The Warcraft Movie: A Review

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Gamers and movie fans alike have been talking about the Warcraft movie since it’s initial concept release. Blizzard has put an immense amount of money into promoting the movie. For the past few months, I couldn’t turn on the television without seeing a commercial about the movie. The hype is immense, so when I got the opportunity to see an advanced screening of the movie, I had to check it out for myself. Warcraft is based off of the hit MMO game World of Warcraft which (since it’s last been reported) has about 5.5 million subscribers. In China, the movie has reportedly broken several box office records. The interest is there, yet some reviewers have given the movie less than stellar reviews. I’m here to give you my honest opinion of the movie with a breakdown of several different aspects.

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Visuals

From the very beginning you can tell that a lot of money has been put into making this movie aesthetically pleasing. Most of the movie is rendered in CGI. The attention to detail is phenomenal. Rather than dressing up a few people in massive armor to represent the orcs, Blizzard decided to render the race in full CGI. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, basically, they’re animated in 3D. The animation is so life-like and realistic. Right from the opening scene, you get a close up of two orcs. You can see the muscles, veins and even pores etched into their skin. This was one of my favorite things about the movie. It stayed true to video game visuals, using highly realistic animations. At the same time, I didn’t feel like I was looking at a cartoon. To further prove my point, its important to know that the movie isn’t completely rendered. There are actual actors dressed in full armor and medieval clothing. It sounds like it would be a mess, but it actually really works. Well, for the most part. When all of the actors are real, there is a consistency that is pleasing to the eye. When the human actors are with the orc CGI on screen, it looks almost seamless. That is a testament to how well they are rendered. It doesn’t look ridiculous. Even when an actor mounts a CGI bird, it seems as if they’re a part of the world, not actors on a set.

Perhaps, what is most stunning is the environment. I couldn’t tell what was rendered and what was a real set. The grass was bright and crisp, the swords glistening, and the books on the shelves aged and bound beautifully. I have to give Blizzard credit for completely immersing me in that world. The magic is also pretty incredible. The way the light dances on the screen when a spell is cast draws the eyes right away. It looks as if the actors really are mages. But, the visuals aren’t completely flawless. There is a particular scene with a few dwarves, blood elves, and humans sitting around a table and arguing. The dwarves were rendered, while the blood elves were people in costumes. This inconsistency didn’t work. The dwarves didn’t have as much detail as the orcs and the elves looked like people in costume. Seeing actors caked with makeup, next to animations and actors in armor was a little jarring, but it was for a short moment, and didn’t detract too much from the overall experience. The biggest problem I had with the aesthetics falls on Paula Patton’s character, Garona. She is half orc and half human. The green skin and orc teeth look too much like a cosplay next to the human actors and even more off-putting next to the CGI orcs.

Visual Score: 4/5

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Acting/Voice Acting

The acting was phenomenal. The king, the queen, the commander, and even the mage are all well casted. I felt immersed in their world because their acting was really top notch. At some points, I didn’t feel like I was watching a movie at all. Yet, again, Garona was a little less believable for me. Her expressions were well done in emotional scenes, but Patton didn’t scream kick ass warrior to me. The voice acting was well done, especially talking in orc. In the Star Wars games I’ve played, some of the alien language sounded repetitive and jarring to the ears, but, Blizzard and Universal Pictures have done really well with making the language audibly pleasing. There is a conscious decision to make the orcs speak English to each other, when it is made clear that they don’t speak the human language. For me, it would have been more believable if the orcs talked to each other in their language, with subtitles underneath. It seems unnecessary for them to speak English when they make it a point to say that they don’t understand it. Also, at times I was unsure if they were speaking their language and the person understood it, and so it was being presented to us as English, or if they were really speaking English.

Acting Score: 4/5

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Story/Plot

I am not familiar with the lore of World of Warcraft. I’ve played a few times many years ago, but I am in no way well versed in it’s storylines. That being said, I’m going to comment on the structure of the story as it is presented in the movie, and whether or not it was effective. After watching the movie, I can confirm that you don’t need any prior knowledge of the game to understand what is going on. It is pretty much laid out for you what the story is about. I’m sure fans of the series will have gotten more out of it than I have. In fact, while watching the trailer with my brother, (he’s a big fan of the game) he pointed out a few swords that were in the game already. There have been quite a few video game movies out there and a large number of them have failed. The big problem is that video game writers are not script writers. A movie plays out differently than a game does. Even a company like Square Enix, that prides itself on detailed cutscenes, has failed when it comes to making a full scaled movie. Games are a combination of cutscenes and gameplay. What ends up happening, is that game movies become long cut scenes that need the gameplay aspect to tell the full story. That’s what critics have said about the Ratchet and Clank movie that came out recently.

