Tuesday, June 21, 2016

WarCraft Movie Review

Hello all!

It's Mike again with my review of the movie WarCraft that I saw a couple times last weekend. First, let me preface this by saying that I have played all of the games the movie is based off of, which is not including World of WarCraft (WoW). I have never played WoW, nor do I see myself playing it anytime soon. What I will do in this post is relate some of the things that were in the movie to elements from the games. If you haven't ever played the games, do not worry! Maybe you will want to after reading this, and if you haven't seen the movie, same thing. Sometimes a little explaining things first before seeing a movie helps, and in this case I can definitely see that being helpful.

The original WarCraft game came out in November of 1994 and immediately changed the way people thought about real-time strategy (RTS) games. The game ran through a DOS based engine, which is way out of date to current standards, but at the time was high end. The following year, on December 9th, 1995, WarCraft II: Tides of Darkness was released and this is where I started playing the game. This was by far my favorite game at the time growing up. Between my brother and I, we played this all the time, even created our own campaigns using the characters in the story. It wasn't until StarCraft, another Blizzard Entertainment product, came out in 1998, this was my go to game. WarCraft II did get an expansion pack called Beyond the Dark Portal soon after the original release and just added a ton of depth to the story.

Blizzard then released WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion Frozen Throne in 2003 with a new graphics engine and a continuation of the story line but featuring a new generation of characters, some of which can be seen in the movie that was just released.

Ever since my brother and I saw some of the original cut scenes of the first two games, we thought the game would make a great movie. Blizzard has always been or tried to be at the forefront of storytelling through gameplay and through cinematic pieces that knocked your socks off. So when it was finally announced that this movie was happening and had direct input from Blizzard themselves, I was immediately satisfied that this wasn't going to be some terrible knock off that tends to happen with video game movies.

Side note: I realize that movie critics have been extremely hard on this movie, but I know they didn't give it a chance. Any video game website that has reviewed this movie has given it glowing reviews and in fact this movie carries high ratings from those who have seen it (7.7 on IMDB and 81% on Rotten Tomatoes, at the time of this posting). Also, this movie has broken every single movie record in China, so it is nowhere near as bad as critics say it is.

Now let's dive into the movie itself. The movie begins with the Orc horde led by Gul'dan, a warlock who is a master of Fel magic that is very dark and thrives off death opening the Dark Portal on their homeworld of Draenor. Gul'dan is a very important player not only in this movie, but in the story as a whole. The reason the Orcs want out of Draenor and to a new world is that their world is dying, which is a cause of who they serve. And by they, I mean the Burning Legion.

This is where I will explain some of the backstory that the movie doesn't get into, and I'm fine with that. The movie could have easily spent awhile trying to set this up, but frankly, I don't feel it was necessary to show that there is a higher power driving the orcs to act like this right away. It is implied a little bit into the movie, and at this stage, that should be good enough. At least that's what I thought.

Back to the Burning Legion. The Legion is made up of a bunch of demons led by Kil'Jaeden who go from world to world killing it off. In this instance, the orcs made a pact with the Burning Legion to be their servants and invade other worlds and give the control to the Legion. The demons then gave them the power of Fel magic which turns the orcs skin green. There were two warlocks that were granted power over of the horde, Ner'zhul and Gul'dan. Ner'zhul isn't in this movie, and he isn't in the first game because Gul'dan feels he could be more powerful than Ner'zhul and breaks from his group and leads the invasion into Azeroth, one of the areas that the humans live in.

There are several clans that make up this initial version of the horde that goes through the portal, and by far the biggest clan is the Blackrock Clan led by Blackhand. Gul'dan has his own clan of lesser warlocks that is called the Stormreaver Clan. The other two major orcs in this movie belong to the Frostwolf Clan, Durotan and Orgrim Doomhammer. In the first game, Doomhammer is who you are when playing the orc campaign. There is a point where you take control of the horde by killing Blackhand, which doesn't happen in the movie.

This is another instance that I'm perfectly okay with how the movie does this. In the game, Durotan is more or less assassinated, but in the movie, I liked how he became more of a martyr for the orcs by dying in a fight with Gul'dan. Also, Lothar kills Blackhand and earns the respect of the orcs in the process in a pretty bad ass scene. In the movie, Doomhammer betrays Durotan and earns the trust of Gul'dan in the process, which sets up the events of WarCraft II where Doomhammer becomes warchief of the horde in the place of Blackhand.

What this movie did really well is set up the possibility of an orc civil war, which is exactly what happens in WarCraft II. I won't get into too much detail about that, but the horde ends up splitting up right when Doomhammer is about to claim victory over the human Alliance because Gul'dan cares more about finding the tomb of an even more powerful demon named Sargeras. This shatters the orcs plan and they never recover from it.

