I Had Some Popcorn: Warcraft

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Y’all, I was scared walking into this movie. I don’t mind telling you. I was scared because it’s a property I love (go figure, I have a cooking blog called Cooking with Murloc), it’s an origin story for an incredibly lore-rich game (20 years, 4 games with expansions, 20+ books, and comics), a director that I love, and it was “live action.” I was scared because it took forever to produce, the premiere date was pushed back six months, and Blizzard didn’t seem to be making a very big deal about it. And finally . . . it’s a video game movie. There’s never been a great video game film and even the good adequate watchable ones are very few and far between.

warcraft banner
In the video game movie universe, this film is Goodfellas.

 

I was very heartened by Krystal, our server at our friendly neighborhood Alamo Drafthouse, who was dressed up as an elf. She’s a fellow casual-but-enthusiastic player and assured us that when she got to preview the movie she “had a lot of fun”. Still, looking over at my fellow Murloc to the right and another patron in a Warcraft shirt on my left, we all had the same determined jut to our jaws. We were braced for this to hurt bad and hurt deep.

It’s hard to allow yourself to love again after you’ve been so hurt by Uwe Boll.

warcraft uwe boll
This is an accurate summary of what Uwe Boll thinks of gamers

 

But as soon as the music started up (omg, the soundtrack . . . ) I felt the stirrings of enthusiasm in my tiny game-blackened heart. But I still wasn’t ready to let go. The opening music to Mortal Kombat gets your blood pumping and that movie is hot garbage ( . . . .that I totally own, shut up).

And then we see the orcs – Durotan and Draka. In the trailers, the orcs looked awkward. In the stills, the orcs looked awkward. In motion, with Durotan hovering over his pregnant mate – I was blown away. They were emotive, believable, natural, and almost hyper-realistic. This actually becomes a problem later when the human actors seem dull and blend in with each other in comparison. But this was the point where I could start to relax and allow myself to get immersed in the film.

Wow, 300 words in and I’ve barely started. Let’s get to the TL;DR.

If you played any of the games (or still do) and remember them fondly, you will really enjoy this movie. If you are a fan of high fantasy, you’ll like this movie. If you want to see some amazing, cutting age CGI work, you should definitely go see this movie. If you’re looking for an objectively good movie with snappy dialogue, oscar-worthy performances, and complex story . . . . this is not the movie for you.

The good things:

  • Blizzard told Uwe Boll to pound sand.

“We will not sell the movie rights, not to you… especially not to you”~ Blizzard

  • They mocapped actual actors with actual props to serve as reference for the CGI creation. This makes a huge difference in getting the lighting right.
  • The parts that are good are really epic.
  • Duncan Jones put together a truly immersive universe that has plenty of callbacks to the various games. Largely the MMO and first game (which makes sense because the movie covers events that take place during the timeline from the first game).
  • Duncan Jones’ version of the script stays away from both “Humans good, orcs bad” and “orcs are noble savages”, although it still favors the Alliance. (But that kind of holds true for the first game, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans)
  • The CGI. It’s gorgeous.
  • It feels like Vanilla WoW.
  • The orcs as a race feel very real and different from the humans.

    warcraft movie still
    He’s a Warchief from a rebel band. She’s a spunky huntress determined to survive. Can they make it together in this crazy new world?
  • Everyone involved in making the movie come to life clearly had a love and respect for it. This movie is not just a cash grab.
  • There’s a murloc in it!

The bad things:

  • The human actors. Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar especially gets lost in the background. Next to the animated orcs, they seem rather subdued.
  • If you don’t already know the characters, I’m not sure how much you’ll care about their fate. Or even be able to tell Doomhammer from Blackhand. If the phrase “It feels like Vanilla WoW” doesn’t make sense to you, I don’t know how you’ll feel about this movie. There’s a lot of lore crammed in, possibly too much. This is quite a change from Duncan Jones’ Moon which is a closed set, character study with basically only one character. Going from that to juggling all these other plot threads is a big change.

    Warcraft 1
    This is what the movie’s plot is based on. Compelling!
  • While the orcs were well “acted” they didn’t have much personality (aside from Durotan and Draka) beyond “I hit it really hard.”
  • Even if you do know the characters there are parts that are supposed to be epic, emotional and heartbreaking and just . . . . aren’t.
  • The parts that are slow, are very slow and unengaging.

Neutral things:

  • I’m pretty sure Blizzard is not counting on the American market for the majority of the ticket sales. I think they’re counting on the Chinese market for profit. It’s been a good bet, it was released two weeks ago and Asia and has made more money on its Chinese opening weekend than Avengers: Age of Ultron did.
  • This movie left me wanting more. Partially in that “holy shit, I can’t wait for the sequel way” but also partially in the “I just ate lunch but I’m still hungry” way. That may be why this review is so long. The movie didn’t have much to say, so I have to say it. This film is positive it’s getting sequels.
  • The Lore is significantly altered. This is not unexpected since it seems to flux (over all the materials and decades, it’s hardly surprising). In some cases its streamlined, in others it’s a massive rewrite which I don’t entirely appreciate. Which brings us to Garona Halforcen (who admittedly I’d like to ignore any backstory given to her since the start of World of Warcraft)……
  • Garona . . . . starts as an interesting character, ends like melba toast. I really would have rather seen more focus on developing the orcs as characters over her getting mushy for humans over a fluffy blanket and sad stories. Admittedly having the focus be on the pretty female over the badass ones is kind of a personal irk. (And Garona should be badass, not weepy.)
warcraft garona
“C’mon Garona, we have to shoehorn in a romance subplot somewhere and since he’s my brother and this isn’t Game of Thrones – you’re up.”

Still, I hope enough people see this movie that they can justify at least making a trilogy. Because the most interesting storylines are in Warcraft III.

So go see it! I want to see my Tauren buddies on the big screen!

Strength and honor!

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