Counterpoint: The Warcraft Movie Is Actually Good

Counterpoint: The Warcraft Movie Is Actually Good

Years of hollow hype and months of flashy trailers aimed at getting non-World of Warcraft players into theatre seats left me with little hope that I would enjoy Duncan Jones’ Warcraft movie. Well, surprise.

I’ve seen Warcraft twice now, the second time to ensure my enjoyment wasn’t a fluke of the Not Your Dad’s Root Beer I had at the local cinema grill during my first viewing. I left the theatre late Thursday night feeling good about what I’d just seen, pondering the potential for a sequel, wondering how a grown-up Thrall might translate to the big screen. I enjoyed Jones’ take on the lore I was familiar with, even where it diverged wildly from what I knew.

Then I came home and read Jason Schreier’s negative take on the film. I’d read it previously and his opinion jived with my expectations at the time. After spending two hours witnessing the first conflict between the orcs of Draenor and humans of Azeroth playing out on the big screen, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel the same way at all.

Now I dabbled in the Warcraft real-time-strategy games as they came out on PC, but it wasn’t until 2004’s World of Warcraft that I really got into the series. Drawn in by the cartoonish graphics and low system requirements, I was soon hooked, playing the game religiously for several years. My play slowed down in late 2006 when I signed on at Kotaku, but I’ve returned for every expansion pack, getting my Azeroth fix mainly through comic books and novels in the interim.

Warcraft can be a campy place, filled with pop culture references and broad humour, but all of that is built atop a strong story. Azeroth has been a target for invasion from interstellar demons for ages. Ages before the orcish hordes of Draenor embraced fel energy and marched through the Dark Portal, demonic influences threatened to tear apart the world from within.

Armed with a strong sense of what came before and a good idea of what happens next, the movie brought to life events that had already unfolded in my imagination several times over, with several key changes from established lore to keep me on my toes.

Concern over the CG orcs ruining the picture for me faded within the first five minutes. Frostwolf chieftain Durotan, voiced by Toby Kebbell, watches over his sleeping mate, Draka. She wakes, sensing his eyes on her, and he places his large hand over her pregnant belly. As he draws his hand away the skin shifts beneath his touch, then slides back into place. That was the last time I thought about the CG composition of the orcs. From that point forward they were a married couple looking forward to the birth of their first child.

The scene shifts to the Dark Portal, as the warlock Gul’dan prepares a massive sacrifice of captive draenei, their spirits the fuel that will connect their dying world with Azeroth.

Here I felt a pang of regret. With the film beginning at this point, I wouldn’t get to see the strong bond formed between Durotan and Orgrim Doomhammer (Robert Kazinsky) as children. I would not witness Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) betraying his master, Ner’zhul for the favour of the demon lord, Kil’jaeden.

But I guess I’d already experienced those things and many other epic moments via extended Warcraft fiction. While my knowledge is not encyclopedic by any means, I knew enough that I almost joined in on a random discussion outside of the theatre about how in the lore Paula Patton’s green-skinned Garona was an orc and draenei half-breed who had a child of her own with Ben Foster’s Medivh (in the film she has a thing for Anduin Lothar, played by Vikings‘ Travis Fimmel.)

Her teeth are kind of silly.

Her teeth are kind of silly.

Secure in my grasp of the lore, I was able to enjoy the more subtle aspects of the movie. Picking out the references and symbols on the biding of books in the tower of Karazhan. A gryphon ride ending in the second portal on the right in the city of Stormwind. The sheep spell performed by Ben Schnetzer’s incredibly young Khadgar, who goes as far as to mention the spell’s duration.

Combing the movie for small details like these helped distract me from some of the less enjoyable aspects, like Fimmel’s Lothar basically being a dark-haired version of his character from Vikings, or Ben Foster’s oft-rambling performance as Medivh, a conflicted character who comes across as more confused than anything else. Human performances weren’t spectacular across the board, far overshadowed by the more dynamic orcs, who showed much broader emotional range despite not being real physical things.

I was engaged. I laughed several times, mostly at things the filmmakers wanted me to laugh at (the Dalaran mages’ eyes were pretty bad.) I left the theatre feeling encouraged enough to introduce the movie to my wife, a harsh critic who thought Deadpool was merely OK.

Here’s what she had to say.

