What these critics did wrong is go into this movie with the wrong mindset. Whether you want to blame it on certain expectations, superhero fatigue, or just pandering to fans of the game, all of these bad reviews are unfortunately going to hurt “Warcraft” in the box office. All that fans are going to see are those scathing review titles, and will turn their backs on this movie.
And that’s a damn shame.
First off, I don’t play World of Warcraft. The closest I’ve ever gotten is the Hearthstone app, which doesn’t detail any of the lore, but introduces the same creatures and some familiar names. Even so, I’m a complete n00b to the franchise, and went into this film knowing nothing about the world’s backstory.
Second, I will dare to say that this film can be held on the same level as “Avatar” in terms of simple story, technological feats, and so-so acting. Sometimes I want to shake these critics. “Warcraft did the same damn things as Avatar, y’all loved it so much ya hypocrites!”
I’ll cut right to the chase: I had a great time with this movie. I went into it knowing nothing, and came out of it wanting to explore the world more. I was engaged from beginning to end, and can cite just as many memorable moments from this film as I could from Captain America: Civil War.
Why The Orcs Are the Best Part
For fellow Warcraft newbies, like me, the story is very simple to follow. The Orcs’ world is dying, so they’ve turned to Gul’dan, who uses a magic portal to transport them to the world of Azeroth. This magic portal is powered by the green fel, a more sinister magic that needs life forces to function. Some of the orcs have accepted this magic into themselves, giving them extra strength and turning their skin green, whereas others have not. They clash with the humans on the other side, citizens of the kingdom of Stormwind. The queen’s brother becomes involved, the king calls on a mage to help, and the shenanigans ensue.
Durotan is one such “other” orc who remains “pure”, in the sense that he won’t fall so easily to the seductive power of the fel from Gul’dan. He is the leader of the Frostwolf clan (the orcs are divided into clans and sub-groups), and his motivations are clear: he witnessed his home world die, and now only wants to find a new home for his pregnant wife and his clansmen.
Given the host of characters in this movie, Durotan is easily the best one to root for. While the human characters are desperately trying to protect their world, Durotan is a grey area character. He’s pillaging human villages along with the orcs, but understands that they need to eventually settle and attempt peace with the humans. In addition, he can tell that Gul’dan is a bad influence on the rest (like REALLY bad), and that he needs to be stopped. Or else this new world will end up just as bad as their ruined home world.
We’ve Come a Long Way From “Avatar”
Another aspect that makes Durotan and his family so relatable are their physical appearance. Yes, the orcs are CGI, but director Duncan Jones ensured that the motion capture technology caught not only the movements of the characters, but also their facial expressions.
The transformation is stunning. The actors behind the ferocious Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and his wife Draka (Anna Galvin) embued all the same facial tics and mannerisms that a couple would have, making the quieter moments of the film with the two of them all that more believable.
Put it to you this way: the first shot you see of Durotan is a close-up of his face as he watches his pregnant wife sleep. His eyes are distant and twitchy, and he wets his lips as though deep in thought. His wife wakes up and they talk, teasing each other. He jokingly calls her fat, and she says he has a ‘fat head’. The scene ends with the two of them lying side by side, and Draka takes his hand and rests it on her swollen belly. There’s a fire flickering in the background, and the hair and skin look so real in that unpredictable light source, that it’s almost mind-blowing. For a moment, they could have easily been mistaken for actors in physical make-up, instead of something formed in a computer.
Up until that moment, your only exposure to the Orc has been through the opening fight scene and through the movie trailers. They’re violent beasts, so this touching moment between a couple throws you off and challenges your perception of them. The genius of motion-capture technology has definitely evolved since the time of “Avatar”, allowing film actors (and, arguably, video game actors) to portray those human sides of their characters so accurately.
Enviable Special Effects
They certainly didn’t skimp on the CGI. With such a rich landscape, one could make the argument that they could have found these environments on-location somewhere in the world, like Peter Jackson did with the “Lord of the Rings” films. But Middle Earth was created from scratch through the imagination of Jackson and his team, whereas “Warcraft” was already an established world, so I didn’t mind the generated landscapes and cities so much.
They say that if you don’t want to be scared during a horror film, you should cover your ears, because it’s the sounds that will really get you. Well, in this film, it’s the mass of noise from the Orcs that really got me. Their voices are deep and resonant, and you could feel the impact of their weapons on those big bass theater speakers. Despite the PG-13 rating, there’s a lot of people getting crushed in this movie.
Did I mention there’s magic? As a fantasy epic, it’s expected, and I think it was done excellently. It was magic that didn’t need an explanation, the kind that you would find in Lord of the Rings or Final Fantasy series. I was pleased with the mysterious world of the mages, and how they trained, and wanted to learn more about the Ironforge of the dwarves and their craft.
The Most Minor of Complaints
In terms of elements that may have taken me out of the film, there was only one: Paula Patton and her fake-ass fangs. Her character is half-Orc, half-human, and so they gave her the protruding fangs that the orcs had. You could tell that it was impacting the way that she spoke her lines, though eventually you get used to it as a viewer. Her alleged romance with Lothar felt forced, but her full arc by the end of the film was awesome. Paula Patton acted her best with what they gave her, and she did a good job.
Why Do We Need More “Warcraft”?
This is more of my personal opinion, but I’ve been starting to tire of superhero movies dominating my summers. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still go see them, but they’re becoming quite formulaic and don’t offer much in terms of a new movie-going experience. I went into “Captain America: Civil War” with certain expectations, and they were certainly met.
But it’s a rare joy to go into a film without any prior knowledge or history, and still enjoy the experience. It was unexpected and was a perfect popcorn flick. After being surrounded by so much sci-fi, I miss those epic fantasy tales that “Lord of the Rings” and “Harry Potter” had ushered in during the early 2000s. While I’m not convinced about playing the game, I’m intrigued by the story of the Orcs and the many other races of Azeroth, and I will gladly see any sequels to this movie that may come about.
Don’t always trust the serious critics. These kinds of movies aren’t always for them.