Before start talking about Warcraft: The Beginning, let’s talk about the heritage. Even the game developer Blizzard did not expect Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, which was released in 1994, to become such a huge success. The series continued with Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness in 1995 and came to a halt in 1997. When the game came back in 2002, it utilized the technology of the time excellently and produced a fantastic game. Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, released under this name, would become one of the most significant games in history. Compared to games of that era, Warcraft had successful visuals and offered a magnificent story that many other games couldn’t achieve. It gained a broad following and achieved great success with its expansion pack, Frozen Throne. Blizzard then changed the course of the game, transitioning from real-time strategy (RTS) to massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and introduced World of Warcraft to the world. The game, released in 2004, became the most-played online game at the time, despite being a paid game. The game’s success stemmed from its vast map and detailed storyline. With its own universe and deep history, much like The Lord of the Rings or today’s Game of Thrones, Warcraft still plays fervently and makes headlines with each expansion pack. It’s worth noting that the game has many accompanying books as well.
Of course, with such popularity, it was inevitable for Warcraft to be made into a film. Unfortunately, we had to wait many years for the film to be realized. Blizzard, known for keeping its fans waiting (Diablo III, waited for 12 years), made us wait 14 years for the Warcraft film. Apart from rumors floating around, nothing was done for years regarding the film. There were mentions of the Lich King’s sword and Sam Raimi’s involvement as the director that later fell through, but that was about it. Whether it was good or bad to wait for so long is debatable. If it had been made earlier, all the orcs would have been portrayed with makeup, much like in The Lord of the Rings. I have no problem with orcs in makeup, of course. However, the delay until now allowed them to make excellent use of CGI technology and create characters faithfully. As you can understand, millions of Warcraft players had been waiting for this film for years, and finally, it arrived.
Regarding the story: Warcraft: The Beginning tells the story of Warcraft I. The planet of the orcs, Draenor, is dying, and the orcs are searching for a brand new habitat. The orc warlock Gul’dan promises to take all the orcs to Azeroth, the human world, through a portal he has created, and he fulfills this promise. However, for him to keep his word, all the orcs must devote themselves to a power called Fel. Only the clan leaders, Blackhand, and the suspicious Orgrim and Durotan refuse to submit to Fel. The other orcs agree to embrace Fel to establish a new life and eagerly cross over to Azeroth. However, the humans living in Azeroth are not pleased with their new guests because these newcomers have become savage creatures due to Fel. As soon as the orcs arrive in Azeroth, they begin to destroy everything in their path recklessly. And humans unite to fight against these creatures.
The reason for the film’s prolonged development was Blizzard’s desire to entrust the movie to the most qualified team and individuals. Duncan Jones, a Warcraft player himself, was chosen as the film’s director. Despite being a relatively new director who gained recognition with films like Source Code and Moon, Duncan Jones took on a significant responsibility by choosing Warcraft for his third film, even exceeding his own limits a bit. Although he tried his best to fulfill this responsibility, he was aware that he couldn’t deliver a perfect job. He even went as far as saying, “If I made any mistakes, let me know, and I’ll try to fix them,” in an attempt to appease the audience. While the director didn’t achieve a perfect result, he presented a watchable direction with some magnificent shots. He will also direct the second and third films, but he would prefer someone else to direct it if there is a fourth film.
Initially, Warcraft: The Beginning was supposed to be released in 2015 after its completion in 2014, but they decided to wait until 2016 to avoid overlapping with the blockbuster film Star Wars. The film is a complete CGI spectacle. Warcraft will likely receive multiple nominations at the 2017 Academy Awards. The visual effects, CGI, and especially the design of the orcs are beyond amazing. The director and the team paid meticulous attention to the cities on the map and the details from the game out of respect for the Warcraft universe. Everything from the costumes to the swords in the game has been faithfully recreated, making it one of the most successful art direction works in recent times. Warcraft: The Beginning offers a visually stunning feast. However, the same cannot be said for the screenplay.
Due to the film’s two-hour duration, it, unfortunately, feels rushed. Trying to tell such a grandiose story in two hours has led to some skipped moments in the narrative. The love story between Lothar and Garona, which was an unnecessary addition to begin with, is rushed and lacks depth. The orcs’ rebellious motivations and finding a new home are poorly developed. If the film had been, let’s say, four or even three hours long, similar to The Lord of the Rings, it would have likely been much more coherent. Director Duncan Jones had to cut 40 minutes from the film, and it’s unclear which scenes were removed. The missing 40 minutes that were likely cut have somewhat disrupted the overall coherence of the film. Warcraft is a story of struggle, and although the film establishes the foundation of this struggle, it fails to expand it effectively.
The most successful aspect of the Warcraft: The Beginning is director Duncan Jones’ choices regarding the orcs. The screenplay was ready before the director was chosen but mainly focused on the human race. The director balanced this by ensuring that Horde enthusiasts were also pleased. We watch the film from both the perspective of humans and orcs. The reason for this approach is that the orcs in the Warcraft universe are different from the commonly known orcs. The director wanted to make the audience fall in love with orcs in the first Warcraft film, and I can say that he succeeded in that. However, he didn’t succeed in establishing the foundation or not wanting to develop it well. If you haven’t played the game or don’t know the story of the universe, you will dive into the events without much understanding. You will watch without knowing the reasons behind many things.
The choice of actors is debatable. Travis Fimmel, known as Ragnar in Vikings, fits perfectly into the character of Anduin Lothar. Paula Patton, who plays Garona, stands out a bit. Mainly because she is a half-orc, it can be said that she appears a bit artificial. Ben Foster, who plays Medivh, delivers a successful performance. But the names that need to be highlighted in the film are the actors who play the orcs: Robert Kazinsky (Orgrim), Clancy Brown (Blackhand), Daniel Wu (Gul’dan), and Toby Kebbell (Durotan). They deliver a fantastic performance, and the CGI brings forth stunning visuals. Here’s a side note: Robert Kazinsky is a devoted World of Warcraft player and has even ranked in the top 100 at one point. Due to the unfamiliar world, the performances feel a bit strange, albeit successful. In fact, this is also one of the film’s shortcomings. We struggle to understand the characters. This will likely be overcome in the second film. Likewise, the dwarves and elves in the movie will probably appear strange to the viewers due to their unfamiliarity with those races. Again, this is a deficiency; we don’t get the chance to familiarize ourselves with the other races.
In summary… as a Warcraft player of 13 years, I experienced a slight disappointment while watching the Warcraft: The Beginning. I had much higher expectations. Ultimately, I felt relieved, and my soul found peace, but it could have been much better. The short duration of the film particularly bothered me the most. I wasn’t satisfied when it ended. As I mentioned, its brevity also harmed the coherence of the screenplay. It could have been longer and a bit more intense. These are simply the inexperience of Blizzard and director Duncan Jones. Nevertheless, a fantastic film worth watching has emerged. Warcraft has undoubtedly managed to be the most unique among the fantasy universes created so far. It’s worth going and watching just to encounter this universe. I must emphasize once again that it is a visually spectacular feast. Although Warcraft: The Beginning didn’t make a strong entrance in terms of its screenplay, its visual appearance promises great hope for the second film.
Cast & Crew
director: Duncan Jones
writers: Duncan Jones
starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga
USA | 2016 | 96 MINUTES |