My own Warcraft movie review
After seeing the movie for the second time, I guess it’s time to write my own Warcraft movie review. As an avid Warcraft fan for a long time now and very familiar with the canon lore, my first viewing was more focused on the things they have changed in the movie lore. Plus, with running this website since 2007. I was kind of in the process of meeting my expectations. I was little disappointed when I saw it the first time because I had pretty big expectations and so-called critics bashing in the first reviews also got me little worried. After a second viewing, I must admit I had more fun and better opinion overall. But let’s talk about the movie now.
Doesn’t matter how many time you watch it, the biggest problem with the movie is its missing content. To put it bluntly, it’s too short. With such a huge task to accomplish with the first movie, they cut the final theatrical release to just 2 hours. For such a rich world, even with all the simplification of the story for the movie, it is simply too short. Why they edited the movie that way, only they know but director already mentioned that there are about 40 more minutes of the movie and if there is money they will make a Director’s cut. When they cut the movie, they usually start with dialogues and things that are more character focused than story pacing. And that, in this case, is the problem. There are many characters in this movie and most of them are rather important, but they simply lack any depth to really care about them. And that is especially noticeable with human characters.
The story is set as a conflict between the orcs and humans, but to make the orcs more likable they changed the lore and made them kind of desperate since their world is dying and they need to find a new home. They explained the social aspects of the orc tribal life briefly and introduced the Fel, bad green magic that feeds on the life. Ok, explaining the origins of the Fel would need a prequel movie so I can understand removing that from the story, but they should have briefly touched the orc’s life before the Fel and the missing link there is shamanism which was the core of orc’s spiritual life. They simply put that all went bad when Gul’dan, the main bad guy, came to power. In my opinion, the missing character to give Fel some better background is character Ner’zul, an old shaman who brought the Fel among the orcs and who is responsible for the rise of Gul’dan. One good scene between the old shaman and Durotan, main good guy, where Ner’zul explains mistakes he has done by bringing the Fel to their world and betraying his bond with the elements of shamanism giving the nod that source of Fel was not from their world would give the Fel some depth and then more reason why Durotan would be reluctant to trust Gul’dan.
Since many compared Warcraft movie with LOTR, let’s put it in perspective and say that there was no story about how the Ring came to be and the movie just started with Bilbo having it. Those who read the books would understand it, rest wouldn’t get what is so important about the ring. Same thing here, those who know Warcraft will understand the Fel, those who are not familiar with Warcraft will see it just as some green bad magic, despite the fact that Fel is a much more important to understand the whole story. Now this is just one example of how some things really needed just a little bit more backstory explained to overall enriching the storytelling. There are few more but I won’t go into details too much.
Let’s talk about characters. The movie starts with Durotan, leader of a small orcish clan Frostwolves and Draka his pregnant wife. And by far he is the most developed character in the movie. His relationship with his wife and his best friend Orgrim, who for the movie became Frostwolf member but he actually fits there just fine, despite being from Blackrock clan in lore. That trio had me actually caring for them. As of human characters, none of them stands out too much. Only Garona, half orc/human is somewhat likable and Khadgar, a young mage, has his good moments. The rest, not really cared for them, even though I should have since they are very important characters. Lothar, the commander of Stormwind’s army, seems like they didn’t have ideas how to make his character with more depth so they introduce some emotional and romantic moments that are not necessary. His role was to be a badass army leader and that’s what they needed to focused on even if that would make him more two-dimensional. King Llane was actually fine, he was what he needed to be, a side character that had a role to play and not be a too complicated character and same as his wife Lady Taria. My biggest disappointment was Medivh, the mage guardian of Azeroth. Played by a great actor, but the character is really boring so I don’t blame the actor since his scenes and dialogues are pretty crappy in my opinion. For such an important character that in canon lore has a whole book dedicated to him and Karazhan keep, they managed to totally make him uninteresting movie character, damn shame. Two more orc characters that were actually pretty good is Warchief Blackhand and already mentioned Gul’dan. Not the best movie villain of all time, but Gul’dan is pretty evil believable. So overall, to me, the orc characters were much better developed and more interesting to watch.
