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Review: Warcraft

Spoiler warning!

I went into Warcraft expecting a bad movie. This movie managed to be worse than my very low expectations.

In order to be fair though, I’ll start by talking about one of the positive things about this movie: it’s enjoyable to watch at times. If you’re looking for a well-constructed movie, Warcraft will not be your jam, but if you’re simply looking for orcs smashing knights, then you have come to the right place. The action sequences were pretty cool to watch if you ignored the story. There was plenty of hammer smashing and sword fighting. Really, what more could you want from this film?

If the film made less of an attempt to have an actual story and just bought the pony by having mostly action sequences, then it would have been a much better film. However, calling the construction of this film bad is not even doing it justice. Emotional moments are frequently interrupted with things such as crowd surfing, which can be an interesting image, but this film did not have the finesse to pull that off.

Moreover, this film had problems showing the audience who the important characters were supposed to be and then getting across who they were. No one was presented as special or really explained in depth until about half way through the movie, with the exception of Medivh. In addition to this, the film had a real problem with names. Medivh and Garona had their names mentioned almost an annoying amount whereas everyone else’s name was mentioned maybe once. If you’re familiar with WoW lore, this may not be an issue, but coming in from an outside perspective, this only added to the messiness of the film.

Which leads me to the orcs. The orcs were a hot mess in this film. We are introduced to two orcs right away, and they actually seem like fairly complex characters. They had clear motivations and an objective. After the film begins to introduce the other orcs, however, it’s unclear as to what would be considered typical orc behavior. The orcs seem to celebrate strength above all else and other fairly typical brutish orc things. So when the orc woman sneaks herself through the portal while pregnant, it’s clearly an issue.

Everyone is frustrated and angry until the moment she gives birth (also, the giving birth on all fours while the baby is pulled out of you just seemed weird to me. If this is part of orc culture, then it’s an odd inclusion. Are we going to see something like that again or were they trying to avoid any graphic element of the birthing process?). All of a sudden, the orcs are super excited. Suddenly, newborn babies on the land they just invaded are the greatest thing ever!

This isn’t the only inconsistency with orc behavior in the film regarding weakness. The orc allows the woman to escape during the raid on the village. Pretty consistent with how the orcs seem to feel about babies, honestly. However, babies are the sign of ultimate weakness. People are willing to risk their lives for them and babies really can’t do anything. We see with Garona that she was not accepted because she was not nearly as strong as the other orcs. She was not full orc and she is obviously much smaller than most orcs. It isn’t until she proves herself in battle that she is accepted. So why do orcs seem to have a soft spot for babies? Why are they not okay with pregnancy but are okay with caring for a newborn?

If the film had shown some internal discomfort with orc culture, then it would have been different. However, none of the full orcs besides the warlock actually end up being very important in the larger context of the story. If the movie would have displayed dissatisfaction with orc culture and real development, it would have been different. But the orcs seem very happy with their culture and expectations. Perhaps this is because they are more or less able to act and do whatever they want and then later claim that they value strength above all else.

Perhaps the characters would have been more fleshed out if there would have been an actual story. However, the plot comes down to “orcs invade a world with humans and bad stuff happens.” The amount of loose ends in this movie is ridiculous. Although it will likely get a sequel, I highly doubt that any subsequent movies would pick up all of the storylines. Even then, they will likely be unable to because this movie hemorrhaged characters. The orc baby is clearly going to be significant in subsequent films, as are Garona, Khadgar, and Anduin. However, in this film, any subtleties to their character were lost in nonsense. I had to Google if Medivh was trying to tell Garona he was her dad because the scene was awkward and the dialogue was difficult to follow. It did not seem like purposeful subtlety or teasing the audience. It came across like a mistake.

However, another thing I appreciated about the film was the amount of emotion each of the characters were allowed to feel. Male characters cried much more than I expected from a movie based on an MMORPG. I was very impressed with that. Plenty of characters cried and none of them were shamed for it. In that way, the movie was progressive and interesting. I only wish that the progression of emotion would have been more natural. It seemed like characters would go from perfectly fine to in extreme emotional distress in a line or two of dialogue. The emotion in this film could have saved the story if the film was done in a more clever way. At least in that case, the audience would have been attached to the characters instead of them just being props to move along what little story there was or characters to please the fans.

Overall, this movie went from funny bad to regular bad for me. It feels as though no one wanted to tell anyone to slow down or speed up. Instead, what we get is an awkwardly paced film that tries to be both awesome fast-paced action and emotional story-telling. This is a hard combination to pull off at the best of times, and this is the main problem Warcraft suffers from. If they would have picked one or the other, they would have had a much stronger film.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a writer, editor, and podcaster. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet, was also a writer for Trinity Continuum: Aberrant 2e, and has been published in books and magazines. She is an editor for the pop culture and media website GeekGals.co. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile, produces and performs on Fables Around the Table, and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

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