Warcraft movie: the Blizzard gamer’s perspective

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Find out what a self-avowed Blizzard fan thinks about the new Warcraft movie!

The Warcraft movie has taken 10 years to come to life since it was announced, it took only four months to film, gestated another two years in post-production, and as a result it feels like a lot of story changes or iterations happened to make the movie kind of disjointed. Since 1994 the Warcraft brand of games have given us a world rich in history, characters, and locations where a person can be imprisoned for 10,000 years, banished from their own homeland but Duncan Jones had only two hours to integrate us to this brand-new world, have us fall in love with characters, and actually care about the story which was going to be an uphill battle to present, in any coherent way, to general cinemagoers looking for entertainment.

Surprisingly enough, I never played the original Warcraft games as my first introduction to Blizzard Entertainment was the original Diablo in 1997 and, shortly after, StarCraft in 1998. As much as I enjoyed Diablo, I was blown away with StarCraft so much that when I saw Warcraft on the shelf I actually thought it was a poor imitation of StarCraft to capitalize on the popularity of what I thought was the original game!  Imagine my shock years later when I learned Warcraft was the original! Flash-forward to 2005: I had just moved to Arizona and my new co-workers would talk every day about their adventures in some game, and I eventually joined them in World of Warcraft and I enjoyed playing that game almost every day for five or six years! I know you’re looking for a review of the movie, but I wanted you to understand where I am coming from as a major fan of the franchise and the company having played their games for almost 20 years and enjoying the BlizzCon event almost every year they have had it!

What else can you judge a movie on, except the trailers that get put out before you actually get to see the film? The first trailer seemed to be trying to emulate the Tolkien-esque roots the game was likely born from, and that is not a ding against it, but it just never seemed epic enough.

There was no big bad, there was no journey, there was no good versus evil; for me there was really nothing you could take away from the trailer except it is a generic looking medieval fantasy movie with no plot or story that I could make out.  Do not even get me started on the second trailer with what I can only call some kind of dubstep music which was flat, not even the right tone, and of course not even going to be in the movie!

I think that Legendary and Universal should have tried to market the movie a LOT more like Lord of the Rings because the movie obviously shares the same DNA but we really did not get any hints about how close the two are in scope. Anyways, let’s get on with the review!

First off the movie looks simply fantastic in the IMAX 3D format! It seemed like every single spell being cast was coming at us leaping off the screen, and some of the scenes flying through the clouds looked amazing! After seeing the movie I can understand why the movie spent 2 years honing the special effects and just how much work went into all of the motion capture details!  You might think that the special effects would hide the actors and their performances, but Duncan and the team really made the effects enhance the performance, so that the CGI backgrounds and layered mocap didn’t take anything away from the scenes.  Some of the battle sequences were incredibly done, so that they were violent and really did not shy away from the fact we were watching the opening salvos of a war between two factions!  Then, Gul’dan!  He came off pretty well as a central force behind the Horde and while you might not know why he was doing what he was doing, you could understand that he was an evil force akin to Grima Wormtongue manipulating things behind the scenes in those Tolkien tales referenced previously while having another master he was being manipulated by.

So far you would think it was a perfect movie, but not so fast. I did enjoy the movie as a huge Warcraft fan, yet there seemed to be a few things out of place here and there! A minor quibble of mine, is what I will call it “The Curse of Bane” after Tom Hardy’s character Bane in The Dark Knight Rises where it was extremely hard to clearly hear his voice and make out what he was saying. I found myself struggling to hear what the orcs were saying at times, which would take me out of the movie experience while I was trying to think about what they said, and obviously the tusks that the actors appeared to be actually wearing gave them a “natural” speech impediment on purpose. That is a small thing but what is harder to swallow is how stilted the story ended up being.  Part of that is because there are so many questions that movie-goers will have: what happened in the past of Azeroth to bring about peace, what was going on in Draenor, why Lothar is called by that for the entire movie except for one scene where he is called by his first name Anduin before going back to being called Lothar for the rest of the movie, what happened to the Frostwolf clan before and after the events at the foot of Blackrock Mountain, what is the Guardian guarding against and why does Medivh have that role?  All of this introduces gaps in the story where things happen for a reason, but that reason is never shown to the audience so either the impact of scenes are greatly reduced or you don’t know why a plot point goes from point A to point B. Remember those battle sequences I was talking about? How they were violent and showed us the war?  That is a great asset, but it is also a burden because the scenes were short, choppy, few and far between, and way too fast paced so it was actually hard at times to keep track of what was going on. As fleshed out and spectacular as Gul’dan was, I felt that the Guardian Medivh was kind of a generic hippie wandering from scene to scene sapping any energy the movie was trying to build up. Basically, I had to ask myself if the movie made us care what was going on and that answer was unfortunately no, not really.  Since there was no time invested in building up the world or the characters when something happened, we were like a disinterested third party when things were happening on the screen.

