31 Days of Reviews: Warcraft (2016)

To escape their dying world, a group of orcs travel through a portal to the human realm. The orc clans clash with the human warriors who have come to protect their world from the invaders, and both sides start to wonder if fighting is the answer.

Warcraft isn’t typically a movie that I would review for 31 Days of Reviews, but time got away from me today, so I was unable to watch something purely horror, thriller, or paranormal oriented. This movie is an action/adventure and fantasy that caters to a lot of fans across the globe, so it will be the review for today.

I will also begin by saying that I have never played Warcraft or World of Warcraft, so going into this movie, I wasn’t familiar with any of the characters or storylines that were being portrayed. My view will come from an outside perspective, as a casual viewer, not as a fan or player.

Warcraft is a 2016 film, obviously based on the beginnings of the Warcraft series of games. It’s a prequel of sorts, a story that is meant to lead the viewer into this universe and introduce them to the conflicts that take place. As a casual viewer, a prequel being the first movie caused me no problems. It didn’t feel like going back for me because I didn’t know where I was supposed to be.

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The movie looks absolutely spectacular. There was clearly a lot of money put into the special effects. All of the creatures look great. The setting looks great. The magic looks great (except for one small part toward the end, but that’s no big deal). The movie looks dazzling.

On top of that, Warcraft has a lot of good actors in it. You’ve got Travis Fimmel (Vikings) playing the human warrior Lothar. Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) plays the human mage Medivh. Toby Kebbell (Ben-Hur) supplies the voice for the orc leader Durotan and Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands) supplying the voice for the orc shaman Gul’dan. Other roles are played by Dominic Cooper, Paula Patton, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Ruth Negga, and Ben Schnetzer. It’s a good cast. They perform their roles well.

The problem with Warcraft is the story, and it’s a big problem. It didn’t feel like there was really anything happening. Obviously there is something happening, but it feels like it just meanders along and doesn’t keep the viewer engaged. This could be because the knowledge of the Warcraft universe used in the movie is at an intermediate level. They often will just say things that fans will understand, but casual viewers will not. I know a lot of things went over my head personally.

This isn’t always necessary a bad thing. The creators of the Warcraft movie were always pretty vocal that they were making this movie for the fans of the game. It’s the other aspect about the format of the story in this particular movie that made it fail.

To my understanding, much of the story in the Warcraft game is pretty open. Your character is the main character, and all the other stories are formed around you. It’s an open world, and all of the characters can be empathized with in some shape or form. You can play a character on either side. The Warcraft movie tried to emulate this, and that doesn’t always go over well in the film medium.

When people watch a movie, more often than not, they are looking for a hero to follow along with. They want someone to root for. They want to know what side they should be on. The Warcraft movie empathizes with both the orcs and the humans, spending a lot of time with a lot of different characters. Who are you supposed to root for? Technically, you can root for whoever you want.

This can be part of the reason why the story didn’t feel like it was going anywhere. Rather than following one or even two characters through the events of the movie, the story takes you everywhere, showing the viewer so many things, it makes it easy not to care at all. There are a lot of characters, and it makes it hard to keep track.

If Warcraft had focused on a single character as the protagonist, the story may have been more engaging and easier to follow, but it also may have alienated many of the fans that the movie was being made for. Unfortunately, the creators experimented with a format that just didn’t translate well. I can applaud the effort, but it definitely damaged any chance of the Warcraft universe spawning a series of films.

The movie didn’t fare very well in the box office in the United States, but did pretty well in China. If there is a sequel, it will probably be a Chinese release because that’s where it’s most profitable.

If you are a fan of World of Warcraft, then you might really enjoy Warcraft for a sort of nostalgia factor or just seeing some of these characters on screen. I have seen that most fans of the game enjoy the movie. If you aren’t a fan of the games, then it’s definitely more of a toss up.

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