Film Review – Warcraft: the Beginning
The summer season of big budget blockbusters is upon us, starting off with Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft finally coming to the big screen. This past week, I got to experience the cinematic release of Warcraft. Join Timlah as we look through the world of Azeroth through all of it’s visual glory.
Blizzard Entertainment have been around the block a little bit, with games that go all the way back to the early 90’s. From their inception, Blizzard have been about highly polished games, which are truly works to behold. Then they came up with this little Real Time Strategy (RTS) franchise which they called Warcraft. It featured Orcs going head to head with Humans. An Alliance between Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes, Night Elves and eventually Worgen and Draenai. This goes against the Horde of Orcs, Trolls, Tauren, Forsaken and then Blood Elves and Goblins.
Warcraft went on to create the biggest MMORPG of all time; World of Warcraft. It’s no surprise either, as it’s a fantasy adventure in a colourful world, with a lot of gritty story, funny moments and gameplay mechanics that defined the whole genre. The literal world (of Warcraft) is filled to the brim with fun references to real world events and people, as well as having understood it has a core gaming market and a more casual audience that needs to be addressed. Some people go on to just role play; whereas others will not only role play, but role play whilst doing player vs player, or fighting the biggest bosses in the game. Then there are people who just play it because they love the game and others who play it so they can dress their Tauren up like a Spanish traveller who runs with wolves. I’m not guilty of this, honestly.
Now let me take you forward some years to 2016, where we’ve now got the first ever Warcraft movie. Blizzard were smart in deciding who gets to work on the story: Themselves. They got to work with the directors and they made sure that this wasn’t just a movie about some Orcs and some Humans fighting: But it followed the story of Warcraft to a tee. Be it Gul’Dan and his corruption of the Horde via fel energies, or be it down to the Humans and their Guardian Medivh. The film follows the humans, the Half-Orc Garona (Warning: This link contains major spoilers about Garona. Read if you are interested in the plot of Warcraft: the Beginning as she’s a major character), Durotan and Gul’Dan primarily.
I’d rather not go into too much detail about the story, as that would give far too much about it away. Let me talk about this as a Warcraft fan primarily, then let me talk about this as a non-Warcraft fan, as I’ve noticed some reviews saying the story is confused or doesn’t tell you much about some of the characters. Heck, some go as far as to call it a World of Warcraft film, rather than a Warcraft film. Let me explain immediately that if this was a World of Warcraft film, we would have seen Forsaken. We would have seen Night Elves and Tauren. Gnomes would have been more featured. No, this was a Warcraft film, which can go on to explain the origins of Warcraft.
We saw High Elves; a race you rarely see in World of Warcraft bar for a few very specific examples. This is because most High Elves in World of Warcraft had become Blood Elves. Now, I don’t want to bore all of you with minor details between World of Warcraft and the story of Warcraft as a whole, but let me tell you now: If you expect to see things that happen in the MMO in this film, then you will be sorely mistaken. You will be upset, you will feel betrayed. This is not a World of Warcraft movie, much like the “the Beginning” in its name, think of this as an origin movie.
Now that’s out of the way with, let me explain that if you’re looking for a fun, action packed fantasy movie, then this is the film for you. This might be one of the first major video game movies to break the tradition of there being bad video game movies. I am astounded by critics who are slating this film by calling it confused: I think they are confused by the property. They want to call it a film for the MMO, without actually understanding the underlying Warcraft lore. Now, let me talk about Epic Fantasy for a second.
Epic Fantasy is a term for fantasy that is all about Fantasy. It’s basically the most fantasy of all fantasy. Now that I’ve said that, Warcraft is a perfect example of Epic Fantasy. You will see main characters die, but you will be invested in them. You will understand the impact of their deaths immediately and you will understand why things happen. Honour runs deep in the Orcs, who will even honour a Human, should they have to. They will honour a demon too. This kind of deep honour system is typical to how the Warcraft Orcs have always been portrayed. If you have played any Warcraft game, including World of Warcraft, you will have heard an Orc say “Strength and honour!” This is a strong device in Epic Fantasy, even though the human could then get pummelled to death by a dozen plus Orcs, the fact s/he has done something of note to the Orcs makes them show some respect… Even at the loss of their own. *Spoilers, not spoilers*
The visuals for Warcraft: the Beginning are phenomenal and let me say that Blizzard and the department who did the CGI on this film did a mighty fine job. It’s hard to pull off the looks of an Orc without making it look too CGI and whilst there were times I sort of thought “That is very heavy on the CGI”, it’s not exactly like they could conjure up an Orc out of nowhere. Besides; I loved it all. With the exception of one specific part. Medivh calls down a barrier of lightning, effectively… and the lightning looked very cheesy. It reminded me of the 1990’s Mortal Kombat film’s lightning! However, please take this one criticism with a pinch of salt, as others told me they thought it looked great.
There are small criticisms to be had: If you have no idea about the Warcraft franchise, or anything within, then you may struggle at first. The main thing to pay attention to is not all Orcs are in the same clan, but they are all effectively being led by Gul’Dan. There are warchiefs of the clans, but all of the Orcs were led by Gul’Dan, the leader of the Orcish Horde. The film then follows through the story of the Orcish Horde coming to Azeroth and making their home. You are made to feel sympathetic to both sides and it’s seriously simplified some of the original story: But other than a bit of simplification, this is a solid story.
I can’t recommend Warcraft: the Beginning enough. I was amazed, I was flabbergasted. I was kept on the edge of my seat and I would say that the critics have been far too harsh on this particular film. If you’re a fan of Warcraft already, chalk this one up as a winner that you must see. If you love a bit of fantasy, check this out. If you’re not a fan of Warcraft or fantasy, why are you even considering this? Is it as good as fims like Captain America: Civil War? Perhaps not… But if nothing else, the CGI in this film will leave you astounded. Well done Blizzard, this film is a triumph. But now it’s over to you guys: Do you agree with my asseration? Do you also like this film? Do you think I’ve forgotten things that really make it good or bad? As always, leave your comments below, or over on Facebook, Twitter and Reddit.