World of Warcraft began its era in 2004. While me, my brother, and my cousin missed the first few patches, we soon couldn’t bear close our ears from the call of the Warcraft universe. This fantasy world, a grand buffet of folk tale and popular culture, sapped the souls of us young men for a decade. The sheer depths of passion that Mike Morhaime’s powerhouse company put into the tiniest detail of their game and lore, is an unparalled achievement.
From the first seconds of the movie, the orc wardrums begin their ominous pounding, and I was pulled back into my childhood, to the moment I rolled my first character, my undead mage, and begun slaying bats and thralls in Deathknell. Every minute of the movie, I felt that pounding, every axe and hammer and sword blow and boomstick shot on alliance and orc faces, I breathed in shivering, enthralled.
The movie opens in a scene of an orc and a human warrior, circling each other like hounds before the death charge. It establishes the very basics, that this story is of orcs versus humans, and it’s gonna be a hell of a rumble. The lore of Warcraft is familiar to every true Blizzard fan, hence I will not spare you of spoilers in this review, including the final scene. I am telling you now, this movie ended in thundering applause in my theater. That, coming from my fellow Finnish kin, lemme tell you, is completely unheard of. Only once in my 27 years of life, have I been to a movie, where the Finns in the audience erupted in cheers, and that was the Phoenix Wright: Ace Attourney movie.
We fans waited 6 years for this movie to come out, and it is, to every man and woman who has played the Warcraft games, the perfect epic spectacle. It is a pure burst of love on the silver screen. Duncan Jones jizzed his geeky balls clean on film. The movie looks jaw-droppingly gorgeously beautiful, and anybody who argues for their hate for CG art in cinema after watching this, deserves a good internet lynching.
We begin from Draenor, where Gul’dan, the fel-corrupt orc warlock is gathering together all the orc warbands on Draenor, around the Dark Portal. Draenor has become a wasteland, the orcs have nothing left to kill. Among the orcs, they have draenei prisoners too, and from the onset, as we watch a draenei mother plead for her child to be spared from Gul’dan’s fel ritual, we see that fel magic, is fucking evil as shit. The demonic seductive power of fel, is the true villain of the story that’s destroying the Horde, and the Alliance, from the inside. The clan leader of the Frostwolves, Durotan, realizes this soon.
The movie, much like the Warcraft universe, does not have any particular main character. We follow Durotan, Lothar, Khadgar, Medivh, Blackhand, Orgrim, Llane, Garona, each pursuing their own goals and clashing in their ambitions. The actor performances are fine, though I had real trouble spotting any standout performances. I even felt mildly annoyed by some of the actor choices, especially the choice of Dominic Cooper as King Llane, whom I found lackluster for a role requiring charisma and stature.
There’s no PG-13 bullshit here, no fucking punches pulled; orc, man, soldier and civilian alike, get their faces pulverized (without gore), every thud reaping your ear drums. The sound effects in this movie are deliciously riveting. You really fucking feel the power of the blows, of axe on shield, and on flesh. There’s even a cute unnecessary Wilhelm scream, just because!
The props in the movie, the armors and the weapons and the spell books and the cloaks, et cetera, are 100% Warcraft. The king’s ring rocks the Alliance lion, the sword hilts are blue and yellow with the same crest. And on the topic of clothes, I loved how the casters looked, as Medivh’s raven-feather robes and Gul’dan’s warlock attire were iconic to the finest detail. Even the windows and bookcases, the tattoos and flags and orc huts, were so finely done, I am glad they took 6 years to do everything so damn right.
Music in the movie has the Warcraft juice spilled all over it. Blizzard’s works have never suffered from a lack of epic melodic orchestral pieces worthy of remembrance. The first fucking piece alone, is sheer damn perfection. The music blends into the scenes so seamlessly, you forget its there, all the while the melodies take on themselves to carry you emotionally through each twist and turn the plot takes. I would have liked more throwbacks to World of Warcraft, but standing alone, as part of this fine entry into the line of new gaming cinema, these tunes hit the nail in the head.
The areas in this movie take you back into the tower of Karazhan, the inn in Elwynn forest, the mage city Dalaran, and alliance capitol Stormwind, each looking so real and familiar, you don’t stop to think it’s computer-generated. Stormwind in particular, from the bridge to the gryphon roost, to the Stormwind Castle, are in their exact places. You have a scene, where the fucking gryphon flies into the very spot I took flight from every time I left to quest in Stranglethorn, raid Molten Core, to do another UBRS run, whatever was my destination. And the orcs? Perfection. The orcs, in their massive form and detailed-to-the-tee tribalist attire, are fucking perfect. They growl their lines through their teeth, in battle they roar and cleave, heaving their mountainous bodies with primal ferocity. They are proud tradition-bound warriors, they raid villages on wolf-back and kill without one shred of mercy.
Before the massive final battle, reminiscent in epicness of the mountain scene in Disney’s Mulan, the story follows through many satisfying skirmishes between the two warring races, plus infighting by the orcs. From the orc ambush in Elwynn forest to the ambush in Deadwind Pass, these clashes each release build-up and deepen the racial blood feud. I love nothing more as an author and critic, than the juicy relationships between protagonists and villains. The Deadwind pass scene is just masterful, you get to see the orcs’ first-attacker advantage and momentum, to the tide turning by Lothar assuming full bad-ass stance slicing up orc scrubs like a fucking boss. Khadgar casts plot-convenient bolts, and Medivh blows his arcane load like Blizzard fucked up mage balance in the patch again. Before the battle concludes, Blackhand, staring Lothar in the eye, guts Lothar’s son Callan like a swine. Travis Fimmel’s performance in this heart-rending scene has all those feelings of despair a father would feel, watching his own son, his flesh and blood, mercilessly cut down by a monster killing machine.
The magic spells in the movie, I was disappointed with. While I am not ideologically against unnamed plot convenient imba AOE spells, I would at least have expected one lowsy frost or fire or shadow bolt. And what about Ice Barrier? Why the fuck does Khadgar not pop Ice Barrier, or at least Mana Shield, when he senses that dark presence in Karazhan library? Don’t whine on the forums if you forget defensive cooldowns, scrub.
Blackhand The Destroyer is the most eye-catching of the characters, a mountain of muscle, and his attire of bone and leather, makes the monster orc glow with threat and power. The final skirmish, the mak’gora death duel between him and Lothar, takes the movie back to its starting scene; orc versus man. Lothar is surrounded by the roaring orc horde. Bare-footed he stands, cold determination in his tired eyes, Lothar stares at his would-be-killer, the two-legged beast that killed his son. You watch the two champions of their respective races ooze killing intent, and then they both charge and the battle ends 2-shot. All that anticipation, from the first scene, all that build-up releases in a masterful maneuver by Lothar, and the consequent piercing of Blackhand’s heart. The warbands fall silent in awe and respect of the human warrior’s strength, and Lothar walks through their ranks a champion, uninhibited, to Stormwind.
Go watch this movie. Go!! Watch yer back…