3 Reasons to Like the “Warcraft” Movie

This weekend I saw the movie Warcraft, which is based on the World of War craft video game. I found out recently that it’s directed by Duncan Jones, who also directed one of my favorite films, Moon. That surprised me, because from the trailers, Warcraft is nothing like Moon — but it definitely made me want to see the movie even more!

Since I haven’t played World of Warcraft, I had no idea what I was getting into it. I knew it was a fantasy and featured some big, brutal-looking orcs. That’s it. My expectations were medium — it was probably going to be entertaining in that forgettable way that action popcorn flicks tend to be.

But I have to say, I kind of loved this movie. It totally exceeded those expectations. Here’s why I think it’s worth watching.

The CGI is Awesome

warcraft-durotan-side-by-side-558x600.jpg
Read more about the CGI and see pictures of the actors on Collider here and here.

Pretty much half of Warcraft‘s characters are orcs, a fantasy race with occasionally green-ish skin and hulking muscles. At one point in the movie, a human man picks up the finger of an orc, and he has to wrap his whole hand around that one finger. That’s the kind of scale we’re talking about. Orcs are big.

The orcs are CGI, and honestly, this is the first time I’ve seen CGI done in a way that makes me forget all about it. Usually, it sticks out or features movements that just don’t look realistic. In Warcraft, it is presented perfectly. Each orc is given individuality, including roughed-up characteristics that add to the realism. One has a cut lip. Some have long faces and others short. Their teeth are different shapes and sizes. Each has different hair and accessories. You can kind of even see their pores. They’re not exactly pretty, but the realism of the actors’ portrayals is evident in every movement and expression. Industrial Light & Magic did a great job here.

The Characters are Well-Developed

wcm01I want to get to know these Warcraft characters more. The writers (Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt, and Chris Metzen) spent time developing them and their backstories. Despite the fact that some of their stories are told in cute little “So this is my sad story” campfire chats works just fine for me. It’s not the most exciting way to tell a story, but it feels traditional somehow, and I appreciated getting to know the characters.

Seeing Durotan, chief of the Frostwolf clan of orcs, at home with his pregnant mate in the very first scene is a strong way to kick off the conflict. Now, you have the added subplot and motivation for these characters: They are having a baby, and that’s dangerous as they march into war looking for a new home for him.

The acting in the film isn’t anything remarkable, but I enjoyed the actors’ performances and found some of the orcs’ to be especially memorable. Durotan, played by Toby Kebbell, gave my favorite performance.

16654-warcraft-movie-two-new-postersThe script isn’t always all that strong, but it doesn’t mean the characters are bad. For example, there’s a line where Garona, upset when a knight says he’ll protect her, says, “I need no one to protect me!” which is just one example of a corny line and even tired characterization for a strong woman character. She’s actually awesome. The script just doesn’t always do her justice.

The film is also very moving. I guess that surprised me a little, coming from an action film where I don’t even know the lore. The focus on characters made the story more emotional for me. For example, human military commander Lothar has strong relationships with his soldier son, with the mage Khadgar, and with the orc Garona — all of which affect the story and his personal catalysts. The people he trusts and the losses he suffers shape him throughout the movie.

The Story is Surprising

487579.jpgThe basics of the story are this: The orcs world is dying, so they travel through the Dark Portal to a new place, Azeroth, land of the humans. The underlying problem is that fel magic, used by the leader of the orcs, requires draining life energy from people and the land to power it. That explains why the orc’s previous world is dead. And when the human mage, Guardian of the people and pal of the king, is corrupted by fel magic, the war brewing between orcs and humans gets a lot more complicated.

warcraftstills0003Despite not knowing anything of World of Warcraft lore going into the movie, I felt confident in understanding the basic worldbuilding in place here. The film does a great job of dropping terms and brief explanations without overwhelming the viewer or bogging down the script. The movie’s pace remains quick, yet it’s so cool to walk out of the theater feeling like you just downloaded a whole bunch of awesome Warcraft knowledge. I’m curious how true to the game it is, and what fans think of it!

