I had never seen the game released in 1994, but thanks to Gamer magazine, I managed to see the demo of Warcraft II: Tide of Darkness. However, my acquaintance with the game happened with the release of Reign of Chaos in 2002, just like everyone else. During the period when the Age of Empires was thriving, Warcraft was like a blessing, and I started playing it just like everyone else. I may have completed the game’s story about ten times. Back then, we knew the story by heart. That is why Warcraft: The Beginning, is a bit special for me and many like me.
The Frozen Throne expansion pack in 2003 was groundbreaking. Especially the characters Illidan and the Lich King caused a great sensation. Moreover, the custom maps created for the game contributed to its immense popularity. D-Day, Footman Frenzy, Tower Defense, Enfos, X-Hero Siege, and more made the game even more beloved. I spent a year of my life playing Footman Frenzy. Dota wasn’t well-known back then. I remember the days I would open the map and wander around aimlessly. Later on, it became one of the most famous maps. Then, in 2004, Blizzard decided to transform the game into an MMORPG, which brought about a significant change, even though it became a paid game. It turned into one of the most played online games in history. I was one of the first players of World of Warcraft in 2004. I got acquainted with the game when it was free.
As a dedicated Warcraft player of 14 years, like everyone else, I waited for the film for years. We all know Blizzard’s habit of delaying things; they made us wait 12 years for Diablo 3. Although I still play Diablo 2. We kept getting excited by empty rumors that circulated for years. There was no action apart from rumors like the photo of the Lich King’s sword that surfaced on the internet or Sam Raimi taking the director’s chair for the film. Whether the film being delayed for so long was good or bad can be debated. If it had been made earlier, most likely, the orcs would have been portrayed with makeup, like in The Lord of the Rings. Of course, I have no problem with makeup. The delay until the present allowed them to utilize CGI. The film is a grand CGI spectacle. The orcs are designed so magnificently that they are identical to the ones in the game. After a 14-year-long wait, we finally returned to this beloved universe.
Warcraft: The Beginning depicts the Orcs & Humans from 1994. The orc planet Draenor is on the brink of destruction. Gul’dan promises a new realm to all the orcs, but in return, everyone must obey him and devote themselves to the Fel. Besides the clan leaders Blackhand, Orgrim, and Durotan, almost everyone pledges themselves to the Fel. Gul’dan keeps his promise and transports a large part of the orcs to Azeroth through the Portal he created. The orcs, under the influence of the Fel, begin destroying everything in Azeroth. Naturally, the humans are not pleased with their new guests, and war breaks out between the orcs and humans.
The reason for such a long delay in Warcraft: The Beginning is Blizzard’s desire to entrust the movie to the right team and the right person. Duncan Jones, known for successful films like “Source Code” and “Moon,” sits in the director’s chair. Besides being a fresh and emerging director, his passion as a dedicated World of Warcraft player is one of the reasons he took the helm. However, I must mention that Duncan Jones took on a monumental task for his third feature film. While he did a good job, I can’t say he is a Peter Jackson. Although there are some fantastic shots, they are somewhat overshadowed by the grandeur of Warcraft, and he is aware of that. In fact, he gives hope for the second film by saying, “If I made a mistake, let me know, and I’ll correct it.” While Duncan Jones may not have delivered an outstanding performance in terms of direction, his understanding of the game and his involvement as a fan reflected the visuals and nostalgia wonderfully.
Warcraft: The Beginning is a complete CGI spectacle. If it weren’t for real actors in the movie, it would almost feel like an animated film. But this is not a complaint for Warcraft fans. As someone who has watched the game’s cinematics hundreds of times, even if the film were entirely like the cinematics, it would be sufficient for me. Most likely, it would be the same for you. We can say that Warcraft possibly has the best cinematics in gaming history.
The film’s visuals, the design of the orcs, and the locations are brilliantly crafted. Duncan Jones and his team meticulously tried to faithfully portray everything out of respect for the game. Everything has been faithfully recreated from Elwynn Forest to Stormwind, from footmen to griffons. It’s hard for those who are familiar with the WoW universe not to feel emotional. I presume Warcraft will receive numerous nominations at the 2017 Academy Awards, especially in the categories of art direction and CGI. However, I cannot extend the same praise to the screenplay.
Warcraft: The Beginning has a runtime of 2 hours. Due to the attempt to tell such a massive story in just 2 hours, the film feels a bit rushed. If it had been 4, or at most 3 hours, like The Lord of the Rings, the screenplay would have had no disruptions. Director Duncan Jones has already cut 40 minutes from the film, and it is unknown which scenes were cut. These 40 minutes that were removed likely disrupted the integrity of the screenplay. The romantic relationship between Lothar and Garona, which should not have been present in the story, feels rushed. Durotan’s motivation leading to his rebellion against Gul’dan is poorly developed, and his sudden realization of the harm caused by Fel is abrupt. Warcraft is a story of struggle, a story of races trying to survive in a ruthless world. Unfortunately, although the foundations of both sides are well established, the film struggles to convey this on a broader scale.
