I think it’s important for me to be upfront, honest and let my bias be known: I don’t like the game World of Warcraft and I’m not a fan of fantasy films. But I did try really, really hard to keep an open mind during the movie Warcraft. And wouldn’t you know, the darnedest thing happened. I really enjoyed it.
My history with the Warcraft game series is brief and inconsistent. I had a phase in the 90s where I did play Warcraft II rather frequently. But then there was a huge gap until I played World of Warcraft for the first time, but that lasted about 10 minutes before I quit. That ushered in another hiatus until I got into Hearthstone… for about a week. Suffice it to say I’m not opposed to Warcraft, I’m just not that into it.
Prior to seeing Warcraft, I’m not sure there is a fantasy film that I really like. It is a genre that has alluded my taste. I’ve seen all the Lord of the Rings movies (never read the books). They’re fine. I don’t need to see them again. I saw 1.5 of the Hobbit movies (never read the book). They’re less fine. I don’t need to finish the trilogy.
So how did Warcraft pull me out of my apathy for the property and the genre? It didn’t bore me to death with backstory and over-zealous exposition. If anything, it left me wanting more.
Everything I needed to know about Warcraft was told to me before the title card. There are orcs. Their world is dead. A badass orc is using an badass evil force to open a portal to a new world. The force feeds on life. Got it? Good. You won’t have much of an excuse to not keep up.
Warcraft doesn’t waste a lot of time teaching us about family trees. There aren’t extended scenes of dwarves goofing around at a dinner party. There is no lengthy crawl of text that bombards us with details we won’t remember. Nope. We get short, perfect scenes that define each main character without halting the movie in its tracks.
Not knowing the deep history of the characters and locations in the lore, I never found myself lost. I often found myself curious, but never confused. To a casual uninformed viewer, Warcraft keeps a surface-level approach to all the details. But that I could tell there is a giant library of history below the surface.
Warcraft builds an excellent world that feels alive. While I didn’t know exactly how everything was connected, I didn’t care. I can always research that information on my own. I don’t need the movie to beat me over the head with minutia.
While the world in Warcraft was built efficiently. I’m afraid the editing process took away a bit too much of the character building. That’s not to say I didn’t get connected to most, if not all, of the characters. I generally liked all of them (despite a few lackluster performances).
I just wanted, and I can’t believe I’m going to say this, more quiet moments with each character. The SparkNotes version presented in the movie gave me just enough info to get pulled in but I actually wished the movie was just a bit longer to really flesh each character. I want to spend more time with the Frostwolf Clan. I want to feel more of Gorana’s pain. I want to build a deeper bond with Lothar and his son. I want to learn why Khadgar needed to run from his calling. And I definitely want to see Gul’dan wreck more fools.
I just know what I want was left on the cutting room floor. I can see it in the way the movie plays out. The obvious gaps are obvious. And despite the obviously missing character development, the emotional weight of the movie was not lost on me. There are multiple emotional moments that got me and got me good.
I was rather skeptical as to how I would feel about the special effects and the effect they would have on my connection to the CG characters. Well that skepticism was quashed immediately.
The motion-capture performances shine through the technical wizardry extremely well. And quite frankly, the CG characters are easier to get attached to than some of the human characters. The orcs didn’t quite surpass the emoting skills of Lord of the Rings‘ Gollum. But Gollum was a tiny little thing that was 95% eyeballs. Of course he was able to emote more effectively. The orcs are giants with tiny eyes and extremely proportioned bodies.
My only beef with the visual effects has to do with the compositing of the live-action characters. On a few occasions you’re able to sense the green screen work. It’s nothing totally egregious, but it’s there. You’ll probably notice it and it might take you out of the movie, but only for a split second. There are too many remarkable visuals that shouldn’t be disregarded for a couple iffy shots.
I’m really quite surprised to say it but Warcraft has flipped my opinion of fantasy… for now. The world in which you enter is magnificent and filled with varied characters and the point of entry wasn’t as steep as other fantasy films. There is a immense attitude of fun and adventure throughout the movie. The humor felt authentic. The action felt visceral. The emotional responses felt real. And most importantly, it didn’t bore me with all the details.