Warcraft: My Take

In the documentary The People vs. George Lucas there was a statement that nerds compete with each other generally by promoting their hatred for something they love.  Star Wars fans go apeshit with every release, and no I didn’t care for Phantom Menace and my favorite of all time is still Empire Strikes Back (I saw that in the theater when I was a kid).  Warcraft is pretty much like this, everyone reading this who plays the freaking game is a nerd, whether you like it or not, and we can all agree that WoW today is not what it used to be and Legacy servers should be the next release.  Or can we?

So today on the advice and reviews I saw online I decided to give Warcraft a go.  Since I work 6 days a week like a maniac I checked out of work early on Saturday and caught the 2pm showing.  I really wanted to splurge on this one and see it in 3D – and spoiler alerts here I would not do 3D again.  Especially since I wear transitions lenses and it ALWAYS messes with my eyes.  I will eventually learn.

Either way, I didn’t read anything or see anything about the storyline.  I promised myself I wasn’t going to see this movie because I’m still pouting over the closure of Nostalrius and damn Blizzard for their ways.  I’ve also promised myself I’m not going to buy Legion, and I think I know myself – I’ll end up buying 2-3 copies of the fucker just like every other expansion.  But I will NOT read anything about it before I buy it because I don’t want to spoil any surprises that I’ve promised I would not enjoy because I am not buying Legion.  So see you August 30th in Azeroth because I’m a weak willed loser.

The Whole Enchilada

So here’s my take on it, this part being spoiler free.

I’m a big fan of high fantasy.  I can sit through all LOTR movies in one sitting, including the Hobbit trilogy the same day.  No problem.  If there’s orcs or swords, I’m pretty well sold.  My gaming experience goes back to the old turn based games on the Commie 64, so high fantasy has always been a big part of my escapism.

I sat through Warcraft from opening credits to the copyright warning in the closing credits.  The cleaning staff had to wait on me.  I will encourage you to sit through the credits at the end, just to hear the brief fan service with the music.

The theater wasn’t crowded at all either.  Maybe 7 people in a large theater?  I even went to one of the bigger venues here in Phoenix to watch it because I prefer nice theaters.  My only question when the curtain went up was – “Where the hell are the fans?”  Certainly not everyone saw it yesterday.  Us greybeards were in full representation mode though, 5 of us were all easily over 40.  Yes, original fans!

I sat and chomped on nachos for the first few minutes of the movie, just totally waiting to bust the inconsistencies like any good nerd would do.  This being set in pre-First War era, this was a Challenge Accepted moment for me.  I’m huge on the world’s lore pre-Wrath.  What I found?

I was more interested in meeting the characters and watching the pretty CGI.  They didn’t have the best development of the characters, as this is almost exactly like any video game movie or comic book movie – it is assumed that you know who the main characters are prior to seeing it.  Ok, fine.  Overall you’re going to be seeing a movie meant for the average viewer, not something completely developed for fan-service.  If you want fan-service, then you aren’t going to get a big budget movie, they just aren’t going to make them.  You have to compress thousands of pages of lore into 2 hours, and you have to make it make sense as a story.

But this wasn’t Mortal Kombat and it wasn’t like the vast majority of video game to cinema conversions.  They were absolutely faithful to the names and people you meet, with the exception of a few new characters.  You get to see how the world was when humans ruled the EK.  Not enough Ironforge, and after seeing the way Stormwind looks it makes me wish they could make a game world just like that given we have the technology, just not the budget.

The places they visit are awesome and incredibly well captured.  Visually the movie is stunning for CGI.  They did not spare the eye popcorn.  The orcs looked badass with the exception of the human like faces, Elwynn Forest looks awesome, and I found myself looking in the background most often trying to peg the neighboring game zones.

I would recommend seeing it if you are a fan of the franchise, but definitely turn your brain off and slip out of lore nerd mode.  Red Shirt Guy’s head didn’t explode, so neither should yours.

When I go to the theater (which is rarely during the year), I look for the following things to keep me from saying I wasted my time:

  1. Was it entertaining?  Are you not entertained!?
  2. Did I believe the story?
  3. Was it delivered in a way that made sense?
  4. Could I root for the good guy or bad guy or both?
  5. Was it loaded down with filler and garbage tangents that didn’t complete the story?
  6. When I left, was I happy or depressed about it?
  7. (for modern movies) Was it just eye candy or was it just CGI?

