Navimie's "Warcraft - The Beginning" review - why I liked it and why the critics hate it
There has been widespread panning by critics of the Warcraft movie, which is a concern for Warcraft fans as it would probably keep a lot of the potential viewers away.
However, Duncan Jones took it in stride, and the movie opened strongly in overseas markets compared to the United States, but the dropoff since then has been rapid.
The movie opened officially last week in Australia, and I went to see it on Sunday with my family, as well as HK and Shab.
*** WARNING - SPOILERS! ***
DO NOT READ FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE MOVIE AND DON'T WANT SPOILERS!
My thoughts on the movie:
I enjoyed the movie. Overall, I would have scored it a 7/10 (which is about on par with X-Men: Apocalypse in my eyes, but less than Captain America: Civil War which I would give a 8-9/10).
The lore was a little different, but not in a displeasing way. A little like how the Marvel cinematic universe differs from the comics. Some things just don't translate well to the big screen from a book/comic/computer game.
We know the basic story - it's the story of Orcs vs Humans, and the arrival of Orcs from Draenor to Azeroth via the Dark Portal.
The Orc side of the story is told - with some sense and sympathy from the audience towards the Frostwolf Orcs (Durotan, Draka) who seemed to be the only ones intent on surviving and living rather than ravaging and destroying all that they conquer. The rest of the orcs, and Guldan in particular, seem to be fearsome creatures with whom we have no qualm in seeing slaughtered.
The humans seem unprepared for this invasion, and King Llane of Stormwind (who is also the brother in law of Anduin Lothar in the movie - a departure from the official lore) relies heavily on his friend, Medivh, the Guardian of Tirisfal, to assist them against this fearsome foe.
The young mage Khadgar appears on the scene intent on trying to find out more about the orcs and where they came from and offers a lot of comedic relief in his actions. I admit I'm unsure what Khadgar has done to deserve such scorn from his contemporaries!
Medivh, who resides in his tower in Karazhan, seems to possess amazing power, yet easily OOMs and has to keep getting in the font to recharge himself. It is revealed later that he actually brought the orcs to Azeroth and a demon resides within him.
During a skirmish in the forest between the Orcs and Humans, Garona the half human-half orc female, was freed by Durotan as he fled from the battle scene (when confronted by Medivh's powerful magic), but she ended up being captured by Khadgar and from her the humans gleaned the plans of the orcs.
Anduin Lothar (whose first name was only said ONCE I think in the whole movie), commander of the Alliance forces in Stormwind, and Garona seem to have some sort of attraction throughout the movie, but later the trust is shattered when the Alliance forces face the Horde at the Dark portal.
Guldan and Medivh are the real villains in this movie. I have to admit, I had never really thought much about fel and warlockery, but after seeing how life was drained for power with fel magic, I can't help but feel some revulsion towards warlocks. The life draining images were very powerful and seeing life force drained away for the purpose of magic made me a little bit sad!
Durotan approaches King Llane, asking for some sort of alliance so they can tackle Guldan and allow his clan and family to survive and live in a living world not the ruins of a conquered one, but this action merely brands him a traitor to the Horde. They are ambushed at their meeting point at Blackrock Mountain, though Medivh does come to ensure Llane's escape, but Lothar's only son is killed by Blackhand in front of Lothar, who is separated from his son by a magic lightning barrier conjured by Medivh.
Durotan evokes a Mak'gora (trial by combat) with Gul'dan, but Gul'dan uses magic to drain Durotan's life, killing him, which is technically not the Orc warrior's honourable way. However, everyone is afraid of Gul'dan and do not challenge him.
The rest of the Frostwolves are branded traitors and their encampment is burned and the Frostwolves slain. Draka runs with her baby Go'el (who was born during her passage through the Dark Portal from Draenor, but was dead, and given life by Gul'dan via life taken by fel magic from a nearby deer) and in Moses style she puts him on the river, then fights an Orc tracking her, killing him but dying herself from a mortal wound from his blade.
Meanwhile, Khadgar has discovered that Medivh is contaminated by fel, goes to Dalaran to seek help from the Kirin Tor and is told by Alodi (who as a shade in Karazhan's library led Khadgar to the book about the Dark Portal) that his suspicions are true, and Medivh is NOT on their side and had betrayed them all by leading the Orcs to Azeroth. Lothar and Khadgar go to confront Medivh in Karazhan, whilst King Llane and Garona and the rest of the Stormwind forces go to Black Morass to the Dark Portal to try to thwart the imminent invasion.
Khadgar and Medivh battle, and Medivh transforms into a demon (which in lore should be Sargeras but is unnamed in the movie - probably for the best) and Khadgar manages to defeat the demon and appeal to whatever humanity Medivh has remaining to help King Llane at the Dark Portal. Lothar is high tails it out of Karazhan to the Dark Portal and Medivh manages to briefly open a portal to Stormwind allowing the rescued humans to escape to safety, but dies before the King can escape, trapping him between an invading horde and the War party already on Azeroth.
Llane tells Garona she has to kill him so she can survive, and reluctantly she does so. I have to admit, that one deviation from the lore is a powerful one, and I think that it worked very well (as originally she was controlled by Gul'dan to assassinate Llane against her will). Lothar discovers her dagger in Llane's neck, and his horror at the betrayal will probably ensure that whatever closeness they once had is now obliterated.
Lothar has to endure a Mak'gora against Blackhand and he slays Blackhand fairly, earning the respect of the Orcs, despite Gul'dan's outrage insisting that they kill the human. Garona intervenes on his behalf, citing this is a betrayal of the tradition and would forever sway the orcs against him, and Lothar leaves with the body of his king.
