Last night I got the opportunity to do something I have been waiting 10 years to do: I got to see the Warcraft movie. Like many gamers, I was trepidatious about what I was going to see when I sat down in the movie theater. So many critics, and so many fans as well have torn this movie to shreds. Therefore I had a lot of questions: Would this live up to the concentrated cool esthetic that pervades all of Blizzard's video game properties? Would I enjoy it? Were the critics right ot pan it?
Beware: While I am doing my best not to spoil the film, I will be talking about some elements of it, including settings and characters. For those who haven't seen the movie yet, this might be considered spoiler territory, so I advise caution.
First a little background: I started playing Blizzard games in 2005, with World of Warcraft being my first entry into their gaming catalog. I fell in love instantly, and there have been few games I rank higher than WoW on the gaming leaderboard of my heart. I have a rediculously long /played, and have never taken a break for longer than a few weeks from the game. In 2007 I wrote about WoW for a website known as WoW Insider, then later for several other sites as well, including this one. I've interviewed a half dozen Blizzard developers, always focusing my questions around the lore of their games.
I tell you this for a couple of reasons. First, so that you know that I come to this movie as a fan. Second, so that you know that while I played portions of Warcraft III and have watched all the cinematics for Orcs and Humans, I did not play the game itself. So I sort of represent the target audience for this movie: Someone who loves WoW and has been eager for the movie since the first time I heard it announced, sitting in the crowd at Blizzcon 2006.
Alright, down to the nitty gritty: The movie itself. I liked this movie, but I did not love this movie. By Elune I wanted to, but there were a few things that held it back from being a great film and instead make it a solid action fantasy flick, worth seeing on the big screen. First is what I've heard from other critics who are also familiar with the franchise: This movie tries too hard to reference its world. There are at least three locations that are unnecessarily tossed into the beginning of the film that clutter up your introduction to the world. While my little geeky heart loved seeing Goldshire Inn, Ironforge, and Stranglethorn Vale on screen, their inclusion into the story was very confusing.
For example, the first time you meet Lothar he is standing in Ironforge getting a gun, where he learns there has been an attack. Why did we not see this attack, and skip Ironforge entirely? Next we head to Goldshire Inn, where apparently the entire royal guard and the king and queen have packed into the common room because reasons. These scenes are included while others that are intrical to the plot are missing, making me think there was a richer story here that was cut in favor of adding more fan service to the movie.
My second gripe was with the portrayal of Garona. Much of the plot hinges on this one character, and yet she spends most of her time either speaking and acting like a cave man, or mooning on the verge of tears because she has a terminal case of the feels. The love plot added to this movie feels completely shoe-horned in, and whatever chemistry they attempt to show between her and Lothar seems incredibly forced in contrast to the natural chemistry budding between Garona and Kadghar. Since the writers feel like they need an emotional center to this movie, I would much rather have Garona's emotional awakening be with Medivh, who they hint at strongly as having a connection to her. The scene between them spent most of its energy with trite dialog about love, when it could have been about two characters really connecting on a deeper level than romance.
I also have a problem with Garona having a complete lack of agency in her actions. Throughout the movie she is led, she is not a leader. Even her culmative act, one I will not mention here, would have been so much more powerful if it had been her making the decision. The Garona I know from the games is strong and intelligent, crafty in ways that no one in this movie really acts.
I think some of this isn't just the overacting by the actor, of which there is plenty, but also the general concept of the character. Fake teeth do not an orc make, and I really wish they had played up more of her orc origins in her character design. Drakka by contrast is a much more interesting character, and although being an entirely CG woman her motivations are incredibly authentic and moving.
Needless fan service and weak Garona aside, there is much to love about this movie. The orcs are all amazingly real people, every one of them a joy whenever they are on screen, and that goes doubly so for Gul'dan. He's a truly terrible villain, and one that feels very true to his own motivations, even when they come in conflict with the people he is trying to lead. Durotan and Ogrim are beautifully realized, and I sort of wish this were a buddy flick that focused all of them -- and then featured a sequel that focused on Kadghar and his journey. Because I kinda think Kadghar is the best thing about this movie.
Did you see Warcraft? What did you think of their adaption of the first game in the Warcraft franchise? Let us know in the comments below.