For those World of Warcraft players there were a lot of little things that aren’t quite Easter Eggs since they are in plain view, but are very much treats for players in the know, like the Dwarf from the original cinematic, boomsticks from an early quest on your way to Ironforge (which was a reference to Ash and the Evil Dead movies), a very obvious murloc, the Dark Portal looking exactly like it did after opening to Outland, a mage spell which I won’t give away (but it was probably the funniest part of the movie), the ceiling of the throne room is the in-game world map, we got to see different types of elves, and it was really cool to see places like Goldshire and the Elwynn Forest for Alliance players (probably more so for the Horde when they were destroying and conquering it) and to hear references to places like the Redridge Mountains where you might have spent a few hours questing!

Overall score: 7.5/10 – Yes there are rumors that about 30 minutes of the film landed on the cutting-room floor, but I feel like whatever version of the film we had should have been able to stand up on its own without needing a Director’s Cut a few months after release. I was worried when I saw the international trailer subtitled the film The Beginning that we would be getting something that really was just a lot of setup for another movie which if this doesn’t perform well, we may never see get made. I enjoyed this as a fan of the franchise, but recognize that it might not work for everybody given how some of the movie doesn’t make sense in places.

What might have worked better instead of bringing the story to the big screen is to work with one of the various cable channels like HBO, Showtime, or AMC to produce a Game of Thrones analog where there would have been a lot more time available to get invested in the characters, learn the story, and really care about the events we see happening. If I had my choice, this is how it would have gone:

Episode 1 – Welcome to Azeroth – an introduction to the world, where we learn about the main characters from Stormwind and Ironforge, and find out what history goes into a lot the relevant storylines. Maybe we would even get a chance to visit Lordaeron to setup storylines for future seasons.

Episode 2 – Do You Believe in Magic? – an introduction to the Kirin Tor, who the Guardian is, and why he exists, make Khadgar the actual apprentice of Medivh (like he was in the original story), and build up that relationship so it has more power.

Episode 3 – Understanding History- an introduction to the history of the Night and Blood Elves, the original invasion of the Burning Legion, and the forces behind both.

Episode 4 – Uniting the Clans – an introduction to the orcs and Draenor, and seeing how Gul’dan worked to get the orcs together and united to invade Azeroth.

Episode 5 – Through the Dark Portal – here is where we actually see Gul’dan’s plan come to fruition and see the repercussions of it on the people and places of Azeroth.

Episode 6 – Khadgar and Garona – we’ve already met both characters, but this gives us a better chance to see both sides reacting to what is going on, and show the relationship building between them.

Episode 7 – Orcs and Humans – further escalation and advancement by the orcs, with the human forces marshaling to meet the enemy.

Episode 8 – Internal Strife – cracks are forming in the resolve of both sides of the conflict, leading Durotan and Llane to question what is going on, and why this is happening.

Episode 9 – A Deep Breath – Khadgar is learning more about the invasion from all sources while Garona works to get a meeting between leaders in place.

Episode 10 – Loss and Betrayal – A fateful meeting is held which changes the course of the Azeroth invasion forever.

Here we are at the end of 10 hours of story, more if we want to super size some episodes that need it, and we haven’t even covered everything that was in the movie at this point. It probably wouldn’t take three years to get each season created yet one major drawback might be needing to film seasons back to back due to the amount of set/CGI work required and how advantageous it would be to film scenes at the same time which would take place at the same physical location. This kind of plan would also get us a lot further towards the World of Warcraft setting some 20 or 30 years after the original Warcraft movie and it wouldn’t take 60 to 90 years to get there either!

Do I want more Warcraft? You bet I do, but it doesn’t have to be at the theater if the job can be done just as well on television.

Related

Don’t miss Nerdvana movie critic Bob Leeper’s review of Warcraft:

Review: Warcraft – Reel-time strategery

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About Rusty Schmidt

Rusty SchmidtRusty Schmidt has been into gaming since the family had to get a second Atari 2600 so everybody could play at once and interested in computer gaming since playing Math Blaster and The Oregon Trail all the way back in 5th grade. Later he found the original Diablo and StarCraft games to get hooked on Blizzard games and eventually stopped playing SNES games trading them for PC games because of the online persistence of worlds like SWG and WoW. Currently a Blizzard Correspondent, he looks forward to becoming a Senior Blizzard Correspondent for Nerdvana some day.