Warcraft is the long-running real-time strategy game franchise turned into an MMORPG themepark experience as developed by Blizzard Entertainment. The franchise revolves around the war between members of the Alliance of Humans, Dwarves and Elves against the Horde armies comprising of Orcs, Trolls and other monsters. This movie, Warcraft: The Beginning, details the plot of the Orc incursion into Azeroth through the Dark Portal while also going through the Human armies own concerns with their guardian hero. The adventures of the Kirin Tor mage, Khadgar, are the primary focus of this film. As a bit of a warning, you would be best to think of this film as an alternative retelling of the events in Warcraft and treating it as it’s own thing, rather than a film detailing the plot of the games. It does differ in details at points.
The story begins in Outland, the original home of the Orc race. There, we learn that a powerful orc named Gul’dan has gained control of a powerful magic called the Fel. The Fel seems to have this ability to drain the life-force of nearby creatures to empower its user with strong magical abilities. We see this happen early on when we see Gul’dan drain the life of several sexy Draenei in cages to open the dark portal to Azeroth, saving the Orcs from their dying world.
Unfortunately, this isn’t a tale of desperation from the Orcs, nor is it a film about their plight to just live their lives on a world that isn’t dying. Warcraft is a film about war. And so, for no apparent reason other than they can, the Orcs descend upon Azeroth and start attacking villages and killing people. Of course, this is all implied as what is happening through background dialogue while we learn about the Human main characters and get to see some familiar locations, such as Stormwind and Ironforge. There are also some other really nice locations, like Karazhan. Outland looks like crap though, which is how it should look to be honest, and needs more Draenei’s.
Warcraft’s story follows the ex-Kirin Tor mage, Khadgar, while he is still a youngish chap. Across the story we see how he learns more about the evil Fel magic and uncovers a conspiracy involving both the Horde and some Alliance characters about bringing the power of the Fel to Azeroth. The story itself follows the same basic outline of the games lore, but it seems to change a bit of what we know to make the film more interesting. As such, I can’t recommend viewing this as the Warcraft story that we all know. Instead, think of it as an alternative reality or retelling. This doesn’t mean that it is a bad movie with a bad plot, it’s just different in some key points, particularly when it comes to the Khadgar and the wizard Medivh.
One thing that people might expect from this film is that it is either a fantasy adventure or a fantasy war film. While it does have elements of both of those in it, it isn’t actually either of them. There’s no long journey like in Lord of the Rings, thanks to everyone being able to teleport everywhere, nor is there some grand war like in an actual war film. Instead it’s more of a character driven film that details the events of the Human and Orc war. In particular, there is a certain Orc/Human romance that happens between Garona and one of the main human characters whose name I don’t remember which will set up the future of both the Orcs and Humans… we hope (as of writing, the Warcraft story does lean towards that way at one point but Blizzard pushed a reset button on the lore so who knows what’s going on).
Warcraft: The Beginning follows the Warcraft look and feel, with the Orcs feeling powerful and dangerous by being huge, and the Humans feel fantasy-esque by wearing armour that is fitting to the franchise. However, it also feels a bit off, as though it’s lost that kind of cartoony vibe. For example, in Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, armour has a kind of enlarged look to it that looks interesting and cool. However, in the film, the armour is much more realistically proportioned. While I did mention that Orcs felt powerful because they were so big, regular Orcs in the games never seemed to be much bigger than Humans, so it was a bit odd that every Orc was the size of at least three humans. Except the lady-Orcs, who happened to be the same size and build of lady-Humans.
I really liked a lot of the sets in this particular movie, they all had a really fantastical vibe to them. I wish that we got to see more of Ironforge though, and even a little more of Stormwind. Actually, I would have liked to have spent a bit more time in each of the films locations, just to get more of a feel for them. Even if there was some kind of anime-like cinematography where it would sweep through and area or have some stills of various parts before moving into the dialogue, I think we would have gotten a better sense of these locations. A lot of the movie is spent in Karazhans library though, which is pretty cool. You also get to see Dalaran briefly, while it is still in the sky. All the spell effects were pretty amazing too! They really felt like they were pulled from the games, but also made more dramatic.
Overall, Warcraft: The Beginning is a pretty fun fantasy movie. While the changes to the games lore might annoy some viewers, I feel this is alleviated by allowing it to be its own thing, rather than taking it as an movie translation of the games. I can recommend this to fans of fantasy and the games. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s a fun movie to sit through.
Rating: Needs more Draenei /10
Warcraft: The Beginning comes courtesy of Universal Pictures. It is directed by Duncan Jones. This review is based on the BD release as supplied by Universal Australia. You can purchase it online for ~$30. Images pilfered from IMDB.