Monday, 27 June 2016 00:00

Warcraft. And it was very much appreciated.

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Video game movies have a long and respected history of generally being bad. The Warcraft movie did not completely buck this trend, but it is still a decent movie to kill a few hours. Its biggest problems come from the nature of its story, as its visuals were beautiful and it is a mostly faithful adaptation of that period in Warcraft lore. It was written by a team of writers well-versed in the lore, including Blizzard’s own Chris Metzen, and was made in partnership with Legendary Pictures. Unlike many film adaptations, Blizzard was hugely involved in their maiden voyage into the box office.

I'm a longtime fan of the Warcraft franchise starting with Warcraft 3.

The first games were a bit before my time, but I am enough of a lore nerd that I was already familiar with the events of the game set at this time in the universe. The writers made several changes for the adaptation, which is fine - an excellent story for a video game cannot be directly ported to a movie format and still come across in the same way. It's best just to think of Warcraft: The Beginning as an alternate timeline.

As far as storyline goes, perhaps the movie packed in too much. Unfortunately, there was just too much world building and story to fit in the movie. There was a hero and a villain for each faction, and hardly anyone got enough screen time to establish themselves well. Durotan, the main hero of the orc storyline, got far more exposure than most of the cast, and his scenes ended up winning me over. He was a prospective father and clan leader who wanted to do the right thing. The film gave him just enough time being a good guy, but everyone else got caught up in a current of setup. The humans had pretty good character moments at times, but there were too many of them fighting over the spotlight. We had people learning how to trust, dealing with grief, struggling under massive responsibility, and more. I'm not sure how much I drew upon my wide-ranging knowledge to follow what was happening, but I was happy to have the extra backstory in my mind.

On the positive side, the movie is gorgeous.Eye candy can make up for a lot if you weren't expecting a masterpiece of storytelling. The Warcraft universe is massive, has a lot of good stories to tell, and has a budget to back itself up, so we can expect more movies in the not-too-distant future. The story of Durotan's son Thrall was very heavily set up, and if that's where they go next, I'm excited to see what they can do with a much more tightly focused story. Other iconic characters I can think of are the tragedy of Prince Arthas or in my wildest dreams a buddy movie about Tirion Fordring and his orc friend Eitrigg (can you imagine?).

Movie critics have been largely pessimistic about the film, but I haven't heard any major complaints from fans of the franchise.

Jamie Lee Curtis and her son were certainly on the hype train, coming to the premiere in full cosplay. Perhaps it takes a fan to know a good video game movie when they see one; maybe non-fans should sit this one out.

Warcraft is a venerable IP, and given the lack of competition, this is the best video game movie I've seen since Wreck it Ralph. Outside of the fantastically well used CGI, this is not a bit of cinema that will be winning any awards. It is the beginning of a franchise, and my determined optimism says that Blizzard and Legendary Pictures could get better at making cinema together. If not, they managed to pen a love letter to their fans that anyone with even an ounce of Warcraft nostalgia should examine – and it was very much appreciated.

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