I am going to begin this review by stating early on that I have never actually played World of Warcraft. So unfortunately, I cannot give you any insight on whether or not this film does justice to the game at all. While the rest of you nerds were busy playing WoW, I was busy playing Ragnarok Online, a similar but different MMORPG with simpler graphics. No judgment here, just simply stating a fact. I think I got 30% through an install of WoW once, though….for what it’s worth. Anyways, I really didn’t have any expectations or knowledge about this film or game prior to seeing it in theaters. Sure, I saw the trailers like everyone else, I thought the animation looked solid, but that was basically my only opinion on it. Surprisingly, I enjoyed most of the film even if chunks of it were somewhat predictable or even formulaic.
Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan utilizes dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by the fierce fighter Blackhand, Gul’dan organizes the orc clans into a conquering army called the Horde. Uniting to protect Azeroth from these hulking invaders are King Llane, the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh. As the two races collide, leaders from each side start to question if war is the only answer.
There were too many hard to pronounce names in this movie, so my brain sort of shut down there and I can barely remember the names of the key players, just what they looked like. But I will say that I like the idea of a group of orcs fleeing their dying planet to conquer a new one in spite of their mistakes. And better still, I enjoyed seeing how some of the orcs, the smarter ones that actual felt empathetic to the humans, dealt with the idea that they destroyed their own world, and are now punishing a different world because of it. In fact, I would say that this sums up my favorite chunk of the film, it gave the Orc Horde a deeper personality and relatability that otherwise would not have been there. They followed Gul’dan out of fear, at least the ones that had any semblance of empathy did. This movie falters a lot, and I mean a lot, but you have to give credit to how they portrayed the orcs in this film and honestly I would watch a full movie JUST from their perspective.
One of the major problems with this film has to do with the lackluster script and acting on the non-CGI half of the film. There were a couple of characters that are a little more noteworthy than the others. The Guardian, named Medivh (Ben Foster) did a marvelous job with what he was given to work with in this film. His battle betwixt good and evil a rather fun one to see play out on-screen. The main character Lothar (Travis Fimmel) was likable at times but he runs into the same pitfall that many of the other live-action actors fell into: the fact is, you could have thrown in just about any semi-capable actors into most of their roles and the movie would have been just as good. I’m not saying they did a poor job, but based on what I saw unfold on-screen, they weren’t exactly memorable either.
And I get the fact that the writers of this film are telling only ONE part of the vast story that is found in WoW, but the ending climax of the film felt like it was missing something… oh I know what it was missing, a solid ending. It always feels a bit conceited to me when a studio gives us a semi-passable movie with a cliffhanger ending as if they were so confident we would be more than happy to see a sequel. Honestly, I would have preferred a more definitive ending, as it would have given the film more of a final payoff, and then figure out how to throw in a sequel after the fact, but hey… what’s done is done.
The fight scenes and fight choreography along with the MMO-Style magic that we get to see in this film was done extremely well and will allow you to feel like this film isn’t a complete waste of time. The Orc’s in particular were brutal as hell in a battle, choosing to bludgeon their foes with a mace or club rather than a sword, and it leads to you cringing or jumping quite a bit in the film (in a good way). The fighting scenes often make you feel like you’re back in an MMO or at least a cut scene of one and would pull you back into the film each time Orc’s threw down with the humans.
I don’t think Warcraft will have fans screaming that they have finally found a good video game movie, but in a lot of ways, it feels like a step in the right direction. It is certainly better than the most recent god-awful Hitman movie in my opinion. But the film has a lot of flaws, none more glaring that the overshadowing of the orc’s CGI acting compared to the live-action human acting, but what can you do… If you want to see a film that does a solid job referencing their source material and has some really good fighting, go see this movie…but outside of that you may find yourself pretty disappointed.