In light of some of the incredibly negative reviews Warcraft has garnered, I’m going to share my thoughts on both the good and the bad. While there were certainly plenty of things the film could have done better (like any film, really), it was still an extremely enjoyable movie that managed to rise well above the expectations and assumptions about video game adaptations.
I think the biggest mistake was how rushed the opening of the film was. While I can absolutely understand the potential motivation they might have had to use the rapid-fire introductions as a way to convey the sense of urgency and danger, it wasn’t a gambit that payed off. Warcraft fans are familiar enough with the characters and setting to nullify this issue, but newcomers to the franchise might find the first 25 or so minutes confusing. After that, however, the pacing finds its footing.
As I mentioned in my crash course on the Warcraft universe, the hallmark of the franchise is the mostly even treatment of the two factions. That said, I think Warcraft would have been stronger for new viewers if they’re started with the humans and used them to ground the audience in the setting and hook them into the world before introducing them to the more fantastic and mythical Orcs. The film did manage to convey that the Orcs were beings of honor who had the same strengths and weaknesses in terms of personality that humans do.
Khadgar and the portrayal of magic was one of the highlights of the film. I can say without a hint of reservation that Warcraft delivered my absolute favorite use of on-screen magic in film history. If you’re a fantasy fan who leans towards the sorcery aspect of swords-and-sorcery, I implore you to see this film. Khadgar was a scene-stealer who quickly became the highlight of the film. Due partly to the aforementioned magic and partly to his everyman-with-hints-of-greatness-to-come nature, Khadgar was an indisputable success. (And if you end up playing the game, you’ll see why he gets nicknamed “the silver fox” by fans. Hubba hubba.)
Oh, Garona. Why did they make poor Paula Patton wear those weird plastic nubs? A character design should always err on the side of caution; being subtle is preferable to distracting the audience. Similarly, the male Orcs had an opposite but equal issue; at times it looked like their massive lower tusks weren’t actually anchored in their mouths.
The humans fared much better. It was a gamble to replicate the flamboyant blue and gold armor of Stormwind, but this time it was a gamble that payed off.
I think the final issue with Warcraft was that the Orcs seemed to have eaten the majority of the budget. Stormwind, Dalaran, and Ironforge got some gorgeous wide shots that really gave an impression of massive size and scale, but many scenes suffered from an almost claustrophobic atmosphere due to very small sets. I went in expecting to see lots of grand sweeping vistas like in Lord of the Rings and it was disappointing when that didn’t happen nearly as often as I’d hoped.
All nitpicking aside, I genuinely enjoyed Warcraft and found most of the reviews to be overly harsh and bordering on the ridiculous. It’s not going to garner any Best Picture nominations, but it was a very solid film for what it aspired to be; a fun summer blockbuster.