The Alliance and the capital of Stormwind had their troubles, but when the unknown tide begins to rise, colored in green by a magic called Fel, the threat of war emerges as the unknown race called the Orcs invade the lands of Azeroth. This is the movie that goes into the story of those events and to be honest – it’s good.
Just as it starts the movie shows you what you’re in for. There is no generic text crawl introduction nor flashback intro explaining things about the world (although it probably should’ve been actually). There is a human on the dessert land picking up the shield and bracing himself for a surely overwhelming slam of a sledgehammer from a savage orc invader. It is followed by a small monologue about a historic conflict between humans and the orcs, but to be honest it’s nothing that you couldn’t realize already. Despite that, seeing things from the orc perspective as their stories unfold brings the meaning, and the emotional weight from the very start of the story. Unusual, but pretty refreshing and interesting to see, which could be said for the entire movie as a whole.
NOT LIKE LOTR, AND THAT’S OK!
No, it is not like Lord of the Rings nor it should’ve been. Such, more “realistic” approach would never work in WarCraft universe. Through real elements mixed with CGI filter & models ILM (a Lucasfilm company) made sure to have the best of both worlds, although more from the latter. Magic looks great although it could’ve been even better. Human armors are bulky as expected but not too much and I’d say they stroke right in the golden middle as far as proportions go. Weapons look incredibly good (got me real nerd chills) not to mention Orcs that are the obvious hit of this movie. More so, it seems that they’ve went with the mindset: “We just need to get Orcs right and everything will be fine.” Which is of course – wrong, but actually pretty understandable because if the Orcs didn’t work it would probably be it’s downfall. Still, there were plenty of other aspects that had to be right so one can only imagine how daunting task all of this was in the first place.
The Orcs are wild and extremely strong in the form compared to “fragile humans” like they should be. But do not make a mistake, each and every trait of those two races were shown and got their justice in the movie. Humans are tactically superior, flexible and creative which can caught them by surprise, but when the Orc gets a hit – it really hits! Especially when it comes to the famous Doomhamer. The fights in this movie are impactful and greatly done, which is more important than some may think. We didn’t got immersive fight scenes in WarCraft RTS games nor we got it in World of WarCraft MMO, so (not counting HQ animations) the movie was the first and only medium to give it justice. The art design in general, is simply amazing, better than in the games, better than in some previous artworks even, it is a dream come true for every WarCraft fan. Cities and locations, armors and weapons, costumes and creatures, they all look stunning! High fantasy in it’s best.
THE MOVIE WITH A HEART OF AN ORC
The two orc protagonists – Durotan and Draka are the very heart of this movie. This is where you’re start getting invested in the story right from the get go. The relatable Orc couple creates the storyline for the entire continuation of the movie and even after it’s tragic end it still leaves the legacy for the future stories. Orgrim “Doomhammer” is a flawed but very strong and interesting character to follow and is great fun during the battles. The main villain of the story, Gul’Dan is somewhat of a stereotype, but he does goes beyond it in a few cases (showing more “reasonable” side of him) and his motivations and influence are strong enough to carry the status with the right reason. No matter how controversial and wrong his methods are, the fact of the matter is; without him the Horde would be no more, so it is a pretty valid struggle. Less valid struggles are between (human and elven) mages in this movie, but when they start bathing in abundance of magic I suppose things get clouded very easily.
Khadgar was an ok character, but had more screentime that he should have perhaps (…and he definitely goes too much by “yes sir” for a rogue character). Medivh is a slight disappointment in both, writing and acting departments. He is too generic, wooden and an obvious plot device more than an actual character. Too bad considering how much have we went with him in the games. High mages are a little annoying, peering with their constantly glowing eyes. How they could’ve be done better however, is hard to say. King Llaine is a pretty decent character, he was all he needed to be in the right times, just like the queen Taria who had a small role, but served it’s purpose. Paula as Garona is fine. Hell, even too fine if you ask me. Her movements and sensual behavior seems too much, especially in certain scenes. Anduin Lothar (played by “Vikings” protagonist) was a strong, charismatic, cunning and passionate character that had all of the moments; tactical, action, funny, serious, emotional and tragic, from which the latter two are the Achille’s Heel of the character and an actor. Romance part simply did not worked and neither did the tragic part (for the human storyline anyway). It was even worse than “Tauriel and Kili romance” in the Hobbit trilogy. Yeah, that bad. It had no place there.
All in all, I’d say that the characters are a mixed bag that leans on the good side after all. Comments about not recognizing and mixing the characters are mainly ignorant garbage that doesn’t hold the water. The characters are pretty unique and distinct from each other actually. All it takes is to pay attention, but that goes for almost every movie doesn’t it?