Now something about the looks and feel of the world. The world of Azeroth and transition from the game to the screen was done freaking great. Landscape and the towns feel familiar like I have been there for real. Many easter eggs for the fans of World of Warcraft, that is something that I did find amusing but also on occasion maybe little too much nodding to the fans. But I guess if they plan on going with sequels, it’s good to do that in the first movie and then maybe tone it down in the later ones. So overall, visual effects are great even if there were some scenes when you could easily see it is green screened, and the funny part is those scenes seem like easy to make, like town scenes, interior scenes or simple outdoor scenes. TV shows with much less budget for visual effects done those type of scenes excellent. A while ago I have seen a documentary about Game of Thrones and visual effects they do on that TV show and I was shocked how many things they put in the editing room. It just seems that most of the Warcraft budget went for the most complicated scenes involving motion captured orcs. ILM did incredible work there, definitely pushed the border on the CGI of the humanoid creatures. The facial emotions and movements that can be seen are incredibly accurate. You can check the technology they had to develop just for this movie in Warcraft movie & The Future of CGI video. Also after watching a trailer for Japanese animated movie Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive and great looking motion capture used there, makes me wonder if maybe Warcraft would be better as fully mo-cap and fully CGI animated since the part where are only Orcs on screen it looks awesome but when things blend than it gets little awkward sometimes. I feel conflicted now since I always rooted for what we got now, but with 160 million budget and what they did with the Orcs, maybe a full mo-cap CGI animation like that of Kingsglaive movie would actually turn out better. I guess we will never know.
And one last thing that I actually noticed on my second viewing, the beautiful music. First time I was kinda visually locked so wasn’t paying attention, but the second time when I watched it unbothered with things there were some scenes where music got me more emotional connected with some characters.
Ok, to sum up, the positives and negatives:
- The movie was badly edited and cut to the point where you actually feel that it is too short and another 20-30 minutes would make it much better especially for the general audience that is not familiar with the story since that extra time would bring more explanation to certain characters and events.
- I feel that some actors simply didn’t deliver what the characters needed. Anduin Lothar, played by Travis Fimmel is supposed to be a badass warrior. He maybe plays that in the TV show Vikings, but I personally didn’t find Lothar’s character very charismatic as a military leader. Sure he can wield a sword and kill Orcs, but that doesn’t make you a leader, it just makes you a good soldier. The second character that was done crappy is Medivh. Played by Ben Foster, talented actor that outplayed some top actors in his previous movies was given boring character to play in Warcraft. I actually don’t blame the actor for that, but a script that made the character totally crappy, which is a problem since Medivh is a second most important human character in the story. So technically they managed to screw up two most important human characters in the story. Rest of the human cast was actually solid.
- Uneccesery subplots like that romantic one between Lothar and Garona was totally useless, like 3 scenes that didn’t do anything overall for the story. Wasted movie minutes.
- Needs a second watching to leave a better opinion. Why I put that in negatives? The general audience usually goes for multiple viewings when they like the movie the first time. But in this case general audience probably didn’t feel like they need to see it the second time and leave mostly with an average or bad opinion about the movie. And movie actually flows much better on second or more viewings.
- It was finally done after 10 years of waiting.
- It is the best video game movie to this date. Not really a competitive category but surpassed some of the previous VG movies by far. Technology that was invented and used to bring the animation to this level of quality is impressive. Hopefully will encourge more of the VG movies with high budgets.
- Visually stunning with superb motion capture animation that brought the Orcs on the big screen in the proper way. Which actually makes the Orc storyline much more interesting and better played than the human part.
- Superb music that plays very well with certain scenes.
The positive list might be a little shorter, but overall I think it’s just an average fantasy movie. I gave it 7/10 on my first viewing just because I am a fan of the universe, but I was thinking more like 6.5/10. After my second viewing, I’ll stick to the 7/10 because I actually liked it more despite the fan bonus. The critics that bashed the movie without any special reasons expect it’s a VG movie and it’s a fantasy movie that it’s not like LOTR, are simply crappy critics I guess. But by no mean I think I’m a good movie critic, I simply think that Rotten Tomato should raise their bar of the critic’s professionalism since those crappy „critics“ actually with their scores influence the income of the movie. Warcraft by far was not that bad like they tried to make it look or it’s superb like many of the fans scored it with 10/10 on IMDB.
Hopefully, it will make enough money to greenlit the sequel and then they can fix all those mistakes that were made in the first one. Also, I hope for the Director’s cut, since Duncan Jones said there are about 40 minutes of the movie that was not included in the theatrical release. We are left with lots of hoping now but after 10 years I’ll hope for the best for new Warcraft movies.