I try to never check out other ratings or reviews for the movie I’m going to see but this time I knew that Warcraft was rated relatively low. I went though, partly because I’d played the game and partly because the trailer made it look amazing. I didn’t have high hopes for this film. So imagine my delight when it turned out to be Not Horrible. That’s right – NOT horrible. Though I have to admit, so much of why I liked it turned out to be recognition. Anyone who has played the games will have a completely different experience than those whose first exposure will be this movie. Sorry in advance to those of you reading this review who haven’t played the game- this review, like the film, isn’t really going to be as good for you.
The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.
I’m being unfair here – not only is Warcraft not horrible, it was staggeringly beautiful. And not like some Huntsman movies I could name whose trailers are gorgeous but don’t have anything that wasn’t already in the trailers. No- Warcraft was stunning from beginning to end. Again, so much of that was recognition – I recognized the different character classes, the spells, the locations, the events and that recognition made it better. But not only did they do the Azeroth justice, they improved on it. Places that were awesome in the game were extra-awesome in the movie. Even characters were improved. Griffin riders used to be just a unit you would use in your game, here they were made into something impressive.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to sift through all the Warcraft Lore (yes that’s a thing) and pick out what bits would make a good movie. There’s just so much of it. Every character has a story because there’s probably a series of quests (in the game) associated with it. Same with locations (otherwise known as ‘quest hubs’ in the game). So even though the stories are there, parsing out a few plot-lines and adapting them to the big screen couldn’t have been easy. Choosing what to leave out and what to put in would be a monumental task but in large part they succeeded. Okay maybe they might have erred a bit on the ‘let’s leave it in’ side of things, but why not?
That said, there were some definite weak points in the film. The writing was uneven in parts, as was the acting (I have troubles telling the two apart sometimes). I was never a fan of the Warcraft dialogue and that was one thing that writer/director Duncan Jones did not improve on. There were scenes that made no sense and entire sub-plots that were a little directionless. Not everything made sense. I couldn’t help feeling that a few rewrites of the script with a really scary editor would have done wonders for this film. They probably could have cut out about 20 minutes of bulky confusion that didn’t need to be there making it the ideal 100 minutes length.
Of course, it’s not really about the writing really. And I should add they got a LOT right. For instance, there was the Bechdel Scene – the very carefully established scene when the film’s two female characters (who have names) discuss something other than a man. I always look for a Bechdel scene and this one was too perfect not to be deliberate. There was also the mid-movie high point, where something exciting happens that changes everything. The mid-point of this movie was one of the best I’ve seen this year.
So is Warcraft worth seeing? Yes, and probably it’s made better for being on the big screen. Film is a visual narrative and Warcraft nails it. I’m pretty sure fans of the games will have a better time, but it’s good for everyone. . I especially liked the hyper-masculine, enormously muscled orcs whose hands are bigger than their heads (imagine the Rule 34 on that one. Or probably better not to). Anyway they’re well set up for sequels, which I hope they make.