The Warcraft Movie Is Not Good

The Warcraft Movie Is Not Good

Some people had hoped, after months of hype and the pedigree of director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), that Warcraft might break the long and storied Curse Of Bad Video Game Movies. I have some sad news for those people. Maybe video game adaptations were just never meant to be. Warcraft, which comes out June 16, is a whirlwind of CGI effects and snazzy costumes that never quite coalesces into a watchable film. Longtime fans of the series might get a kick out of seeing the likes of Medivh (Ben Foster) and Durotan (Tony Kebbell) played by Hollywood actors, but it’s tough to get invested in a movie that feels so soulless. Warcraft has very few redeeming qualities. The performances are mediocre, the writing is full of clichés and the cinematography is confusing when it’s trying to be clever. (Both the orcs and humans speak real-life English, but the movie attempts to persuade us, by means of a clumsy transition halfway through the film, that the orcs are actually speaking their own language. It’s not very good.)

The fundamental flaw in Warcraft is the same flaw we find in most video game movies: It takes itself too seriously. These games are set in a world full of in-jokes and surreal humour, one that’s inhabited by a race of giant panda bears because the developers at Blizzard really liked one of their own April Fool’s jokes. Even when the Warcraft games get dark, and they do get dark, they have always been adept at having fun with their players. The film does no such thing. If only this movie had the charm of a Warcraft unit who’s been clicked too many times.

In case you’re curious: I’ve played through all three main Warcraft games and went on a WoW kick back in 2005. I was the guy at the screening who knew who Thrall was and who most certainly recognised that the creature who popped up for a second in that one swamp was a murloc. I could tell you the difference between a Death Knight and a Lich King and I have many fond memories of destroying fools with my Night Elf army. So I should be the ideal target audience for a movie like Warcraft, one that tries to turn the story of the First War between orcs and humans into a winter blockbuster.

Yet I just couldn’t buy in. Maybe the premise was flawed from the start. Warcraft opens with a shot of the vicious orc Horde, all teeth and screams, as it introduces us to Durotan and his pregnant wife. In just a few minutes we’re zipping through so many cities — Ironforge, Stormwind, Dalaran — that even for a Warcraft buff it might be tough to keep things straight. Rather than give some breathing room to Durotan and his human counterpart, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), Warcraft insists on introducing character after character, none of them pleasant. There’s Callan (Burkely Duffield), Lothar’s plot device of a son. There’s the bumbling mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who is far more interesting in the games. There’s the Guardian Medivh, whose motives and actions are never quite clear. There’s a king, a queen, some knights. There are a bunch of orcs who get a lot of screen time that could’ve gone toward actual character development. There are too many characters, too many subplots and not nearly enough reasons to care about them all.

And then there’s Garona (Paula Patton), whose fangs are so utterly silly that they often distract from her performance, which is just as ridiculous. Warcraft devotes many minutes to Garona: her enslavement at the hands of her own people; her snarling threats; her unconvincing romantic tryst with the main character. Her character, a half-orc, half-human* warrior who seems destined to bring peace to the two races, is poorly crafted and kind of a drag to watch. A stronger actress could have helped made Garona more compelling, but with so many factors working against her, even that might not have worked. She is unabashedly dull.

Even the nasty warlock Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), easily the most compelling character in the film, never quite lives up to his video game pedigree. He spends most of his time draining the souls out of his prisoners’ bodies, which is fun to watch, but he never feels threatening. The stakes are never really there. Warcraft spends very little time trying to convince the audience why anyone should care that Gul’dan and his orcs are invading the world of humans, or why it even matters.

Rather than tapping into the goofy core that makes a game like World of Warcraft interesting, the Warcraft movie aims for grittiness, missing the mark quite a bit. It just doesn’t work. The lore is too campy. This is a world where a mage’s most popular spell transforms his enemies into sheep, yet Warcraft acts as if it’s a green-screen version of Game of Thrones. At my theatre, the biggest laughs came not from the occasional bouts of slapstick comedy but from the miserable archmages of Dalaran, whose CGI-enhanced eyes look especially absurd when you’re supposed to take them seriously.

