Video games have been created off the basis of films for a long time now, which seems to work out very well, However when the process is reversed and a movie is based on a game, there seems to be some kind of curse that means they’re instantly going to be terrible. I’m glad to say that Warcraft: The Beginning may well be one of the few that buck this trend.
Set in the world of Azeroth, Warcraft is a story of two halves – the Orcs and the Humans. From the Orc’s perspective, we have Durotan (Toby Kebbell – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Prince of Persia) who is a clan leader whose world is dying, and they need to find a new home. The Orcs’ leader Gul’dan (Daniel Wu – Europa Report) commands magic called “The Fell”, and uses this to create a portal to their new prospective home in Azeroth.
When the Orcs invade, they start to do their usual pillaging of the nearby villages and towns, which captures the attention of the Humans in Stormwind. King Lane Wynn (Dominic Cooper – Captain America, Preacher) is alerted to the goings on by Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) and a quest to stop the destruction is launched with the assistance of Lothar (Travis Fimmel – Vikings) and “The Guardian”, Medivh (Ben Foster – Pandorum, 3:10 to Yuma).
There’s obviously more to the story than that, as thankfully as the world of Warcraft (heh) has a ridiculous amount of lore attached to it, it’s easy to pull from that to create the story. Duncan Jones has done a good job of this, and I was never bored throughout the movie. I won’t spoil anything for you though, as it looks like there’s plenty of scope for sequels, should Warcraft do well enough at the box office.
From an aesthetics point of view, I was really impressed with how the Orcs were depicted. They’re freaking huge, with legs and arms the size of bloody tree trunks… and you’ll never see one Orc look the same as another; they all have different skin tones, hair and tusk modifications, armour… the works. The armour for the soldiers of Stormwind is perfect too – makes them look like massive hulks of men (except when they’re next to the gargantuan Orcs).
However, lets talk locations. Stormwind, Ironforge, Elwyn Forest… they’re all faithfully recreated, and they’re done really, really well. Even the point at which you land on a Griffon in Stormwind is accurate. Ironforge (though only used for a few minutes near the beginning of the movie) is absolutely spot on, with it’s snowy exterior, and constantly running red-hot forges on the inside. I even had a little “holy shit!” moment when there was a panning shot though Elwyn Forest and there was a Murloc next to the river. Unfortunately no-one drop kicks the Murloc (sad face).
All the sounds and music fit really well to the subject material, and there’s a decent job done by all the actors involved too. I must acknowledge the actors taking on the CG roles though – all the Orcs are so well done, and very believable in their mannerisms. The effects and motion capture is excellent in this regard.
Although I’m not a seasoned WoW player (I only got to level 42 with my Warlock, and this was about 10 years ago), the film had enough for me to be pointing out things to my wife (not that she gave a shit)… and there was enough I didn’t know that kept me entertained throughout. Even at the point that when the movie came into the final act, I started seeing things reminiscent of The Burning Crusade.
However, there’s a ton of things you won’t see in the movie – for example: several races (Blood Elves, Draenei, Gnomes, Worgen, Panderan, Undead, Tauren, Trolls & Goblins), along with several character types (like Death Knights for example). Personally I like that not everything is included from the off – it’s almost like a promise of more things to come in future movies.
All-in-all I was quite impressed with Warcraft; it’s a wholly-immersive fantasy world, with endearing characters and a thoroughly entertaining story. The only thing I could criticise about the film is that it is a little predictable, but even though I could see some of the reveals coming, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it. Warcraft: The Beginning is well worth your time, and will be fun for most ages.