Warcraft: The Movie

69%

“A respectful and worthy extension to Blizzard’s World of Warcraft franchise that rewards the existing fans and draws in new ones”

nsm_Rating-Warcraft

Having done a years’ worth of dating with my future wife, running around on World of Warcraft, I’ve been very excited to see how this would translate to the big screen.  I thought the resulting movie is fantastic!

I didn’t discover Warcraft until around 2008, whilst the gaming franchise goes back as far as 1994 when they first released their PC game.  This then grew to the Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that it is today, with major content updates happening annually, with a gaming base of about 5.5 Million subscribers.

The movie tells how humans and orcs first meet and it doesn’t go well.  The acting is good with strong real and CGI performances across the board.  The world of Azeroth is beautifully rendered and true to the source material.

Warcraft is unashamedly a sword and sorcery movie, and a total treat for fans of the fantasy genre.  It achieves far more depth, energy and engagement than any of the D&D movies.  The storyline is strong and consistent, with a lot of effort taken to develop characters and their motivations.  There are strong performances across lead and supporting roles, with nice easter eggs for World of Warcraft fans.

This film balances big action scenes with strong personal stories, although heavily contained in the fantasy genre which won’t appeal to everyone.  To those that like that sort of thing, it is a fantastic result with high re-watchability.

Stop now if you don’t haven’t yet seen the movie… this one is worth watching.

The film opens on an warrior facing off against a chained orc, in a dusty dry landscape.  The scene finishes with the orc hammering down on the shield of the poor human.  This is the only inconsistent part of the movie to me – as it doesn’t tie back to the rest of the movie, especially given that the events of the film seems to have happened a time beyond memory from when the orcs first arrived.

We quickly move onto the big introduction of the orcs, hundreds gathered in anticipation of their attack on a new world accessed via an inter-dimensional portal.  Gol’dan, the mage leader of the orcs, unlocks the portal using the life essence of captured victims by tapping into the ‘Fell’ (a ‘dark side of the force’, type magic).  We also meet Durotan and his heavily pregnant wife, who join the initial invasion party.  Having successfully made the transdimensional journey, Durotan’s wife gives birth and, with the aid of Gol’dan’s magic, the newest member of the orc clan is declared to be ‘a new warrior for the Horde’ – roll title!

The movie then introduces us to the humans, with brief introductions to other races – such as Dwarves and Elves.  You quickly see that this is a rich fantasy world, with the fastest form of transport between places by Griffin.  We also see a different form of magic, the ‘good’ magic used by the humans, and their Guardian – a powerful magic user who has lived for many years and travelled to distant worlds.

Newcomers to the Warcraft world need no background information to enjoy the film – although for those that do play World of Warcraft, there are many easter eggs to enjoy (for example, watch for the murlock fishing near the start of the film).  To suggest that you need to be a gaming fanboy to enjoy this, is like saying you need to be stockbroker to watch the Wolf of Wallstreet.

The CGI is fantastic.  The Orcs are as well rendered and believable as any modern Hulk or Star Wars alien, each with their own distinctive look and character.  The associated acting is also strong, and this makes for characters we care about and believe in – unless you’re the type that can’t or doesn’t want to believe.

Medivh, the Guardian of the human’s, becomes one of the central story characters, as we get to know his powers and history.  His personal story is balanced against that of Durotan and that of Garona – a half-orc who ends up working with the humans as she starts to understand their world.

The big plot twists are clever and well timed.  You are given clues to lead you down one path, only to make you then doubt yourself later.  Medivh’s internal battle (and the related external battle) and the self sacrifice of Durotan are powerfully delivered, without taking the simple ‘good always wins’ way out at the end.

Go watch the film, and go play the game.  Both are worth the investment of time.

I try to balance my personal views by considering a mix of elements when coming up with a rating for a film, based on the following areas:

  • Respect Source:  Does the film respect the source material, if applicable.  Does it reward those who are already invested in the characters and world that the movie represents?
  • IMDB:  The world’s largest collection of movie information, the International Movie Database also allows its users to vote on films.  The addition of this element represents the popular vote – at the point in time when I did the review.
  • Rotten Tomatoes:  RT is well known for offering professional critical review on films and seems the most appropriate way to represent that portion of the viewers.
  • Actors:  Here I try to consider how well the actor plays their part – it’s more about the people bringing the characters to life, rather than the wider story.
  • World: This rating represents the world in which the movie takes place – does it enhance the story, or detract?  Is it consistent, or does it leave big gaps?  It’s all the things happening around the actors.
  • Production:  This element considers the direction, production value, set design, writing, etc – here I try to consider all the technical elements that may or may not be in front of the camera.
  • My Rating:  What does my head and heart say about this movie, as soon as I come out of the movie theatre?  It’s the gut reaction vote.

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