves and elves to aid them with defence, Azeroth’s troops struggle in fending off the physically stronger invaders. Why can’t they just f-orc off and leave us in peace?

Spearheading the protection of Azeroth’s borders is knight champion Sir Anduin Lothar (played by Vikings actor Travis Fimmel) and Medivh the wizardly Guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster sporting a Jesus like beard.) Just like the video game it is based off, Warcraft isn’t a simple good versus evil storyline. Both sides in the conflict have their fair share of compassionate characters. It could be argued in fact that CG horde chieftain Durotan is ironically more fleshed out than many of his live action co-stars. Presented as a loving father and honourable leader, Durotan offers to help Lothar fight against his own kind when it becomes apparent that Gul’dan’s life sapping sorcery could be the cause of his homeland’s demise.

VERDICT

My rating for Warcraft: The Beginning is a three out of five. It’s one of the better video game movies I have seen, even if that isn’t saying much because the competition in that genre is so weak. Despite the lengthy two hour running time I was never bored, as interesting plot and emotional character moments were weaved in between the action packed scenes featuring armour clad swordsmen and bulky brutes from another dimension. The movie isn’t perfect, but all things considered I think Duncan Jones did a good job handling a film of this scale. Quite an accomplishment given that two of Jones’ relatives were afflicted with cancer during the filming process and how he had to contend with Blizzard’s interference, which had previously dissuaded Sam Raimi from helming the movie.

One thing I disliked about Warcraft was how CG heavy it was. Apart from the human cast, most of the environments and characters are computer generated. Couldn’t the elves and dwarves at least be actors in makeup? Paula Patton for example looked convincing as an Orc half-breed with just the use of green skin paint and prosthetic tusks. Some more humour would have been nice too, as World of Warcraft is a funny MMO. The movie treats itself too seriously, despite some moments of levity by bumbling sorcerer Khadgar. All that said, I think the movie is fine. I wouldn’t mind watching a sequel, although a follow up may be unlikely due to the flick’s poor US box office earnings. Thankfully anyone who liked Warcraft has the option of learning what happens next by reading the novels and playing the games. Keep away from World of Warcraft though. As a former addict, I must warn how that game can take over your life!

16 thoughts on “Review of Warcraft: The Beginning

  1. Durotar the orc that sired Thrall :D. It would be very interesting if they did the night elves story vs the burning legion. The fall of sargreas is a must if they do!!!. I’ve been meaning to give this movie a shot as I really do love the WC lores (GW2 lore as well).

    • Thrall is only a baby in this film, as it is set during the events of the early RTS games. There’s a lot of cool material that could be adapted into future movies, but only time will tell if it gets a sequel. Warcraft made tons of cash in China, but was a flop in America.

    • Games are becoming more and more cinematic these days, with a heavy emphasis on story, so I’m not sure why many movie adaptations turn out crap. Comics suffered similar problems so I think we just have to wait for one big hit to get the ball rolling.

      It’s probably best that you don’t watch this film. You can’t afford getting hooked on MMOs, as you already have an Amiibo addiction to overcome ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. It’s funny, my wife and I were discussing this movie just today. We did just see Assassin’s Creed though, so there was context.

    It seems almost like a curse when trying to adapt video games into movies that they end up having so many issues. If I were to pick one I thought was good, I would say “Wreck it Ralph” but that doesn’t count does it? ๐Ÿ˜›

    I’m almost surprised sometimes, because games like Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft especially have some really rich backstory that could be drawn from. I had high hopes for Warcraft, but alas, the script itself had a lot of problems.

    I only went to see Grom Hellscream anyway ๐Ÿ˜›

    • A lot of people had high hopes for Assassinโ€™s Creed, but the reviews haven’t been great. Wreck It Ralph was fine, although I wish the famous gaming stars would have gotten more screen time. They didn’t do much apart from what was shown in the trailers.

      • Haha, I was kind of joking about Wreck It Ralph as it was a movie set in a video game rather than a video game adaptation, so the writers/director could do whatever they wanted to make it a good film. Probably wouldn’t have been as good if the adapted Q’bert or something.

  3. Video game movies are usually terrible. I never got a chance to watch this because I’m not a WoW fan, but I think it might be worth a watch on Netflix when it eventually goes there.

    Nice review.

    • Yeah, most moves and anime shows based on games tend to be below average. I think it’s only a matter of time before we get a good one though, as studios are starting to invest big bucks and talented actors/directors into these projects. At the very least there will be less rubbish adaptations as Uwe Bolle has retired ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. I didn’t see this as I’ve got no real interest in the Warcraft series and the film’s trailer didn’t do enough to convince me. Sadly, on the basis of what I’ve seen, Assassin’s Creed won’t be changing anything.

    It’s odd because today’s games are increasingly plot driven and cinematic so you would think that someone would be able to come up with a formula that works. Perhaps it’s the fact that games (obviously) are more interactive so the gamer invests more in their character over a longer period of time and films just can’t recapture that same level of investment within a 2 hour run time.

    • Time constraints could be the issue. Many of the RPGs I love have awesome stories, but they wouldn’t work as a movie because you cannot squeeze forty hours of content into a film. Perhaps studios should start with something simpler? An action flick based on a shooter or beat-em-up, with the right talent behind it, would be more accessible than cramming so much WOW lore into a feature film.

    • Probably not. Technically speaking the events of this film are based on the real time strategy Warcraft games. Staying away from WOW is a blessing in disguise though, because it has been known to consume the lives of players. Some parents have neglected their kids to play the MMO and someone died after playing WOW for many hours without sleep or food.

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