It was back in the mid 90’s when I would gather my computer setup and spend every few weekends with a group of friends as we would have LAN parties, playing various computer games like Command and Conquer: Red Alert, Duke Nukem 3D, and of course, Warcraft 2. While I barely remember the first game in the series, I remember playing a great amount of multiplayer in its second entry. I didn’t play much of its third game and my time spent with World of Warcraft itself was minimal. I don’t recall much, if any, of the lore surrounding this franchise, and maybe that’s why I enjoyed the movie as much as I did.
Director Duncan Jones brings the series back to the events of the first title as Warcraft starts at the origins of the Orc and Human feud, showing the start of what would eventually become a divide between the races. While I am sure most of this isn’t exactly canon to the games it is based upon, I felt the setup here worked well and felt natural. The story itself is about an Orc clan chief named Durotan that feels that Gul’dan, an Orc Warlock who sends the Orcs to the Human world, to conquer it, is lusting for power and not there to protect the Orc race. Having just become a father, he sets on the path to ensure the safety and survival of his family and his people. The Human characters, just learning about these Orcs, are unsure of their motives and treat them as hostile, doing what they need to do to also ensure their survival.
Not going into this movie knowing the lore was actually great for me as it allowed certain characters motives and moments to be a surprise. Which characters would do this-and-that and what would happen to certain characters were all parts of the movie I didn’t know would be coming. It was nice to see certain characters act in ways I wouldn’t have thought they would and for me, it made the movie more enjoyable. On the flip side of that coin is I can see those events being enjoyable as well to people who knew the lore, so they can see big moments of the lore take place.
This movie had a few odd casting choices that I didn’t really agree with. Dominic Cooper felt a bit odd as King LIane Wrynn and I just didn’t buy into his role as King. His Preacher TV series co-star Ruth Negga, as Lady Taria, also didn’t come across as Queen material as well. Both of their acting was on point and well done, but I just didn’t see them as a regal couple at all. Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar was quite good, but as he is the focal point of the Human side, He didn’t carry the movie as well as I hoped he would. He is fantastic in this role, but lacked the impact I hoped he would have. Ben Foster as Medivh was great here as well as Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar, both of whom are magic users, with this being Schnetzer’s first big acting role. Blink and you might miss it, but screen legend Glenn Close is in the movie as well, and even has a few, but greatly important lines. Many of the knights surrounding Lothar have a few lines here and there but are very throw away characters here.
On the Orc side of casting, there is only one character that is played by an actual person and that is Paula Patton as Garona. I really wished that she had bigger tusks and didn’t come across as being too conveniently human looking. I understand that she is a half breed, but she looks far too human here. I really liked her in the movie, but felt she didn’t embody enough of her Orc side. Toby Kebbell as the main Orc Durotan is fantastic here and I was surprised at how his character’s arc resolved. Daniel Wu as Gul’dan the Orc Warlock was very cool and I enjoyed him immensely. His character design is easily my favorite in the movie and every scene he was in was wonderfully handled. There are a few other Orc characters, like Orgrim and Blackhand, but they only really have a few lines or are there to just fill a quick purpose.
My favorite element to the movie was its use of magic and the visuals that came along with it. I’ve always been disappointed with how magic has looked in movies, even in films like The Lord of the Rings, as its use of magic is very simplistic and not very ‘showy’. The magic here is colorful and visually pleasing. Each spell is impactful and flashy, making it feel more mystical and special. There is a large focus on magic here and I was beyond happy with how it was shown.
There are some pacing issues early on in the movie as you jump from scene to scene and location to location just too quickly. After a short while the film takes time to breathe and allows their actors to showcase why they are there and show off their impressive CG.
Having an entire force of CG creatures to take on the live action Human characters could have failed to impress, making the whole movie just fall flat, but it didn’t as the Orcs themselves look great. I did feel that their interactions with the real actors wasn’t as good as it could be, but the CG used to create the characters is some of the best I have ever seen. The Orcs, especially Durotan and Gul’dan have a fantastic amount of detail. Human armor looks like real fantasy armor and the weapons used here have really nice designs. The Orcs ride giant mounts, like a huge White Wolf and it’s one of the coolest creatures in the movie. I hope in the future of these films that the combination of real life elements and the CG ones mesh a bit better to just elevate this series to greater heights.
Warcraft has been getting very mixed reviews, with people either saying they enjoyed it, hated it, or just passed it off as ‘just okay’. I thought overall that Warcraft was a very enjoyable film. Does it have issues? Sure, but do I see a film here that deserves all that hate? No. There are many different aspects of fantasy films that I enjoy. Certain types of characters, designs and the visual look of magic can make me forget about problems a film may have. While I have enjoyed a vast selection of fantasy films like The Lord of the Rings, King Arthur and Season of the Witch, among others, there are elements here in Warcaft that I feel surpass them all. While in no way am I saying that Warcraft is a better film than Peter Jackson’s epic series of films, I am saying that there are parts of Warcraft here that I enjoyed more.
While Warcraft does fall into many fantasy cliche’s, it has fantastic battles, awesome CG and its use of Magic is unrivaled in the genre. The story itself is fairly ok, but at least it is extremely easy to follow. I never felt lost despite knowing next to nothing about the lore here. I did feel that certain characters felt out of place, or just didn’t have the impact I expected from them. I had a great time with Warcraft and while the movie won’t get me to play the games, I am excited for the potential future of this fantasy film series.