And meanwhile... Go'el is picked up by some humans, leaving it open for a movie sequel.
What was amazing? Mages. Mages were amazing in this movie. Their spell animations, the rune scribbling on the ground, the portals - mages were very well represented in this movie! Khadgar was amusing, yet likable. However, I found it difficult to like Medivh's character - and that's not because he was a villain. Magneto and Loki are villains and I like their characters. There was something about Ben Foster's portrayal of Medivh that made Medivh seem more like a drunk or drugged fool than an all powerful Guardian. I suppose that could be explained by his contamination by fel - that could make him seem unlike himself, and that could have been deliberate.
Gul'dan however, was an amazing villain, I felt. I was also impressed by his spiky shoulders - in game those are shoulder armour but in the movie they were a part of him, a demonic part, which I thought was just fantastic. I mentioned before about the soul and life draining and I think that animation was done VERY well.
Orc animations were done very well in the close ups, especially Orgrim,Durotan and Gul'dan. The females did not fare so well, nor Blackhand in my opinion.
I REALLY liked the change with King Llane's assassination. I think that opens up a lot more complexity between characters and also within characters themselves. Garona was a great character, well played and likeable, even though it was not very clear why she was being kept on a chain by Gul'dan, when in the end she did not do his bidding. Perhaps in the future there will be some evidence of her being controlled by Gul'dan.
I liked seeing Stormwind brought to life. It looked very grand. In fact, all the places looked incredibly grand!
However, I can see WHY the critics smashed the movie. These are what I felt were it's drawbacks.
There are a lot of characters, and it would be difficult as a non Warcraft player to get an understanding of all of them. I know who they are and even I was a little bit confused. For the uninitiated, it may be confusingg. The early part of the movie had a fair bit of Lothar and Durotan character building which may have been a bit dragging for some people. You get a lot more out of the movie when you have the backstory to it - which is why Marvel movies with a lot of characters tend not to do as well as those with fewer characters.
X-Men is a good example (though it isn't part of the Marvel Disney Cinematic Universe). It had terrible reviews, but when I watched it, I could see the throwbacks to the original comics which would be lost. I knew who all the characters were, and even some of the ones that weren't actually mentioned but had speaking lines (eg Jubilee) because of their costumes etc.
But back to Warcraft. I did find the tusks on the girls a little ungainly. In an evolution sense, they don't seem to be very.. functional and also don't fit in well with their features. They looked a bit odd on Garona as well and sometimes made her sound a little sibilant. On the males they seemed fine. I'm not sure how they don't drool all day long, having teeth sticking out.
I am not sure what the interaction between Garona and Lothar was meant to demonstrate. I felt it a bit unnecessary. In fact, in lore, Garona gets it on with Medivh somehow to have a child, so if the romance had been between them, perhaps I would have been more forgiving. However, given how the story was pacing out, that kind of intimacy or suggestion of it would never eventuate.
I don't feel like Medivh was portrayed well. I mentioned it before, and I feel as if his character would have been better served with either fits of insanity as the fel overtook him (like a Jekyll/Hyde thing), or a lot more slyness that didn't make him so creepy from the start.
The movie played a lot to the Warcraft fanbase, which, as a fan, I appreciated, but if I was not, the moments felt just like space being filled that did not feel like it fitted in. An example would be some of the orc fighting - all those Redridge mountains shots which I thought were great, but didn't bring you much other than orcs were everywhere burning stuff.
I think that perhaps some dialogue that acted like backstory would help somewhat. Durotan mentioned as he walked through the camps early in the movie about "all the clans are here" and rattled off a few names. But a narrative by Durotan, perhaps, telling us about how Orcs are a warrior race, with honour in combat and death and naming the clans and how they were organised and led may have helped. I could see he was friends with Orgrim, but I didn't know why from the movie (I know why from the lore).
Many different races were briefly seen in the movie, and I feel as if they were there more for fans than they were for the movie. Did the alliance races - Draenei, Dwarves, High Elves - offer much to the story? It was exciting to see them, but for non WoW players, they probably wonder why they didn't all come to help for the battle, to fight for their own world.
However, despite all these negative things, I really enjoyed the movie. It is a shame that I enjoyed it more because I knew the history better, and the characters. I wish everyone could know them like me so they could feel like they would like the movie more. However, being able to tell a story to a new audience and be able to engage them is unfortunately where Warcraft seems to have fallen down in the critic's eyes. Those bad reviews have kept a number of people away from the movie, but I will do my best to support it, because I really want to see a sequel AND the Director's cut version of the movie, which I am sure will explain things a whole lot better.
I think Mike Fahey explained it well when he said he liked the movie. I was so busy getting caught up in the easter eggs and seeing the game I love with real people and stunning CGI that I didn't notice as much all the things that were disappointing to all the critics. I had to think hard to remember all the things I found less enjoyable because I was too busy giggling at the Murloc, or pointing out how the stairs of the Karazhan library tower look so much like the game!
Well, my daughter liked the movie. She's 8. She plays World of Warcraft. She pointed at the murloc ("Mum, look it's a grrrllgrrrlgh!") but she knows nothing of the lore. I wonder how Duncan Jones is feeling with all the negative press, but I hope that he's buoyed enough by the fans who have tweeted him all their enthusiasm and appreciation for the movie he has made not to feel like he couldn't tackle a second movie.
And please. Everyone be civil. Just because you didn't like it doesn't mean you have to rain hate on it. Other people liked it, and their creator is proud of it. As Duncan himself said in this tweet:
If u loved Warcraft,spread the word or better yet, bring someone new to see it!— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) June 11, 2016
If not. No worries, but please chill out. It's just a movie.