Josh and Violet share their male vs. female (and gamer vs. non-gamer) perspective reviews of Warcraft, directed by Duncan Jones, and starring Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Ben Foster, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbel, and more!
Violet’s Movie Review of
As you’re probably aware, Warcraft is based on the popular video game franchise of the same name. The film, which is partially live action and partially motion capture CGI, is directed by Duncan Jones, who directed Moon and Source Code. Jones is also given one of the writing credits for the screenplay. Warcraft stars Travis Fimmel, Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Paula Patton, Toby Kebbell, Ben Foster, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, and the list goes on.
As someone who does not and did not play Warcraft, or World of Warcraft, or whatever any other iterations of the game there are (okay, I tried it out once, back when Josh and I first started dating, but it didn’t really interest me), I didn’t really have any background knowledge of the storyline to fall back on, so here’s my interpretation of the general plot according to what I saw in the movie. There are two worlds, one is the Orc world, which is the Horde, and the other is the humanoid world, containing humans, elves, and dwarves, which is the Alliance. The Orc world begins to die, so they create a portal to cross over to the humanoid world, with plans to take it as their own. The humanoids soon discover what the Orcs are up to, thanks to a half-breed Orc named Garona, and they try to do everything they can to prevent this invasion from happening, and fight back against it.
It feels like Warcraft has been a long time coming, ever since it was first announced at San Diego Comic-Con 2013, then as it was once again featured in Hall H in 2014, and yet again in 2015. Throughout those presentations, I can’t say that I was ever all that excited about the film. I mean, it was exciting to be there when it was first announced, because I knew it was a big deal for gamers, and for Josh in particular, since at the time he was still playing World of Warcraft. The footage we saw in 2014 didn’t make me any more interested, and the 2015 presentation didn’t help either. In fact, the quality didn’t look all that great. But it must have been footage that was still rough around the edges, so to speak, because within the past few months,Warcraft trailers were released where the CGI actually looked good. I suppose this is part of the reason why the studios don’t like for the footage that they show at Comic-Con to be shared, because often it’s not ready for the mass audiences yet, and add to that the blurry footage that audience members take, and then it looks even worse. Because of the improved look of the graphics, I started to have a little hope for the movie. Again, not having played the game, I wasn’t very emotionally invested in the movie, but I knew I would be obligated to see it. However, then the reviews started rolling in, and they were pretty bad, and the Rotten Tomatoes score was extremely low. Therefore, I went into the movie with very low expectations.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Admittedly, that’s usually how it works when you go into something with low expectations, that as a result, your take of the film isn’t as bad as you expected (and vice versa). The storyline, what I understood of it anyway, was mildly engaging, and managed to keep me interested, at least. Of course, not having the background information from the game, there were a lot of things in the storyline that I didn’t quite follow, and felt like I might need more information about in order to truly understand what was going on. At the very beginning of the film, Josh whispered something to me about Garona’s heritage, which would have been nice to know without having to be told outside of the film. He kept quiet for the rest of the movie, though, so that was the only outside bit of information that I got. The filmmakers kept saying how they wanted to make this movie not only for the gamers, but also for those who hadn’t played the game. I felt like they did an okay job at that, as I was able to follow the general storyline, but I kept having that nagging feeling like I was missing something, like there was more that I needed to know.
As for the visuals, the movie looked great, for the most part. The CGI of the Orcs was immensely better than what we had seen at SDCC, and they looked quite real. The worlds themselves and the magic and other effects looked good as well. However, some of the animal-type characters looked fake, like the wolf and the eagle. I think maybe they were trying to make these things look more like they look in the game, but it was bothersome to me.
The acting was pretty good, with a few exceptions. I was not familiar with Paula Patton, who played Garona, before this, but I thought she did a great job portraying a strong female character.
However, the bottom line for a non-World of Warcraft player like myself is that I because I had no connection to the game, I felt detached from the movie. I could see in many instances how the movie tried to reach out and appeal and cater to the game players, but those attempts meant nothing to me, personally. There was no nostalgia drawing me in, no excitement of seeing a world with with I was familiar being brought to life. Standing alone as a movie, with no other context, Warcraft is enjoyable enough, but not something that would make me want to see a sequel (though I have a feeling I’ll be obligated to, if there is one), nor something that would make me want to go play the game on which the film is based.