In a shocking turn of events I didn’t hate the Warcraft movie. It will probably be one of those go to films I put on in the background because I don’t have to really pay that much attention to it, but. It hit all the points I like in my fantasy. Kings/chieftains/leaders who are decisive and willing to fight for their people/the greater good. Women kicking arse and taking names in reasonable armour.

Only one quasi love story that didn’t eat up the entirety of the movie. The idea that warriors can be strong but also soft and nurturing in the correct environment.

I’ve heard that for some people they felt the acting fell flat but my biggest issue was as a non fan I’m sure there was a lot of gravitas I missed. So was it bad acting or me not having the appropriate response? Don’t know.

From someone who’s played World of Warcraft all of 15 minutes to someone in love with CG orc babies in two hours flat.

Why the discrepancy between my opinion of the movie and Jason Schreier’s? I suspect the key may lie in the fact that we are two completely different people with different likes and dislikes. We both love role-playing games, we both enjoy the Warcraft games, and we both like movies. We just like all of these things in different ways.In the image below, he’s on the left, and I’m on the right.

The numbers, I mean. I am obviously the orc in this scenario.

The numbers, I mean. I am obviously the orc in this scenario.

I was certain the Warcraft movie would be an overwhelming disappointment. To my surprise, I enjoyed myself quite a bit. Twice. Jason said he’s had more enjoyable two-hour sessions wiping at Molten Core. I wouldn’t know about that. I never wiped at Molten Core.


  • This is why I prefer to avoid the hype with films these days and if I walk into a cinema with an open mind and no expectations, I suspect I’ll be giving myself better experiences. So I’m desperately trying that approach for the currently filming Ghost in the Shell and upcoming Battle Angel Alita, having been a fan of both for a long time…

    Video games are no different, I somehow lived under a rock for games like Red Dead Redemption and ME2 and they’re on my list of all-time favourites. The recent Thief reboot, on the other hand, I died a little inside.

  • I never wiped at Molten Core.
    Bold words
    Unless you mean you never raided it in the first place to wipe, if not I call BS, having a crappy hunter who couldn’t split pull the two giants from the surger generally meant a wipe and a rebuff on 5 minute single target pally buffs, waiting for the only mage to get through buffing 2 groups then drinking then 2 more groups and so on til the raid was completely buffed. I hated wiping in that place for the downtime alone.

    I found Medivh fine, given that the direction Foster got was probably something like “you are actually being manipulated by a demonic oppressing force who goes by the name Sargeras, you are a bit here and elsewhere mentally but from time to time you break his hold to be yourself. That sort of thing is hard to play convincingly unless you are actually predisposed to depression, anxiety and so on that keep your mind elsewhere.

  • Yeah ignore all the media and make your own mind up. Majority of viewers seem to like it. Majority of critics don’t. Make of it what you will. I loved it and cant wait for the directors cut and Warcraft 2 and 3.

    • In my opinion it’s showing a growing disconnect between critics and audiences. I’m well aware critics are people but having been on both sides, having been an interviewer, there *is* most definitely an elitest attitude flowing through the critic sphere when it comes to sites trying to get clicks and generate revenue. This has an onflow effect to other lesser sites, who in some cases want to echo their favorites or are just plain afraid (it *does* happen), to go against the grain and just parrot what others have said rather than giving an honest opinion. Sometimes they seek to one up each other and proclaim this thing is the worst movie ever, the most common situation or sometimes they grow a pair and give an honest opinion (which still may BE negative, but always seems more genuine). Moviebob and AngryJoe are two examples here. Sorry Bob, but your vitriolic rant against the movie was hyperbolic and ridiculous (the way he just goes on and on makes it out to be the worst thing since cancer practically), while Joes positive rant, still trashed the movie a bit for being inaccessible and difficult to understand (which I concede it was), but ultimately still fantasy fun.

      • I used to review movies for my uni paper and I’ve often considered trying to set up a blog or YouTube channel to do so but realised I had a big problem…

        I like most movies.

        I immediately realised that having a moderate voice essentially regularly saying “It’s fun but doesn’t stand out” or “I really enjoyed it despite these flaws” 90% of the time I’d never find an audience.

        Being overwhelmingly negative is definitely an easier way to draw people’s attention.