Unfortunately, these are the downsides of the Warcraft: The Beginning, and they seriously harm the overall experience. They are all directly related to the film’s two-hour duration. When I left the theater, I was genuinely disappointed. I couldn’t get enough of the film. The Warcraft universe should not have been condensed into a mere two hours. Because I couldn’t get my fill, I was somewhat let down. There’s no denying it. It could have been much better. But unfortunately, it wasn’t. I attribute this entirely to the inexperience of Blizzard and Duncan Jones.
But are there no good things in the Warcraft: The Beginning? Has Duncan Jones achieved anything? Of course, there are. For instance, the successful portrayal of why Thrall is green. Unlike the contrived romance between Garona and Lothar, the film avoids excessive romanticism with Durotan and Draka. In fact, these moments are among the film’s most beautiful scenes, as they help develop sympathy for the orcs. The director skillfully handles the orc’s story because he understands the universe. The screenplay was already in place before Duncan Jones took the director’s chair, but it was more from the perspective of human characters. Duncan Jones has achieved what he aimed for by balancing the storytelling. Even as someone who has been playing the game for 14 years, he surprised me with his efforts to make viewers empathize with orcs. However, viewers who are unfamiliar with the game will likely find the situation peculiar. The orcs have become beings who laugh, have fun, make children, and joke, just like humans. There is no fault in that since, in the story, orcs are tame when there is no Fel.
Duncan Jones successfully portrays the orcs through Durotan. Likewise, with the Mak’gora fights, he shows how honorable creatures the orcs truly are. This situation undermines all preconceptions about orcs. It will be surprising for viewers who are not familiar with the universe. Another thing Duncan Jones did well was the depiction of the battles. The battles were brilliantly executed. The towering and formidable orcs contrasted with the helplessness of the humans were effectively portrayed. Ramin Djawadi, the fantastic composer of Game of Thrones, did an exceptional job with the film’s music. I gave the film’s music a perfect score of 10 out of 10 and added it to my Spotify playlist already.
So, what do we see in the Warcraft: The Beginning?
- At the film’s beginning, we see a Murloc hunting in Elwynn Forest. Its disturbing sound is also part of the scene.
- Khadgar performs a Hex spell. It was a different feeling just to witness that.
- Stormwind is remarkably well-crafted. From its streets to its wide-angle views, it is beautifully designed. Moreover, Duncan Jones adding the Gryphon stop in Stormwind is a fantastic detail. It is perhaps the busiest location in the game.
- There are dwarves in the film. Although not in great detail, we make a stop at Ironforge. One of the film’s shortcomings is that we don’t focus too much on the different races.
- We also get a glimpse of the Blood Elves. Especially viewers who are unfamiliar with the universe will find the elves somewhat strange. Those accustomed to the elves of The Lord of the Rings will most likely be taken aback when encountering Warcraft’s elves.
- We see the Draenei as well. The destruction of Draenor already means the extinction of the Draenei race, and this aspect is portrayed wonderfully in the film. Gul’dan is effectively committing a kind of genocide akin to Hitler.
- We encounter plenty of Fel magic, but unfortunately, Fel is superficially explored. We don’t hear the names Kil’jaeden, Archimonde, Burning Legion, or Sargeras in the film. Although we catch a glimpse of Sargeras’ image in the Well of Souls, this visual will be confusing for an ordinary viewer. The general audience already struggles to grasp the story. Why is Draenor being destroyed? Where did Fel come from? Why did Medivh help the orcs? They don’t know these details, and it’s a significant drawback. I was actually hoping for the film to start with the Fel ritual. Everything is fine for those who know the story, but it’s problematic for those who don’t.
- Duncan Jones occasionally includes shots of castle towers. Whenever we look in the background, we see towers.
- We see locations such as Karazhan, Blackrock Mountain, Westfall, Kirin Tor, Hellfire Peninsula, Dun Morogh, Deadwind Pass, Stormwind, and Redridge Mountains, and each one is beautifully designed.
Honestly, I was somewhat disappointed. It is partly due to my high expectations. The short duration is already saddening because it disrupts the film’s flow. Trying to depict such a vast universe in just 2 hours is simply not feasible. As for the performances: the casting choices can be debated. 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 conclusion… Warcraft: The Beginning has finally made its way to the big screen after 22 years. It is not phenomenal, but it is definitely worth watching. I eagerly await the weekend because I watched it at a press screening. I will watch it again. Seeing the Warcraft universe come to life on screen was a completely different experience. Duncan Jones knew this, so he managed to fit many things we can appreciate on the screen. He captured the nostalgia well. The screenplay and performances may have their flaws, yes, but I believe they will be overcome in the second film. Moreover, the second film will feature many more characters. Their inclusion means an increase in the seriousness of the film. Names like Uther, Turalyon, Daelin Proudmoore, and Hellscream will most likely join the film. Along with them, Trolls, Ogres, Blood Elves, and Alexstrasza will also be part of the film. This indicates that the second film will be much grander. Although the first film didn’t make a tight entrance, I have high hopes for the second one. The only downside is that the film will probably take another 2-3 years to come out.
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 |