Once again, I apologize for how tardy this review is. Personal financial problems are currently being resolved and I should soon get back on track. But enough of that boring shit, time for the real reason we’re all here!
Uh oh. That’s what’s usually said by any gamer whose favorite video game is getting the Hollywood treatment. There has never really been a good adaptation of video games, has there? Even the most popular, like MORTAL KOMBAT, didn’t have the hyper violent fatalities. It was a very light PG-13 borderlining on a hard PG. Over a decade later and the curse has never really been broken. Maybe RATCHET & CLANK could be considered the best, simply because it did look and feel like a Ratchet and Clank title, but even that was just okay. But now it’s time to break out the big guns, yeah?
I myself am somewhat familiar with the Warcraft license. I’ve played WARCRAFT III: REIGN OF CHAOS as well as its expansion, FROZEN THRONE, but only briefly played the MMO (massively multiplayer online), WORLD OF WARCRAFT. Still, I definitely wanted to see this movie. The trailer was also pretty promising. It looked like Warcraft; sexy. I had pretty high expectations going in, but was bracing for disappointment. Was it a battle that Lich Kings will remember for all time, or was it something that a Peon would squat and push out? This is my honest opinion of WARCRAFT.
The orc Horde homeworld is destroyed. Their only hope for survival is to settle in a new land, led by the powerful orc mage, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu). That new land is Azeroth, inhabited by denizens such as dwarves, elves, and the predominant humans, ruled by the benevolent human King Llane Wryne (Dominic Cooper). However, Gul’dan’s portal, which is powered by the taken lives of human prisoners, meant to cross over to Azeroth is too weak for the entirety of the Horde, so only a select few of the mightiest warriors, such as the war chief Durotan (Toby Kebbell), and a few others can cross over. Their goal, bring more human prisoners to power the portal enough to bring through the Horde and lay waste to Azeroth to build their new home. Of course, Durotan thinks that Gul’dan is mad with power and will eventually destroy this world as well… something he doesn’t want for his wife Draka (Anna Galvin) and their newborn son. Meanwhile, as the orcs ravage human settlements, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), one of the King’s finest commanders and personal friend, investigates an attacked village from the orcs and eventually comes across a human mage, Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer). While Lothar is untrusting of the mage, he’s brought to the King, whom is convinced to seek aide from one of the most powerful mages in the land, Medivh (Ben Foster), due to the human corpses having traces of fel magic, a dark and forbidden form of alchemy, and only Medivh can hope to figure out how to stop the orc Horde from amassing and wiping out the kingdom.
And the curse is officially broken. It’s no CITIZEN KANE, but I think this was exactly what was needed for video game adaptations.
Probably the most important thing that any adaptation needs to get right is to make the movie look and feel like the game and that trailer did not lie. Everything seen is Warcraft. The orcs are massive and bulky. The human armor looks fantastic, the mages that use magic look awesome, and the armies that charge feels just as epic as any intense action scene from the game. I was so gleeful to catch glimpses of elves and dwarves. While the elves looked great, I wonder why the dwarves had to be CG. I mean, over ten years ago, we had John Rhys-Davies as Gimli from the Lord of the Rings franchise. He didn’t need to be CG. Why did we take a step backwards in that regard? Not to mention a first look at a dread lord…. I’m sorry, I need my best friend’s neck to throttle in excitement because dread lords are the shit. And you non-gamers have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.
Speaking of awesome mages, Foster practically makes this movie for me. I have loved Foster’s career since the TV movie BANG BANG, YOU’RE DEAD, all the way through to Disney’s FINEST HOURS. When I heard he was almost starring in this as one of the most interesting characters from the Warcraft gaming franchise, my nerdiness exploded everywhere and he delivers Medivh like a boss. Medivh is a powerful mage who is supposed to be Azeroth’s finest protector, but gets corrupted by magic that he wasn’t prepared for. Doesn’t stop him from taking part in big battle scenes and calling down a flurry of lighting bolts. That was too cool.