        • It really is. When I did interviews for a few different places, if I was positive about something the amount of times I’d immediately draw comments such as ‘sellout’ and ‘studio shill!’ are basically uncountable. For instance, I enjoy Transformers part 1. I don’t like the sequels but I like part 1? I even enjoy quite a few Michael Bay movies. I’m 38 now, I’m into the phase of my life where I’m past being anally critical of something and I was around 31 when I was doing that and figured I’d try to critique from a ‘fun or not fun’ point of view. Like you said, it didn’t find much of an audience. But being positive sure did, the wrong kind of audience. Being overly negative did too and it sucked my soul out to the point I quit, I stopped and it took so long to get back my love of movies.

        • what you just said remind me of the episode when Homer becomes a Food Critic for the Springfield Shopper Newspaper and his lowest score he ever gave was to Marges “Shake and Bake” ( a 7 out of 10) and that was only because the other critics didnt like that he was being honest

          • Of course I share a personal heartfelt anecdote and I get the response… “The Sinpsons did it!”


            Good catch, I’d forgotten about that.

      • mind you Movie Bob has gone down hill since the first Amazing Spiderman movie came out. He wasnt as vitriolic or hyperbolic but slowly it started eating at him and then came Man of Steel which he gave an ok review of, but after that each and every reviewjust started getting meaner and meaner and he finally lost me as a viewer when Taken 3 came out which was around the time of GG and he just went full on physcotic and ended up being fired from the escapist.

        Joe on the other hand just keeps getting better and better and more honest with each review (be they games nor movie). If a movie or game well and truly sucks, he isnt afraid to let it rip, even his BvS review and spoiler talk videoes despite being a massive superman fan he didnt give the movie 0 or even 4, instead he gave it 6 out 10 he talked about all the flaws but also talked about the stuff that was good

        • Exactly and I agree whole heartedly. Bob hits the nail on the head time to time but mostly lately, he’s ranting, often vitriolically, and goes way overboard. Everyones entitled to their own opinion of course, but he goes past opinion to hyperbole. Joe, however, keeps a good balance by having his two friends there with him who provide good counterpoints, case in point his actual Warcraft review which had 1 friend who was immersed in WC, Joe who had some knowledge and his other friend with *zero* knowledge to give you a great, balanced view of what the movie was like. The fact they took time to give positives and negatives, to ensure a balanced look at it, works in his favor and makes him a hundred times more appealing than Bob and a hundred others.

      • I’ve never had much faith in critics (with the exception of Margaret Pomeranz who seemed to like the same kind of movies I did). But these aggregation sites simply perpetuate the “circle jerk” of film wankers who seem to want to doom some movies before they are even released. Sometimes they work. Other time they are spectacularly wrong because the critics just don’t get it. Considering one of my other favourite movies, Hudson Hawk, got only 26% because they didn’t get it, I’d say Warcraft is the same.

      • The biggest problem with most critics is that they tend to score things. There’s a reason why I like Rock Paper Shotgun’s approach to “reviews” in that they don’t really score it. Just basically state “This is what I thought of it and picked up on” and give their opinion. Unless there’s a glaring issue, they’ll leave it open to interpretation.

        Movies don’t generally get that kind of grace. Example, Punisher: Warzone. Awesome movie. One of my favourites. Most critics pan it for the “Simplistic story, a hero that barely speaks” etc. Most of the stuff they criticised is what makes the Punisher, the Punisher.

        Point being, if you had critics making the perfect movies, it’d suck utter balls to most people.

  • Have seen the movie and it’s great
    To my surprise my wife, family and friends who never played warcraft or other games said it’s great too
    I really wonder if those critics rating it bad are seeing the same film with the rest of us

  • Saw it at one of the advance screenings. From a non wow/warcraft/geeky point of view I can see the flaws of it, but as a Warcraft fan absolutely enjoyed it. Also saw it with 2 people who had no idea about the lore and they loved it. Curious as to why the critics are ripping on it so hard… Even without knowledge of the lore etc, it’s by no means a bad movie… maybe Peter Jackson paid them all off?

  • I’ve never watched or played anything from Blizzard other than Hearthstone (which I enjoyed for a while until I reached a point where I either had to grind for weeks or buy stuff) and I really enjoyed this movie. Yes, it’s corn-tastic at times but it was entertaining and I look forward to seeing what happens next. I only gave it a chance after hearing the director, Duncan Jones, on The Nerdist and liking what he had to say.
    Also, did not know that he is David Bowie’s son.

  • Watched it. Loved it.
    Haters gonna hate is all.
    Same if they made a Call of Duty movie. I’m sure people will love to hate that too.

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