Anthony's Film Review

Warcraft (2016)

For once, a movie based on a video game manages to get it right...

Warcraft is a popular video game series from Blizzard Entertainment, one whose name may be recognizable to gamers and nongamers. You may have heard of the game World of Warcraft, which is a massive multiplayer online role-playing game where you assume the role of one character and go on adventures in a virtual world in cooperation with or against other gamers playing other characters. However, if you look further back into gaming history or talk to a video game enthusiast, you will also find that Warcraft was previously a series of three real-time strategy games, which were Warcraft: Orcs and Humans (1994), Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995), and Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos (2002). There are also a few expansion packs for some Warcraft games, plus various novels and comic books based on the Warcraft universe.

Even though World of Warcraft is the biggest game of the series, the 2016 movie adaptation Warcraft focuses on the plot premise introduced in the preceding strategy game series: the conflict between humans and orcs. After all, that's where the Warcraft universe first started. Now, I can understand the concern that there cannot be much of a story based on that simple concept. The Warcraft real-time strategy games simply let the player lead orcs or humans in an effort to destroy the opposing race (although one should note that Warcraft III also includes elves and the undead, not just humans and orcs). Then again, it is possible to expand on the concept and sufficiently develop a story, or draw additional inspiration from the Warcraft books and comics.

Regardless of how the filmmakers conceived the story, the result is that the 2016 Warcraft movie is a video game-based movie that actually works. It avoids all of the mistakes that past game-based movies committed, such as drastically changing the key characteristics of the game's story and universe, portraying the game's characters in a poor manner, not recreating the thrills and emotions that made the game a hit, and focusing on action way more than the story. Warcraft is a movie that has the look and feel of the Warcraft games, while presenting a story and cast of characters that, in my opinion, can engage the audience regardless of whether or not one is familiar with the games. On top of that, the movie first and foremost tells a story, and gives us action that is still part of the story.

The film is set in a mythical fantasy world called Azeroth, where humans and other races live in harmony. But in another world, the orcs' land is a desolate place to live, and they need another place to call home. Therefore, an orc sorcerer named Gul'dan opens a portal to Azeroth, allowing an army of orcs to plunder villages in Azeroth. This, of course, alerts the humans who must scramble to resist or escape the onslaught of marauding orcs. So overall, you have the game's premise of orcs versus humans, but it's been written to provide an explanation for the conflict, one that would be expected for a motion picture.

The script has also been written to provide an interesting cast of characters on both sides of the war. Among the humans, there is a warrior named Lothar, the king named Llane Wrynn, a young magician named Khadgar, and the powerful wizard named Medivh who is also known as the Guardian. On the side of the orcs, there is a chieftain named Durotan, a female orc prisoner named Garona, and a brute named Blackhand who follows Gul'dan's orders. What makes the whole plot interesting is that not all humans are out to kill orcs, and not all orcs are out to defeat the humans. On the contrary, there are a few pacifistic characters on both sides who are willing to make peace with the other, as well as one character who may in fact be a secretive double-crosser.

Thanks to the capabilities of computer animation, the battle scenes are visually pleasing. There's no need for me to elaborate on how impressive they look. What I will say, though, is that the movie does not overdo the action at all. You would think that a movie based on Warcraft would have a ton of action scenes. But no, the filmmakers wisely avoided excessive action. In fact, there are really only three action scenes in the whole movie: a small one in the beginning to stir up the orc-human conflict, a medium-sized one in the middle during a pivotal moment in the story, and an epic one during the climax. Once again, this is a movie that is based on a video game but still remembers to be a movie.

After at least two decades of mostly bad movies based on video games, here is one that I can genuinely appreciate. Warcraft the game may appear to have a relatively simplistic plot, but Warcraft the movie is a little more sophisticated, with enough story development for a movie. It's not on the same level as a truly fantastic fantasy epic movie, like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, but it's definitely better than pretty much every video game-based movie made before this one. Anyone who wants to make a movie based on a video game should take away some lessons from this movie based on the Warcraft games. No matter what game you adapt into a movie, never forget the basic elements of a good movie, especially the plot and characters.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Warcraft, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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