I suppose that properly transitions to the best part of the movie, its look. Never mind that it looks like Warcraft, but it’s probably the most unique looking fantasy film since Lord of the Rings. Seriously, name another movie that looks like this. The movie isn’t overly dark, so there’s not a lot of heavy shadows and nighttime scenes talking about ominous shit… okay, they talk about ominous shit a lot, what fantasy film wouldn’t, but the film isn’t afraid to make those scenes take place during the daytime against a pretty landscape. This was also pretty smart in its own right because we do see the orcs take in the sights and make a connection with the land that they are about to steal for themselves.
Which brings me to another great aspect of the film, the characters. Okay, so we don’t get Hamlet characters, but some are pretty well written. What is it with these types of characters who are so violent in nature, but have this understanding that life should be treasured that makes them so bad-ass? This is the case of Durotan. He’s damn awesome. A big ole honkin’ titan of a guy who is a loving husband and father. And the chemistry he shares with Draka is feels pretty genuine. Offbeat, sure, what with them punching each other and laughing about it, but you accept it because they’re orcs. That’s just who they are. It also helps that it’s never mean-spirited. He may not be complex, but he’s a good guy and it’s easy to see his side of things.
But I will be damned if I don’t talk about the best written character in the movie: Garona (Paula Patton). Not exactly the best name to give her as I kept thinking her name was Corona, but that doesnt take away the fact that she is actually a pretty sympathetic character. She’s this half human, half orc woman who is mistreated by the orc Horde, collared and leashed and all that. But when she gets captured by the Anduin, she’s taken prisoner, but she’s treated kindly, which clearly sparks some trust in these people she knows very little about and even develops a kind of friendship with Anduin and a itty bitty romance with Khadgar. Eh, truthfully it’s more like Khadgar has a thing for her, and she just sort of, “Yes, I see you eyeing me, human. Keep it flaccid.” In fact, the ending is probably the most impressive thing about it.
The big climax is nearing the end. The army of Azeroth is holding back the Horde as the humans are saving their people that weren’t sacrificed by Gul’dan via a portal to their kingdom. Earlier in the story it was revealed that if she were to kill someone of royalty then it would give her much honor among the Horde. It’s in this moment that the King asks Garona to kill him so she can have that honor and be in a position to bring peace between the orcs and the humans in time. Of course as she kills the King, that’s when Anduin arrives and he is completely without context and just simply assumes that Garona killed him because that’s just who she is. She obviously feels horrible for what she’s done, but she goes with it knowing that there is a chance. But of course Anduin is later crowned King, so there is a heavy implication that the war between Orcs And humans will continue so it actually does make for a very exciting sequel; that there’s still going to be conflict. It would have been too easy to give this a happy ending, but they’re ballsy enough to let it continue its own story.
But with all the praise I have for the movie, there are a few… ehs.
Anduin is a pretty stale character. Remember that guy in the movie 300, the best friend to Leonidas who fought with his son who gets super decapitated? Yeah… that’s basically his character. He’s a father, his son fights in a battle too, he totally gets killed, now it’s time for vengeance. He’s not an annoying character or anything, but there’s nothing to him. Same kind of goes for Khadgar. He’s kind of annoying, but not in the way you might think. He’s that guy who constantly tries to find a way to be useful, only to be brushed off by everyone… until the last twenty minutes anyway, but you kind of feel sorry for him in the mean time. I don’t want to feel sorry for anyone here, I want to empathize. Not quite the same thing. He isn’t the best written bloke in the story. Shame about these average characters, as the actors are not half bad and kind of make it work.
Also, how is that only Durotan thinks that Gul’dan is a total hairy vagina? He’s a power hungry psychopath that has control of some wicked powerful dark magic, you can’t convince me that he’s literally the only one who had red flags going up, which is probably the biggest issue I had with the story.
I think if you’re a fan of fantasy films and expect a fantasy movie, you’ll get exactly that. It’s definitely a film for the fans, but if you go in wanting to see big battles, awesome magic, and some decent characters, I think regular folks will like it. Personally, having limited knowledge of the lore, I could still follow the exposition, and I was still interested in what was happening, making the core action all the more exciting. I definitely call it a good movie. There’s plenty of improvements that can be made, but you can tell that there was effort put into this film, which is a hell of a lot more than SUPER MARIO BROS. or STREET FIGHTER can say. I fully enjoyed this movie and want to see it again. High recommendation for fans and fantasy lovers everywhere.
My honest rating: a strong 4/5