I’m going to be totally honest – I really was not looking forward to watching Warcraft at all. Having never played the original Warcraft games and being a long lapsed […]
I’m going to be totally honest – I really was not looking forward to watching Warcraft at all. Having never played the original Warcraft games and being a long lapsed player of World of Warcraft, a film based on its universe was not something I could foresee ever being interested in. Then I challenged myself to watch every video game movie so WHOOPS I messed up there. So the time came to finally sit down and watch all two hours of a film I had no interest in watching whatsoever. You can imagine my thoughts on it already.
No, actually, you’re wrong – I actually kinda liked it.
Warcraft is a big budget blockbuster directed and co-written by Duncan Jones – son of David Bowie – and tells the story of how the war between Humans and Orcs begun in the Warcraft universe. On the human’s side we have Vikings actor Travis Fimmel playing Anduin Lothar, a commander for the Stormwind Kingdom led by the King Llane (Dominic Cooper) who is married to Lothar’s sister. Other allies include the runaway mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) and the Guardian of Azeroth, Medivh (Ben Foster). From the Horde side we have Durotan (Toby Kebbell), a chieftain for the Frostwolves clan who are one of many Orc clans being led by Gul’dan, an Orc warlock who taps into the power of the fel magic which draws power from the life of others. Garona (Paula Patton) is a half-orc who is shunned and shackled up by her kind for being a half-breed. Other members of the Horde include Durotan’s right hand man Orgrim Doomhammer (Robert Kazinsky) and Blackhand (Clancy Brown), leader of the Blackrock clan.
The first few minutes are spent at the orc camp where Durotan is laying with his pregnant wife. The Orc world has been ravaged and they are looking for a new world to call home. Gul’dan drains the life of their many prisoners to open a portal to a new world where they have sent a warband of Orcs to gather up as many prisoners as they can in order to reopen the portal and bring the rest of the Orcs through. As Durotan’s wife passes through the portal she falls into labour and gives birth to a baby on the new world. The baby is dying however but Gul’dan uses some of his power to breathe life into the little one.
Meanwhile, Azeroth has enjoyed years of peace but that all gets disrupted due to the orc attacks. Lothar is summoned to the barracks after an attack where he meets Khadgar, a mage who was investigating one of the bodies. He was once a part of the Kirin Tor and had the ability to be a potential replacement for the Guardian but he ran away and left his duties. However, he returns to confirm that the body of the soldier had been infected with the fel magic. They go visit the reclusive Guardian Medivh who is rather spooked by the news.
A group of soldiers, led by Lothar and including Khadgar and Medivh, are ambushed by orcs and while initially are outmatched, they do an okay job at dealing with them until Medivh unleashes a powerful spell to kill most of them. Durotan and the Frostwolves are just out of the range and decide to escape, but not before Durotan frees Garona from her chains and allows her to run away. Eventually the humans knock out and capture an orc as well as Garona and are shocked to hear that she can speak their language. The other orc tries to attack her to stop her talking to Lothar but the human commander responds by sticking a sword into his head.
Garona is initially unwilling to help the humans but King Llane promises her if she helps him protect his people and his land, she can have her full freedom back. The kindness shown by the royal couple slowly but surely wins her over and she leads them to the orc camp where they are building the portal and gathering human prisoners. As Lothar goes to Stormwind to inform the King, Durotan finds Garona and Khadgar and offers her a deal – he wants to meet the king and strike a deal in order to take down Gul’dan. Durotan realises that Gul’dan was the one that destroyed his home world as the fel magic drains the life out of everything it touches. Durotan is hoping that by making this deal and killing Gul’dan he can stop another world from being destroyed as well as bring peace.
The king agrees to the meeting but Durotan is betrayed by one of his own and a squad of orcs led by Blackhand attack both Durotan’s clan and the humans. Medivh creates a barrier of lightning to help the humans escape but on the other side of the barrier is Lothar’s son Callan who is captured and killed by Blackhand in front of Lothar. The humans escape, Medivh is struggling for strength, but Khadgar notices something about him and flies off so Garona is asked to keep watch over him as his recovers. However, Medivh senses that Garona has fallen in love with Lothar and sends her to him. She comforts Lothar as the distraught commander drinks away his pain.
Durotan is branded a traitor and is captured while Blackhand destroys the Frostwolf clan. Doomhammer spares Durotan’s wife Draka and she runs off with the baby, now named Go’el. She places the basket with Go’el in it into a flowing river and then sacrifices herself after an orc finds them in order to let her baby escape. Doomhammer also helps Durotan escape despite being the one that helped Blackhand find him in the first place – he now realises that Gul’dan has to be stopped. On the day the portal is set to be activated, Durotan challenges Gul’dan to a Mak’gora – essentially a fistfight between Orc leaders to decide the leadership of the Orcs. Durotan fights with honor but Gul’dan eventually uses his magic to win and kills Durotan – much to the disgust of the orcs. However, Gul’dan uses fear to keep them in line as they prepare for war.