My rating: 6/10
Josh’s Movie Review of
Warcraft is a movie that I first heard concrete details about in Hall H of SDCC, some 3 years ago, when they had some very basic test footage, and Duncan Jones was announced as director. I thought, “the guy who directed Moon? I am on board!” It seemed like a no-brainer at the time–I was a Warcraft fan (the games harkening back to the 90s) and I liked Moon, the only movie of Duncan Jones’ I was familiar with. We heard more and more, and my excitement level peaked. But then last SDCC, the trailer left me underwhelmed. Still not done with the roller coaster this movie put me on, the final trailers revitalized my hope, as CGI seemed to be coming together, and the story bits I was getting in the trailer seemed intriguing. But I was tempering my expectations, because really–have we ever had a good video game-based movie?
Unfortunately, the answer is still a resounding no. Rotten Tomatoes panned it with a 27% rating, and financially the movie bombed. Most of the cast is not well known, but it has a few recognizable names, such as Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga, who starred in Marvel shows Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter respectively. Ben Foster also was in the movie, who has played many secondary characters in his movie career, and is a very recognizable face. I guess the acting was sufficient for the film. When you are not engaged in the story of a film–which was a big problem for me in Warcraft, it is hard to see the characters as anything but that–everybody sort of appeared to be acting like they were their characters rather than simply convincing me that they were who they were portraying.
Something that is hard to put my finger on would not let me get absorbed into the movie, and I think a big portion of that was the CGI element of the movie. It was not bad CGI, but for CGI to pull an audience member like myself in, I think it has to be excellent CGI. The best CGI is what is not even noticed. This is a big reason I think Lord of the Rings has done so well as a fantasy-based movie franchise–it used the perfect blend of practical effects and CGI, that it was hard to figure out where the CGI was. (Over the course of the dozens upon dozens of times I have watched LOTR, the CGI has become more apparent, but I digress). I think this CGI problem with Warcraft is the same reason I was disengaged with the story of The Hobbit–The CGI busied my mind, trying to figure out a way to make me find these computer generated characters believable.
Another issue with the movie might be a benefit to some people, particularly fans of the Warcraft games, but I thought there was too much “fan service” in the film. I think a lot of things in the movie did not make sense unless people were familiar with the story prior to going into the movie. How many people knew Garona was half Draenei (Draenei are the blue people we saw briefly before they died) and half Orc? I bet most people thought she was half human. How many people really understood what was going on with Gul’Dan and Medivh? I felt lost in the movie myself, and I have a good idea of what the story was.
To keep on with the negatives, I also felt the movie tried to take too much on at once. There is a ton of lore for the Warcraft world. I think the movie would have done well with an approach similar to Lord of the Rings, providing some narration at the beginning of the movie, describing the state of the world(s), providing more set up for the audience to understand what is going on. I also thought the movie should take place from one side’s perspective to start, rather than jump back and forth, leaving the audience sort of jarred when they switch from Horde to Alliance, and back again. Of course, making this change would have frustrated players of the game, so I guess it might be a lose-lose situation.
There were some interesting aspects to the movie. There were some shots that were very reminiscent of RTS games (real time strategy for those not in the know), which was a fun easter egg. Seeing characters like Thrall introduced, and Night Elves, and a bunch of other things was neat, but all of this really is overshadowed by the lack of engagement I had with the movie.
I had high hopes that Warcraft could position itself as the next fantasy-based trilogy, as we had not had great ones since Lord of the Rings. I think with the poor performance of this movie, combined with it being panned by critics, and the decline in the subscriptions of World of Warcraft, this is probably the first and last Warcraft movie we will be seeing.
As for my score, I actually disliked this movie much more after having thought about it for some time. I would rate this at a 4 out of 10, which is a pretty low score for me. Oh well, perhaps there will be an Overwatch or Starcraft game in the future that fares better than this.