I had hoped Warcraft would at a minimum be entertaining, but really, I’ve had more enjoyable two-hour sessions wiping on Molten Core. At least the armour looks good.



  • Sad to hear. How was the acting then? Some of it try to shine through but just, couldn’t?
    I’m a bit of a Travis’ advocate so I’ll be seeing it at some stage, going in there for the support.

  • interesting, the overall reaction on reddit has been positive

    still i appreciate the write up and I’m looking forward to see how the reactions are once the movie goes live

    • I would be expecting mixed reviews overall. I’ve already seen some on reddit say it’s good, others say it’s kinda crap.

      • I’ve set my expectations to be quite low. the movie does look visually stunning though I have to admit and it’s been really awesome seeing SW in real life (so to speak) for example

  • Not surprised. From all I’ve read and seen in the trailers, this really wasn’t even on my list of things to watch.

    Regardless of the pedigree of the director, I think the overall scope of a story like this would always be difficult to tackle unless it was focused entirely on just a select couple of characters.

    And that’s something I think that Blizzard have generally been good at. The scenario’s in Warcraft and Starcraft don’t usually push more than a few principal characters for you to follow. By filling the script here with so many unnecessary characters, it just dilutes it.

    • I was never expecting Lord of the Rings. TBH, if it’s a step above Jupiter Ascending, it’ll be better than any other video game movie ever made and I’ll be reasonably happy.

      Yeah …. I know I’ve set the bar low, but I’m just going for the popcorn and fan service.

  • Rather than tapping into the goofy core that makes a game like World of Warcraft interesting,

    Maybe they tapped, instead, into WARCRAFT: ORCS v HUMANS which was for all intents serious bar for one or two little easter eggs?

    • The warcraft story is already quite serious; the writer sounds like they wanted the fanservice present in the games (i.e. units that have been clicked too many times) inserted in the movie also, like he wanted a serious movie broken up with bouts of slapstick humor.

      • Indeed, but in this case I just mean how they’re going back to the original story of the Dark Portal, i.e. the original WC storyline, which means Jones would’ve gone back and looked at the lore surrounding the first game. I don’t mean to automatically suggest the movie is great, it may be rubbish, but the critique does not sound fair to me.

        • Totally agree.

          Personally the last thing I want out of my dorky fantasy movie is Haris Pilton walking into a frame for no reason whatsoever and basically breaking the 4th wall.

          I honestly do hope a couple /joke’s got into the movie though >.>

          • Paris Hilton has only ONE great movie scene: House of Wax, where she gets a metal rod through her skull.

          • That was a great scene. I feel like the director knew what the audience wanted, with how she fell forward onto the rod after getting impaled. I also would’ve accepted the achilles tendon + scissors death for her, that one was also brutal.

        • Yup that’s a really good point, the goofiness didn’t really creep in until Tides of Darkness and the whole click the same unit heaps of times thing.

          Jaded gamer is jaded XD

          • I mean don’t get me wrong… I’d love to see a scene with two Orcs sitting in the background, one turns to the other and punches him out screaming “STOP POKING ME!!!!”

            Similairly later, in a pub, one human turns to the other and says “Why do you keep touching me?”

            Later, in a panning shot, we get a sheep in the distance randomly exploding…

          • That sort of stuff would be mild enough to not get in the way of the story too. We can only hope 😛

          • Absolutely. Most of the comments the characters make when clicked could be worked in easily enough in the background, as easter eggs, even the WC2 stuff. But the first movie has to be the most ‘streamlined’ one, the most accessible. I’m seeing reviews on reddit so far from fans who loved it, some who liked it, had genuine issues but overall it’s generally ‘not too bad but could’ve been a bit better’. That’s how I figured it would turn out. Either way I’m still eager.

    • Impossible. Blizzard have completely disowned the lore of the first two games, ever since Warcraft III went “the savage rampaging horde of evil butchers were actually good all along, guys!”