My favorite thing about the story — besides the focus on characters that I mentioned — is how surprising it is. There are are great plot twists and oh-no kind of moments throughout the movie. It’s very much about each character’s honor, as well as strength in the face of corruption.

Without giving away anything major, I’ll just say that I left the movie feeling like I had a strong sense of the characters’ motivations, based on things that happen at the end of the film, and it was exciting and messed up all at once.

Now I’m ready for a sequel.

— Ashley

11 thoughts on “3 Reasons to Like the “Warcraft” Movie”

  1. I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I hope to soon. Maybe later this week. I’m really glad you enjoyed it even though you’re not a fan of the games.

    The way you describe it does sound very typical of Warcraft. It’s a franchise with a lot of rough edges, but there’s a heart and passion to it that’s truly special.

    I won’t be able to clearly answer how accurate it is to the game until I see it, but I can already note a few changes. The cast seems a lot younger than it was in the original concept (perhaps not surprising for Hollywood). Lothar, Llane, and Medivh were all supposed to be at least forty or so. Lothar never had a son. I’ve read a couple spoilers, and I know the ending of the movie is very different from the First War was supposed to have concluded. Most of the changes don’t bother me, but the different ending dismays me a little. I think it would have really made an impression on audiences if they’d had the guts to go through with the original story.

    On the other hand, I can see a lot is faithful. The Orcs’ backstory, from what I’ve seen, is very accurate, if a little simplified for the movie. The look of everything is spot-on. I love how Durotan looks like Thrall (his son, who is actually a much bigger figure in Warcraft lore than his father). The clips I’ve seen of Gul’dan look incredibly good.

    If you want to learn any more about Warcraft lore, let me know. I love talking about it. Maybe a little too much, honestly…

      1. It’s… complicated.

        The movie is an adaptation of the original game, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, which came out in the mid-90s. I was playing it before I learned to spell my own name. It also draws some inspiration from the novels set around that time, especially “The Last Guardian” (which is EXCELLENT) and “Rise of the Horde.” So in the sense that it’s an adaptation of the first game, it’s the start of the lore.

        But of course since the first game they’ve retconned in a tremendous amount of backstory before then. As of Warcraft III, the history of Azeroth stretched back ten thousand years, and these days it goes back even further. So they call the events of the first game the First War, but it’s something of a misnomer because Azeroth has seen many major conflicts before then. Most notably the War of the Ancients, but also the War of the Satyr, the Troll Wars, the War of the Shifting Sands…

        Warcraft lore is vast.

        I’m so having to restrain myself from writing, like, an entire book explaining it all to you. I love it so much. :P

        1. Oh okay. I didn’t realize the story was based on any game (or that it has been told before in some form). That’s very cool. I liked the story a lot, the world-building seems really fascinating. I doubt I’ll ever play any Warcraft but I always enjoy good fantasy!

          1. Ooh Ashley if you like fantasy and you have time to read a short book from Warcraft, read Arthas. I hope they make it into a movie. Thank goodness this film succeeded overseas!

            1. Eh… I don’t know. Much as I love Christie Golden and WC3 era lore, I didn’t think “Arthas” was a particularly good book. It’s definitely not something I’d recommend to someone new to the lore, since you’re just jumping straight into the middle of everything. Honestly if you want to know Arthas’s story, just play Warcraft III. It’s a lot better than the book, and it still runs pretty well on modern systems.

              If you’re totally new to Warcraft, the best place to start would probably be “The Last Guardian,” “Rise of the Horde,” or “Lord of the Clans.” Those are all really good books, fairly early in the lore, and not too heavily steeped in wider lore.

              1. Addendum: Actually, if you really want to learn the lore, the best bet would be to get either the “Warcraft Archive” or “Chronicles of War” anthologies. Those will give you a good grounding — they include several of the books I mention above. “Chronicles of War” is good because it will give you basically the entire storylines of the first two games. It’s only downside is it doesn’t include “Lord of the Clans,” which isn’t necessarily essential reading but is a really, really good book and totally worth reading.

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