Main cast: Travis Fimmel (Sir Anduin Lothar), Paula Patton (Garona Halforcen), Ben Foster (Medivh), Toby Kebbell (Durotan), Ben Schnetzer (Khadgar), Robert Kazinsky (Orgrim Doomhammer), Anna Galvin (Draka), Daniel Wu (Gul’dan), and Dominic Cooper (King Llane Wrynn)
Director: Duncan Jones
Don’t look at me, but I am not familiar with the lore of the Warcraft and World of Warcraft games. The gameplay of Warcraft never appealed to me, and the subscription model of World of Warcraft killed my interest because, when it comes to MMORPG, I prefer to play at my own pace, and paying a subscription fee means I’d feel the pressure to keep playing every day. Hence, I am watching Warcraft, the movie, on a clean slate and open mind.
This movie chronicles the early days of the setting, when the orcs flee their dying world to arrive to the world of Azeroth. Led by the creepy evil Gul’dan, the orc clans show up through a magical portal under the banner of the Horde to wage war on the humans already living there. Among the orcs are the chieftain Durotan, his mate Draka, and their friend Orgrim Doomhammer. Gul’dan’s plan to sacrifice more lives to the portal, so that he can bring more orcs over and take over the place. Hence, the orcs capture humans to be sacrificed to the portal.
As Durotan watches Gul’dan abusing evil magic and generally being a complete asshole, he tries to form a secret alliance with the human king, Llane, to take down Gul’dan and find a way for everyone to co-exist in peace. Caught in the middle of all this are Sir Anduin Lothar, a knight of Llane; Khadgar, a mage on the run who is also the first person to recognize and understand the magic used to kill the humans; and Garona, a half-orc who just wants a better life for herself. And if you know your lore, you will know that Anduin Lothar and Khadgar will soon become prominent powerful players in the setting while Garona… well, we always need a strong chick character in a movie these days, so why not.
When watching this movie, my first impression is how unfriendly this movie is to people who are new to the whole thing. The movie moves at a brisk pace early on, and things like “Summon the Guardian!” and “Only the king can summon the Guardian!” may get those newbies in the audience to go, “Who? What?” Mind you, this is not some low-budget movie. The CGI is gorgeous and realistic in many ways, and I tell you, some of the human armors are simply to die for, in the sense that I’d probably preen like Isaac Mizrahi if my characters in Guild Wars 2 and Diablo 3 to wear those things. The orcs are well done, too. The movie just doesn’t make it easy for people who are not familiar with the lore.
However, once I have a decent idea as to who is who and what is happening (yes, I looked up Wikipedia on my phone), the story turns out to be pretty generic, and many of the tropes are present to the point that there is nothing here that really surprises me. Although perhaps I should warn folks that this movie is planned to be the first in a series, so there are developments at the end that, while may not surprise fans of the games who know the lore, may catch new folks by surprise, especially if they are expecting a standard heroes-triumph-all story. The entire story is bigger than one movie, let’s just say.
The cast is generally fine, although, for some reason, the CGI orcs seem to have more expressions on their faces than most of the human cast. Maybe those people are as lost as some members of the audience while reading their script? And because the script moves briskly, the newbies in the audience may have a hard time telling these humans apart. All of them have 80’s-style rock band hair, stubble and beard optional, and all of them seem interchangeable. On the other hand, it is easy to tell the orcs apart. Maybe this movie should have been done entirely in CGI, heh.
At the end of the day, Warcraft is actually an okay movie. It’s not amazing, but it’s not horrible – it’s a pleasant, watchable kind of generic high-fantasy movie and, if I think about it, it’s actually one of the better generic high-fantasy movies to have come this way recently. I mean, it’s certainly much better than those awful The Hobbit movies, which were a great example of what would happen when studios got greedy and hire bad fanfiction writers to bloat a book worth of story into three unnecessary movies. Unlike those movies, I actually choked up a bit towards the end of this one.
So, if you want to watch this movie, I don’t see why not. It’s okay. I’d suggest waiting until it’s available on Netflix or something, though, and get the character sheet from Wikipedia close at hand for a quick reference should the need arises.