The beginning of the movie shows the birth of Durotan's son who turns out to be a major player in events after WarCraft II. This child's name is Thrall and he leads the horde out of Azeroth in WarCraft III to the west to a place called Kalimdor where eventually the orcs and humans unite to fight the Burning Legion. That is yet a story for a later time. The story of Thrall in this movie is exactly how it happens in Blizzard's original storyline.

Getting into the human side of things, you first meet Anduin Lothar, a knight who is the brother to the Queen of Azeroth, who is married to King Llane. In the first game, you send forces to go find Lothar who is trapped in a dungeon on an expedition. He is the main human hero in both the first game and second game. Medivh, the great mage of Azeroth, although not necessarily the Guardian yet in the game, still follows the same arc. He is corrupted by the Burning Legion as well as he hears their voices and drive him to open up his side of the Dark Portal. In the first game, you find this out mid-campaign and go to his tower and kill him, similar to the movie version.

Khadgar plays a major role in WarCraft II, which was hinted at greatly in the movie from Medivh, as not only does he help destroy the Dark Portal, he leads an expedition with other characters that weren't in the movie through the Dark Portal to destroy the threat of the orcs for good on the Draenor side.

Garona does make an appearance in the first game, but she doesn't have as big a role as in the movie. I liked how they tied her to both sides in the movie as she was able to communicate between them, which I thought was huge in how they showed that Durotan wanted to unite with the humans setting up the civil war. In the game, in the orc campaign, you rescue her from a dungeon as she is the horde's best spy. During the human campaign, you find out she murders King Llane, which she did in the movie, although under his orders.

I really liked how they showed the early stages of an Alliance that essentially forms at the end of the movie of humans, dwarves, gnomes, and elves. Early in the movie they are all bickering and saying that this orc threat isn't a big deal. After the events of the first game and also in the movie, they understand how great the threat is.

Here is a little background on the areas of their continent that Azeroth is on. Azeroth is the southern end of the continent, with the other human kingdom called Lordaeron in the North. Between these two in the narrow landbridge portion is the dwarven kingdom of Khaz Modan. To the far north, bordering Lordaeron is the elven kingdom of Quel'Thalas. The wizards of the Kirin Tor, that appear in this movie, are from Dalaran (also seen in the movie), and early on this was located in Lordaeron.

At the end of the first game, the Azeroth capital city of Stormwind is destroyed by the orcs, which isn't what happened in the movie. I'm a little mixed on this, but I'm guessing if they have a sequel, the city most likely gets destroyed fairly early perhaps. This is what leads the remaining human forces north to ask Lordaeron and their ruler, King Terenas for aid and they form the Alliance.

Some other minor tidbits seen in the movie:

At the beginning of the movie when Gul'dan uses the blue creatures' lives to activate the Dark Portal, those are the Draenei. They are the ancient race that was on Draenor way before the orcs were.

When Lothar is suiting Garona up in the armory, she says she wants a certain sword they show on the rack and that sword is called Frostmourne, or it becomes that. That becomes a famous relic in WarCraft III that the main human antagonist goes in search of thinking that it will help him defeat his enemies, but in reality it drives him mad due to a spirit trapped inside, which the spirit belongs to someone named in this post.

When Khadgar breaks Lothar out of the prison, he uses the Polymorph spell which turns units into sheep. As described in the movie is exactly how long it lasts in the games (60 seconds), and it is extremely annoying when enemy mages do it to you in the game.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. To me, it is easily the best video game adaptation I've ever seen. As someone who is a WarCraft diehard, I loved it a lot. As stated through my post, the stuff that differed, I didn't really have a problem with it. In some ways they streamlined the game, especially the first game that had parallel campaigns. To this I mean that both sides mirrored each other, yes you destroy Stormwind, but at the same time you destroy Blackrock Spire (the orc base). So I understand something has to give.

One of my criticisms for it was for the sequences right after the orcs enter through the Dark Portal is that the speed of the movie was quite fast to set up the plot. As someone who has played all the games knowing who is who and where is where, it wasn't as big of an issue for me, but for those who don't know anything about it, I can see where that can be troublesome. After that part, I thought the movie's pacing was just fine. It wasn't an all out CGI fight fest like the Hobbit movies became, and it had just enough slow portions to add character depth.

Visually I thought the movie was very stunning. It looked great, and parts looked like a game, which as a game movie, I feel they should do. The orcs were outright fantastic. I've heard some say that the humans looked out of place, but I counter that opinion by saying I felt they added tangible things to some shots that were CGI filled. By the way, the armor they created was awesome and I kind of want some of those Azeroth helmets.

Closing, I highly recommend this movie. I saw it with a couple people that knew nothing of the games or story and they thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe giving my post a read will help convince you to see it after getting some of the backstory and future happenings to it. I really want them to make the sequels, which THANKS CHINA!!

Thanks for reading,

Mike G.

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