Warcraft is not like this. MMO games are not entirely dependent on cutscenes to further the story. Games like World of Warcraft have NPCs and quests that aid players as well. I think that helped immensely, because Blizzard did not have HD cutscenes already in place to drown in. For the most part, this was new territory for them, which allowed the movie to come out with a fully crafted story. Not once did I feel like I was playing a game and waiting for the cutscene to end so I could grab the controller. This was a movie. I believe that Blizzard was trying to reach a wider audience than only it’s subscribers. So, it is only fair that I judge it’s storyline as an independent movie separate from the game.

The movie itself could have used more fleshing out. Garona is a character that changes and grows throughout the movie. It feels like that growth is too quickly reached. There is no substance, and I want to know more about the characters and their motivations. Now, I’m sure this is talked about in the game, or rather, the lore surrounding it, but for it to function as a stand alone movie, it must have this depth. People who are not fans of the series will not know about the characters and their motivations unless it is presented on the screen. Also, it felt as if a long storyline was being condensed into a few short hours. Especially, because there isn’t one protagonist, there are many. I would like to have seen what happened individually with all of the characters. There was no issue with sequence of events. Things flowed smoothly, but there was a lot going on. This could have been a series of movies. The ending was too abrupt. I won’t go into details as not to spoil it, but there is definitely a setup for a sequel.

Story Score: 3/5

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Action/Special Effects

I watched the movie in IMAX 3D. There was a lot of action and intense fighting scenes that I would loved more of. The fights were incredible! The whole theater shook when the orcs came rampaging in. I felt like I was in the midst of the battle myself. The loud grunts of the orcs, the blood splatter and bodies hurling towards me was an incredible experience. This is the heart of Warcraft – extraordinary battles, massive weapons, and magic blasts. This is what the gamers are going to relate to the most because World of Warcraft is all about the battles. For crying out loud, there was even a boss battle! I would have loved if there was more time spent on the battles, but like I said above in my analysis of the storyline, it was too condensed. I wanted these fights to rage on. I wanted to see the totality of the war play out. There were massive figures being taken down in minutes. I wanted more action, and longer fights.

Warcraft was made for a 3D viewing, at least that’s what it felt like. There were so many scenes that would not be the same, especially the battles. I also think that this movie is best viewed in a theater. The way the room shook when the battles began was so immersive. Watching it on a television set might make the experience fall flat. I hope the experience translates over to the DVD copy when it comes out.

Action Score: 3/5

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Conclusion

In conclusion, Warcraft was a pretty good movie. I enjoyed the experience and would recommend it if you’re a gamer. I think it’s done a better job than most video game movies have. I give props to Blizzard and Universal Pictures for the amount of money, time, and effort they put into this movie. The reason I gave the movie a low score is because I don’t think it will reach further than fans of World of Warcraft. As it stands, it can be watched without knowing any of the game’s lore. Even Paula Patton herself, the leading lady, has said that she wasn’t aware of the game before reading the script. Therefore, its entirely possible to watch it, but you will not get the full experience. I am positive that fans of the series will have gotten more out of it than I have. If you’re a gamer, regardless of whether or not you’ve played World of Warcraft, I suggest watching this movie because it is a step in the right direction for games being taken to the big screen. However, if you’re a fan of World of Warcraft, go out and see the movie! A sequel was hinted at, and the best way to get that would be to support the movie!

Total Score: 3.5/5

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BONUS

After the screening of the movie, Paula Patton had a question and answer session in which she talked about playing Garona. When watching the movie, Patton said, “When I watch it, I don’t feel like its about me.” This is a good testament to how immersive the tale can be. Even the actress herself was absorbed into the environment and storyline of the movie. She also talked about being biracial, similar to Garona being half human and half orc. She said, “A lot of people can relate to it…not feeling like you belong.” A central theme of this movie is growing and finding out who you really are. If you’re looking for a strong female lead, watch this. Finally, when speaking about Garona, she says, “You can’t choose your parents but you can choose your mindset…it’s her heart that’s moved.” I think that’s something worth thinking about. A game, turned into a movie, has a message that can relate to a lot of people. That’s great news for this industry, gaming has come a long way.

Warcraft is in theaters June 10th. Be sure to use #Warcraft when talking about the movie!