The Warcraft movie seems to evoke love/hate responses, and after about 15 minutes I was a bit worried. The start is pretty exposition heavy, and also seemed to assume a fair amount of lore knowledge (what’s ‘Fel’, what’s Ironforge and who are these Dwarves). But thankfully it pretty quickly settled into a rhythm and story that felt compelling and (mostly) made sense.
The Orcs were amazing, so huge, solid, thick, and powerful. The movie captured their brutal tribal warlike ways perfectly, while also showing that a tribal community cares deeply for one another even amongst the chaos. The orc camps are dirty and busy, with plenty of thumping and growling going on. But they’re not portrayed as beasts, and there’s a genuine sense of care amongst the clans. Pleasingly Durotan’s deeply honourable Frostwolves are front and centre, a nice parallel to my new guild.
On the other side of the coin, the Humans were all pretty weak and humourless. It seemed like all the best actors ended up greenskinned, and the leftovers played wooden Human caricatures. Only Lothar stood out, and even he seemed often to be half tipsy (unintentionally) and not really present. The actor playing Medivh was clearly heavily influenced by the brilliant portrayal of Merlin by Nicol Williamson in the highly highly underrated Excalibur1, but couldn’t bring the same sense of barely contained madness and power. King Llane and family are straight backed and boring, and Khadgar is strangely unsuited to the role with his baby face and constantly morphing accent. The human world is neat, tidy, and their armour is sadly weightless.
The Horde/Alliance portrayal in the film is kind of apt given how I feel about the game’s factions – boring puny Humans vs virulant chaotic passionate Horde. So I’ll put down the dull Humans to intention on the part of Director Duncan Jones. Horde bias confirmed!
The movie was full of fan touches, with murloc’s lurking on riverbanks, namechecking of much travelled zones, and some nice spell callbacks. And Karazhan features heavily, though while the interiors bring memories flooding back (that library pull!), it’s weirdly unrecognisable from the outside.
Unfortunately, but maybe typically for (pre-Overwatch) Blizzard, there is only one major female character. Garona is great, dominating her scenes with huge presence and character, and she’s a crucial bridge between the Orcs and Humans. But she’s also part of a love story, which is a shame and such a tired sexist trope. They try hard to make her independent and non-needy, but can’t quite resist making her an object of desire for half the men in the film.
I saw it with a bunch of current and former players, and all were pleasantly surprised. It didn’t hurt to have such low expectations (Chinese box office notwithstanding), but the movie rises above the ‘game film’ curse, largely due to the strength of the Orc storyline. I’m not sure what a non player would make of it, but Game of Thrones has conditioned people to the idea of a fantasy world, and one ex-player I went with enjoyed it despite not having played for years and having zero lore knowledge.
My only disappointment was there was no Tauren cameo – the post credit scene had me hoping, but it wasn’t to be. Maybe the sequel?
- Seriously, if you haven’t seen this film go and do so immediately. It captures the darkness and light of the Arthurian legend perfectly, and is about the only film which realistically demonstrates the incredible weight of plate armour – the hand to hand combat and jousting is exhausting just to watch. Bonus early career appearances from Liam Neeson and Patrick Stewart add to the fun. ↩