Ever since the 90’s, a lot of movie studios tried their hands at adapting a videogame for the big screen. The now famous attempt of bringing Mario into the film medium have somewhat created the reputation that now surrounds all videogame movie adaptations: There seems to be a curse, that holds these movies back and there’s yet a good one to be produced. But is Warcraft the movie to lift that curse? Or is it just going to strengthen it?
Now, first things first: My experience with Warcraft as a videogame franchise are limited. I played the first and the third game of the RTS franchise and a couple of hours of the MMO. My experience with the lore is thus limited. I went to see the movie with two friends who are less familiar with it, but their judgement of the movie was pretty much the same. With all that out of the way, let’s review it:
Orcs are invading Azeroth in order to conquer new lands, since their homeworld is dying. They need a lot of prisoners in order to open a gate to bring in even more orcs. It’s a simple premise that is very character driven and overall it works well enough. It gives the viewers a nice understanding when it comes to the motivations of the fractions at hand and lends the movie a decent pace. The movie tells its story from two different perspectives: the human side is mostly presented from the viewpoint of Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a military commander of the kingdom of Stormwind, who also happens to be the brother of the queen. On the Horde’s side, we have Durotan (Toby Kebell), leader of the of the Frostwolf clan, who tries to save his people and more importantly his own family.
It’s a smart choice that the movie only focuses on Humans and Orcs. While dwarves, elves and other races do mke appearences, they don’t have much impact on the actual plot. I say this is smart, since the movie already has its hands full with setting up the universe, the characters and the plot. During the first 20 minutes, we jump around a lot: from location to location, from character to character. It’s during these initial moments that I feared the worst, because it felt like this movie wasn’t coming together as a cohesive whole. But when all the pieces were put in the right places and the plot picked up, my enjoyment of the movie improved drastically. This is also because the motivation for each character is very clear, even if they are not the deepest: Durotan wants to protect his clan and his family, which is why he strives for an alliance with the humans. Lothar pretty much wants the same thing for his side, making him something of a mirror for his counterpart. What makes the movie interesting is, that they both encounter struggles during their quests, which gives them full-fledged character arcs that actually work quite nicely.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of scenes that feel too short for their own good. Dialogues seem cut of, especially those between Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a young mage and Medivh (Ben Foster), the guardian, which is disappointing, because there’s a dynamic between the two characters that is only hinted at. Same goes for Lothar and Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton), where some sort of romance is only hinted at, which feels underwhelming since the characters don’t spend enough time together in order to really set that up. It hurts the drama in the last third of the movie, but not enough to completely negate it. Thanks to the performances of the actors – Paula Patton fits her role nicely, even with those ridiculous teeth -, I’d say that most dramatic moments actually work quite well and there are a lot of intense moments happening by the end that really got to me. Same goes for my two friend watching the movie with me, which really shows that the film works, whether or not you’re familiar with the lore.
When viewing the trailer, I was worried the CGI would be underwhelming, but after a couple of minutes, everything felt right. Durotan is so well animated that all the emotions are conveyed perfectly. During battles it all comes together quite nicely too, especially since the magic cast in these scenes is really colourful. Speaking of the battles, the battles are well paced and not overly long. They hit a sweet spot where they don’t overstay their welcome and give each character something to do. I’d say it manages to balance the characters out evenly, which really helps cementing their roles in the universe.
I give this movie a 7/10! I enjoyed it way more than I ever expected and while it’s not great, it’s good enough for me to say that I think the curse is lifted. I had way more fun than I ever expected. Hopefully, Assassin’s Creed will be a good follow up!