  • will make my own opinion when i watch it, will always take the opinions of others especially those of websites that make advertising revenue with clickbaitey articles with clickbaitey titles with a massive grain of salt. that said it does look a solid meh or ok at best

  • That little bit of Gul’dan’s backstory in the Warcraft 2 manual was PERFECT back in the day, even the game’s campaign itself didn’t do that tale justice.

    I want a movie of nothing but Warcraft 2 Gul’dan, keeping my hopes up. Way way up!

    Nothing can go wrong!!!

  • Maybe not Warcraft .. But Assassins Creed Looks freakin Awesome .. You can tell from the Trailer it’s going to be an awesome flick

    • Sure, the trailer is good apart from the music. But Max Payne also had a pretty decent trailer, and it still quickly joined the foetid pile of game adaptations that had come before it.

      Don’t trust trailers.

    • This comment is so agonisingly naive it makes me weep for the state of mankind… I bet you preordered a ticket through Ubisoft’s retarded “preorder bundle” offer, didn’t you?

  • To be honest, it should have been as CGI lol. Blizzard is more than capable of making it.

    • That, and what they’ve been doing with the Overwatch animations lately… when the hell is that outstanding team gonna get to make its own movie? I mean, they know their shit.

      • Yeah. Who knows Warcraft best except the team that made it to what it is. It is kinda weird that they completely tossed it out to Hollywood. Probably good moneh.

        • Maybe some kind of deal where they may have been capable of making it themselves, but the only way to actually get the thing into cinemas is with the backing of certain interest groups who wanted to get a lot more hands-on? Maybe they just wanted the legitimacy that comes with working with famous Hollywood actors and being ‘just another animation studio’. Who knows…

          • would not be surprised if it was 100% a SAG-AFTRA thing, it’s very difficult to make a film in hollywood if you’re not associated with the right guild or union.

        • The one time a company really went all-in on making a movie of their own property, Square with Final Fantasy: Spirits Within, the result was a fairly mundane movie that all but bankrupted the company. It’s a pretty big risk to take on, no matter how good your internal cinematic team is or how much money you can throw at the problem.

          • True but Spirits Within was crap because it was not does not have any element of “Final Fantasy” to it.

            Advent Children was pretty great.

          • That’s true. I’d actually forgotten all about that movie. I assume it was lower budget and risk, though, because it was direct-to-video.

          • It wasn’t direct to video, I remember the advertising drives and all around it here in Aus for it’s theatrical release.

            Disclaimer: I actually loved the film growing up.

            Disclaimer disclaimer: It was also my first direct contact with anything Final Fantasy so there’s that too.

          • Advent Children was straight to video, unless it had some promotional screenings that in unaware of.

          • @badger sorry my bad I totally misread your comment and thought you meant Spirits Within.

            Must have got excited about commenting on Spirits Within, sometimes it’s lonely being the only person who likes that movie =P

          • To be fair, it had about as much to do with any of the past Final Fantasy games as any of those games had to do with each other.

            At this point the only series staples are like… cactaur and bahamut. 😛 Maybe moogles.

  • Sounds like the writer isn’t the target audience. It’s ok to critique a movie but don’t hate on it because you watched a fantasy movie when you were actually in the mood for a comedy.

        • Dont even bother counting the review from the the Wrap, that guy actualkly gave the live action DBZ movie a 4 out 5 rating, and his review states that SMB and Battlefield Earth are better movies…so can you really really really count his review?

          On the postive side, Crave Online would love to see it in a double feature with the Likes of Legend, Ladyhawke an The Beast Master

    • It’s always funny when a movie isn’t good so people put the blame on the audience with platitudes like “you’re not the demographic” “you do t understand the source material” or “you’re watching it wrong”

      • It’s always funny when people use the prevalence of that accusation to shield them from criticism when it applies to them. 😉

        • I’ll take your word for it – I’m not trying to shield myself from any criticism. For the record I’m excited to see the movie.

          • Oh, yeah, I’m just poking fun rather than accusing you, too. Devil’s advocate. It really IS a crappy excuse way too often.