The pacing of the movie is a double edged sword that happens to be sharper on the second edge. If you’re invested and enjoying the movie you’ll more likely enjoy it all the way, BUT if it’s not catching your interest and it all seem like a noise then it’s game over for you anyway. It definitely should’ve lasted 3 hours anyway.
The “unity storyline” seems pretty rushed and that’s a shame, but it still succeeds although it’s not nearly as impactful as it could’ve been. There is no feeling of a real drama or tragedy about the burning bridges (no pun intended) between two species.
CHANGES FROM THE GAME
I must admit, I’m on the odd side of this one. I actually liked changes that have been made in contrast to the Lore from the games. Making a movie from the original initial storylines simply seems impossible. It’s way too convoluted for a movie format and could only make sense as a gigantic TV series. The transformation of the Horde as it’s directly connected to the Gul’Dan is very simple but it also actually makes sense. True, the fact that the Draenei are featured only as slaves does not give them justice, but it’s not their story, not yet anyway. I mean, would you really expect the origin story where the demon named Kil’Jaeden addresses the orc shaman named Ner’zhul by basically saying: “Hey, see those blue people over there? Yeah well… They’re evil.” The fates of Durotan and Draka are by far better presented in the movie if you ask me. He gets his ultimate showdown while she sacrifices for the future and the legacy – better than just be killed in a tent during the raid for sure. Orgrim Doomhammer not being a Blackrock member but a Frostwolf one is a huge difference, but it worked for this movie, as it saved the viewers from the confusion and brought him closer to Durotan and Draka for the sake of the story. It could have major repercussions in the future though… In the Lore it is Orgrim who killes a Blackhand, but in this story I approve the change that that honor go to Anduin Lothar. Garona being half-human (instead of half Draenei) and half-orc is a mixed bag, just like her being a daughter of Medivh it has it’s good and bad sides. The main thing though, is that ultimately, all things lead to the same conclusion and that will keep the integrity of the movie lore in check for the future sequels.
Since it is a WarCraft movie you could bet yo ass there will be references and Easter Eggs everywhere. Many are super subtle like various wanted posters, mailboxes, potions, quest boards and various other items from the games. Also there are many scenes that are directed in a way that they parallel the scenes from the game cinematics, WarCraft III especially. Also there are certain camera angles that pay a homage to certain moments in the games. There are things and characters just wandering in the scenes, like Harvest Golem, Killrog Deadeye, Grom Hellscream etc. However though, there are still some that are subtle like a paranoid elephant in a room of glass (Yes I’m looking at you, “everglowing” Antonidas, Polymorph spell, loud Murlocs …and Wilhelm Scream).
Final verdict? Like I said; the movie with a heart of an Orc. It is pretty rough on the edges, and sure, it has a good chunk of bad stuff. From awkward and pretty rushed pacing, partially bad editing and troubles with subtilty over some bad acting parts and the bad dialogue parts to unexplained character behaviors that completely relies on you knowing what’s up with them as a fan. However, the other side of truth is simple and apparent just the same – it’s a good movie. Not amazing, not great but it is pretty good actually. It’s very high quality, very detailed, kinda relatable and fun. It has (literally) smashing fight sequences, amazing soundtrack that evokes every WarCraft feeling, an emotional and the moral weight (being suggestive) in it’s story, pretty decent character development here and there on the both sides and quite a few funny bits that hits the mark. It has it’s flaws, but in a nutshell – it is what it needed to be. It’s even good enough for multiple viewings due to the tons of details worth catching by every fan.
Will the movie impact the popularity of the games themselves and if so, how much? It certainly will, but nowhere near the level of Star Wars: The Force Awakens that it did with Star Wars: The Old Republic. Star Wars was completely refreshed and ignited the fire in hearts of the fans, where in the lack of real new Star Wars games (yes, I’m not counting mobile and kiddie stuff nor the shallow cashgrab called Battlefront) they turned to a polished and pretty upgraded Free to Play MMO where they can really develop their identity in the story and decision based open world. WarCraft is another story and another situation entirely. WoW has been in a state of decay for a quite some time and this movie’s timing was definitely wrong. Had it came out a few years earlier, let’s say… somewhere between Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, then the real fire would be ignited and WarCraft would truly became “larger than life” in terms of entertainment. Now it is kinda awkward and there’s alot more work that needs to be done. HearthStone: Heroes of WarCraft will probably benefit the most, just like it has been so far, being Free to Play and casual to it’s very core. However, for all the hardcore lore fans it’s either new subscription to WoW’s expansions or the long and uncertain wait for the eventual, possibility of WarCraft IV, which wasn’t mentioned, hasn’t even been teased yet, let alone announced.
Popcorn level – 7 / 10
In any case, my own saying “Better late than never.” perfectly goes with this movie in general. Still very worth watching, so if you’re a fantasy fan, make your research, go for it and enjoy!