As this is happening, Lothar has been imprisoned by Llane after Lothar accused Medivh of being the reason his son is dead. Medivh, by this point, has been revealed to the audience to have been corrupted by the Fel and being the one who opened the portal for the orcs on this side – despite having no memory of doing so. Khadgar had travelled to his old training grounds to talk to his fellow mages after finding the name Alodi in a book about the Great Gate. The mages, initially disgusted that he’d return after running away, are shocked to find that he knows that name and take him to Alodi – a big black cube. However, when Khadgar mentioned the Great Gate the cube invites him in where an old woman (a wee cameo for Glenn Close) speaks to him and basically tells him that with the power of friendship, he could probably kill Medivh.
Khadgar breaks Lothar free and the mage leads them to Medivh’s quarters where he is now disfigured but performing the incantation to open the portal that lets the orcs through into Azeroth. Meanwhile, Llane and Garona are leading an attack on the orcs to try and free their prisoners and hold them in place in hopes that Medivh can perform a miracle for them – unknowing that Medivh is corrupted. Meanwhile, Lothar and Khadgar try to stop the guardian from performing his spell but he sets a giant golem on them. Lothar accidentally slices the golem’s head off and then leads Medivh into his magic pool where he is crushed by the golem who was teleported on top of him by Khadgar’s portal, thus ending the spell and taking down the portal. The humans briefly get the upper hand and Medivh – in his last moments – opens up a portal to Stormwind to let the prisoners escape. However, when he dies the portal dies too leaving King Llane and Garona surrounded by orcs with no real escape. As Blackhand races towards the King in order to claim that honour – Llane tells Garona to kill him herself and then work towards bringing peace between Orcs and Humans. She has a crisis of faith but she reluctantly sticks her dagger into his neck, killing the King and being revered as a hero by the Orcs. Gul’dan welcomes her back into the Horde.
Lothar arrives after the battle and finds Llane’s body – with Garona’s dagger still in his neck. However he is knocked out by Blackhand who challenges him to a Mak’gora. Lothar uses his agility to slide underneath Blackhand and slices his guts before striking him with a killing blow. Gul’dan orders the orcs to kill him but in line with Orc tradition – he won the fight fairly – they let him go. Gul’dan insists on killing Lothar but Garona stops him, warning he’ll lose the entire Horde if they kill him now. Lothar brings the King’s body back to Stormwind and at his funeral he is tasked with leading the humans – in their newly forged alliance with the other races of Azeroth – against the Horde.
There is a small scene just before the credits of Go’el being found by a human and he tried to look FIERCE but he’s just too cute.
Genuinely not a bad film I thought. Maybe it’s because I’ve had a lot of stinkers recently but I thought there was a lot to like about the film. I can see why it didn’t do well critically or financially (domestically it failed but it was a big hit in China which meant the movie made a tidy profit) but I thought it was enjoyable. Again, I’m not too familiar with the specifics of the lore of Warcraft but I at least know enough of the basics where it was easy enough for me to follow what was happening. I feel like one of the bigger issues with the film overall is that it does expect you to have that knowledge because it keeps up with a fairly rapid pace to fit the entire movie into two hours that it rarely devolves into providing lore and backstory. That helps the movie be more entertaining but perhaps means it loses a lot of people who are not familiar with the games.
I feel like the cast did fine with what they were given – it’s definitely not the strongest script I’ve ever seen but all the actors are good enough at their jobs without being too exceptional. Toby Kebbell’s motion-capture performance was really good for Durotan I felt, despite being CGI you can really see a lot of different and subtle emotions and that’s real evident at times when he clearly looks conflicted about what he is doing.
The CGI I thought was really good, really shows what a big budget can do for that, and overall I think Warcraft is an incredibly good looking movie. From the CGI to the sets and the recreating of locations that even I am familiar with thanks to World of Warcraft was realised very well. I’d be shocked if they weren’t in a film that cost $160 million to make BUT for a video game movie I’m happy to give it praise for doing it well.
It isn’t a great film by any stretch of the imagination – it perhaps needed a better script or maybe even a longer run-time to stop themselves from rushing through it all. Two hours is fine, but there’s a couple of times it probably could have used a little bit more time – the final battle between Lothar and Blackhand feels like an anti-climax because it is over so quickly. The idea is to show that Lothar is a warrior to be reckoned with even by the orcs but I feel like it just about misses the mark in feeling like a big bad-ass moment. Lothar throughout the film is played rather lackadaisically and it’s only at this point he has a full on serious moment but because it’s over so soon I feel like it could have been done differently. It’s clearly to set him up as the big hero of the second film which is almost definitely never happening. The film feeling like a big set-up for a sequel also hurts it a bit, especially since it’s almost arrogantly assuming that there will be another film thus leaving so many threads dangling.
In short, Warcraft is an enjoyable film that will not be enjoyable for a lot of people. Even a basic understanding of the Warcraft universe is preferable if you’re going into this film – from what I can tell in researching the stories of the pre-WoW games after watching the film – they do a good job in keeping it mostly in line with the game’s plot, while adding in a little Hollywood magic when necessary. Duncan Jones has admitted that a sequel is looking unlikely but he feels like the film is getting a decent following now. The critics were indeed harsh at the time but I genuinely thought this was a decent movie. Which in the grand scheme of video game movies makes it incredible.
FINAL SCORE –