Overall I’m giving this a 9.5/10.  It didn’t suck.  Like Cata.  Thank goodness.

Some Spoiler Action Below

Don’t read this part unless you want to know what to expect.  You have been warned.  Skip to the Conclusion.  Stop by again after you’ve seen the movie, see if you disagree with me.

There is some major retcon action going on with the primary characters.  Not going to say exactly but if you know anything about this period of Azeroth lore you should expect things to not fall into place as you know them.  In other words, this movie is about 20-30% faithful to the things you know.

I complained about character development earlier.  They should definitely have gone about this for many of the character actions or explained it better.  For example, we all know that Sargeras was instrumental in corrupting Medivh to assist Gul’dan, everyone who’s run Black Morass knows he was the culprit.  It is more or less implied in this movie that he fell sick with fel corruption due to almost cursory exposure.  So I guess no Burning Legion sequel because those guys are essentially not present – just fel energy did it like the Dark Side of the Force.  Thank goodness they didn’t make someone else the fall guy for this at least, like Khadgar.

You’re going to meet Thrall’s parents, King Llane and his family (Chess Event!), Garona, Medivh, most of the orc clans, and you’re only going to see about 4 of the classes represented in the movie.  They are faithful to the different races that were active.  For obvious reasons you’re not going to be seeing any squishable gnomes, loveable tauren, or night elves dancing on mailboxes.  I was sorta hoping for some fan service with at least one class breaking out in /dance.  I also had no idea that blood elves were mostly Asians.  At least the eye coloring of everyone was spot on.

The deaths of the various major characters were absolutely not faithful.  The alliances between certain characters were not faithful as well.  Certain characters were supposed to be friends but weren’t.  In other words, this was a reboot of the lore somewhat.  Oh yeah, I had no idea that the Green Jesus was actually Moses.  That made me laugh out loud in the theater when it happened.  But he’s incredibly cuddly and he’s awesome, looking forward to the plushie.  Even if he and his family aren’t supposed to be anywhere near Azeroth at this point.

You will recognize some game sound files playing in the movie.  And I really liked sitting through the closing credits to hear the Classic login musical score.  That was actually awesome.

I would very much like Kara to be redone in the image we are presented with in this movie.  And Dalaran is absolutely faithful to the general look.  But it’s floating.  And it still looks awesome.

Sadly, the current playerbase is going to be thinking lots of things are the way they are because they saw it in the movie.  It is definitely going to be like Star Wars where things happened in the books and then you see the movies and ask WTF is going on here?  Even the game has inconsistencies with the books, and we’re just going to have to dismiss this as entertainment and not canon.  Perfectly fine with that.

As a player of the game, I think my favorite part was seeing Black Morass on the big screen.  It was amusing to see how the Dark Portal functioned since I spent hours and hours grinding exalted in that thing back when I was competitively raiding a priest just so I could have the epic bracers.  I think they were bracers.  Amazing what you forget in 10 years.  Further, I immediately thought “Drop your damned enchant” when I saw one particular character.

Spells from the mages and warlocks were executed with visual splendor, I felt like I was watching the original cinematic to the game.  Except I’m trying to figure out why air spells were being cast when mages clearly have no access to those and we have an infernal-ish monster under the control of a mage.  Maybe the fel influence?  And melting faces is real!

Conclusion

Of course, we can nitpick all we want and so can everyone else on the internet.  I remember in 2006 when South Park did their parody of the game and they stuck so much anti-fan service into the show that the players were up in arms for weeks.  Frostwolf tabard on an Alliance!?  What were they thinking!?  Mages can’t summon scorpions!  Shut up nerds, enjoy it for what it is, not what you want it to be.  If you went to the theater just to see what you know played out for you in perfect execution, that would be a pretty dull movie, wouldn’t it?  I think they executed it very well.

Go see the movie, so they can make some money on it and we can have more.  And maybe there will be an interest in old Azeroth again.  Hint, hint.

Thanks for stopping in!