  • ‘The Warcraft Movie Is Not Good’

    Wouldn’t have expected anything other than that heading, except maybe

    ‘The Warcraft Movie Is Terrible’

  • I only really got into the lore from WC3, but it sounds like they should have taken cues from the MCU – develop the characters in their own movies before trying to mash everyone together, as well as how the incidental humour was addressed… maybe even designed it as a trilogy, eg:
    1. a Tolkien-style piece establishing the humans, battling the faceless orc hordes, tease Orc heroes at the end – camp it up a little like the first Pirates of the Caribbean
    2. focus on the orcs as they have to deal with the seeds of evil influence, portraying the humans more as aggressors, tease dark portal at the end – more Hulk meets Thor style humour
    3. mash it all together Avengers-style with the dark portal and chaos stuff (maybe finish with a tease for Elves in a possible ‘Phase II’)

    • No.
      It’s poor writing if you need to have “phases” and multiple movies for something as simple as Warcraft: Orcs v Humans.

      • Actually, not really. Orcs v Humans isn’t simple enough for a movie unless you only show one side. If you want to do the game’s story justice, you’d need to make two movies from opposing sides.

          • Kinda! I mean, that’s how the game’s campaigns played out.
            But I’m not sure audiences are really ready for an orc-heavy movie?

            Letters From Iwo Jima did MUCH better in Japan than the US. Where’s our Orc audience? Horde players?

          • the trouble with doing something like that for warcraft is the pure and simple fact that if you made a pure orc based movie, it would it bomb as only die hard fans would see it and if you made a pure human story it would be a middling generic fantasy movie about good vs evil. and one of the review on RT seemed to complain that the movie doesnt have the heft of LoTR or the “raunch and gore” of GoT which makes you wonder since when does a Fanasty movie need Raunch and Gore

          • Yeah, pretty much. Far as I’m concerned, trying to show both sides at once – while messy – was the only way I could see them doing it.

  • Humour? Sounds like the author was expecting the movie to be like the Pandaria expansion’s cinematic intro.

    Yeah… I’m gonna watch this and love it, even if it’s bad. My bias is too strong to be objective. I’m OK with this.

    • I’m surprised that people keep questioning the assumption that the movie should have some humor. The Warcraft franchise has always been about lighthearted humor, not unlike LOTR in execution. It sounds like they blew out one of the cinematic cutscenes to movie length, forgetting that they need to add some actual soul to it.

      • The humour was definitely always there, but it never central to the games’ plot or even general lore delivery, though – it was always easter-egg-style asides, rather than being ‘about’ that humour. When the game’s delivering its lore directly, with the exception of a few unremarkable quests, it’s pretty much always playing it straight.

        You’ve criticized the game cinematic cutscenes being blown out to movie length, but just think of the Pandaria one. That’s about as close to overtly acknowledged humour as it gets, beyond NPCs being named after pop culture references, references being made in ‘found notes’, or humorous responses after clicking dozens of times on NPCs, etc.

        The ‘soul’ was always in the characters’ struggles, which the movie SHOULD be perfectly capable of portraying… if it wasn’t for the fact that it sounds like it’s skipping between too many characters to give any of them the time they need to work through their shit.

  • The thing is, I’m not sure anyone wanted a Warcraft film directed by some normal hollywood director, and filmed by a camera crew. Personally, I expected a Warcraft film, entirely animated by Blizzard, who do such an amazing job with their cut-scenes that this surely should have worked.

    • Don’t be sad about a movie review by someone else that you don’t know. Go grab some popcorn and friends and see the movie you may find it enjoyable.

  • Maybe it’ll be like John Carter. That movie was torn apart by critics. I watched it one day when I was home sick and really enjoyed it.

    That’s what this will probably be. It won’t set the world on fire, but it’ll be a great rainy sick day movie to lie on a couch and watch.

  • Garona is half-orc and half-drenai.

    She would have been born before orcs and humans had ever met.

    • And they still had to invent some crap about magically induced rapid ageing to make her fit the timeline of the Draenei retcon.

      • Easy, change it to half-orc/half-ogre. Would explain those massive tusks too.

    • I sort of agree with you. Hollywood love sci-fi more than fantasy. Think back over the past decade and try to recall (with the exception of Lord of the Rings/Hobbit) a high fantasy movie that was released in cinemas.
      There’s a market for fantasy but Hollywood rarely taps the market.

  • Looking at the other reviews around the net, this one is being nice.

  • I was never expecting great things but my hope was that it was enjoyable for the fans.

  • I will wait to judge it myself, the overly opinionated gaming community these days has truly taken expectations vs hype vs reality vs entitlement thing so far the only opinion I value is my own.

    Especially something like this, the last people I would expect to like a WoW film would be WoW players. There is a reason why the word fan comes from Fanatic.

    • Yeah, it’s hard to take any reviews seriously anymore. Really got to read between the lines on EVERYTHING.

      Warhammer Total War is at a ‘mixed’ rating on Steam right now, getting utterly SLAMMED by reviewers… but it’s easily the best Warhammer game I’ve ever played (and I was around for Shadow of the Horned Rat), and the best Total War game I’ve played since the original Shogun.

      Politics, man. Politics. XCOM 2 is by all reasonable measures objectively an improvement over the original in damn near every way possible, but is rated worse than the original. The hate brigade got a bee in their bonnet about something on that, then imposed their opinion as broadly and intensely as they could, without mercy.

      • Warhammer’s sitting at Mostly Positive right now (74%). I think that’ll tick up pretty reasonably once the DX12 patch is out, and the hotfix should correct the weird launch issues some were having.

        For what it’s worth, I’ve really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with Warhammer as well. But then I’m not a Total War nut, so take what I say with a grain of salt.

        • Oops. It was on the low side of mixed when I was looking at it last night. Should’ve fact-checked.

  • It fails because you cant express the ‘hero’s’ journey as a colossal army of disparate groups raiding the BBEG’s fortress.
    The only way it would have functioned was if it had been told entirely from The BBEG’s perspective.

    Monday: pillaged a little orc village…took their priestess. I said something funny…my loyal black guards laughed. Must ask them what was funny.
    Tuesday: executed my black guards. Apparently I wasnt funny. Thom Bloodsword confessed he only laughed to be sociable…
    Wednesday: got into conversation with orcish priestess during her torture. She says part of my problem was that I lack empathy and it isolates me from my black guards. What the hell would she know…anyway I sent her head to the orc village by messenger fiend.
    Thursday: orcs formed an alliance.

  • I’d like to hear from a reviewer who knows nothing about Warcraft – that will tell me about the film more objectively.

  • Like @Transientmind I’m gonna watch it and my bias is going to tell me that it is amazing but I know going in, that there is a pretty good chance it was made more for the existing fan base of the IP rather than for new viewers. Seems to be the downfall of a lot of video game movies, they are banking on the fans watching it and losing sight of making a genuinely good movie.

  • Was a bloody fantastic movie! Not without it faults and can see where people not aware of any of the other media would get confused and lost but a good movie in it’s own rights and compared to the hot messes that are BvS and Xmen it shines strong as one the best fantasy movies this year.

    • It seems to me that Hollywood is trying to make the flop with bad reviews. Seeing china raked in $46M on it’s opening day and even the first week in the UK sees it leading the pack, I’m looking forward to it’s Australian release. I quit the game 5 years ago but the lore always keeps me entertained.

  • I watched the pre-premiere last night in Brisbane @ Chermside in 3D. Total n00bian here, I knew nothing about the WarCraft lore, world, characters, game etc, and went with a mate that played WOW for ages and only recently gave it up. I actually thought the movie was not bad?! However, old mate from Vikings was a bit bland, and interesting choice of actor to play the main wizard dude…. the CGI was on point, Orcs are massive bastids.

  • The warcraft movie was actually very good. Don’t let someones poor opinion spoil it for you. It was a fantastic movie.

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