(There will be in-depth discussion of some elements of the movie, so spoilers alert)
Okay, let’s get this right off the bat: I have never played Warcraft. Not a single minute of it. In fact, I didn’t even know what it was about, other than it being a RPG with battles and possibly different classes of playable characters. The only ‘research’ I did prior to watching the movie is watching the trailer.
Anyway, I watched the movie with low expectations since critics were savagely tearing it apart. To my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. In my opinion, it was even better than Batman vs. Superman, and I honestly won’t mind watching it a second time.
So why do critics not like it? Granted, it’s not a perfect movie. There are plenty of flaws, but does it deserve a bad rating on Rotten Tomatoes (27% last I checked)? I just don’t get it!
This is when I decided to have a look at what the ‘top critics’ have to say, and why they think Warcraft is a bad movie, most of which never played the game. Here’s a summary and my arguments against their reasoning:
What part of the story that you do not get? It’s pretty simple. The Orcs lost their own world, so they invade Azeroth under the leadership of Gul’dan the warlock-orc. At the central of the conflict is chieftain Durotan, who is questioning their actions. Meanwhile, on the side of Azeroth, we have commander Lothar who tries to repel the invading orcs, with the help of some mages and some armies. That’s basically the main story; it’s not terribly deep or complicated.
More details? Fel is a dark magic of some sort that uses lives as its fuel. Garona is an outcast among the Orcs because she’s not fully one (it is implied that she’s half human). The orcs uphold honour, and their battle rituals is basically the duel that we’re familiar with, where the winner gets to walk away with his or her life.
The story is not perfect, of course. There are parts that felt forced (probably because they are trying to squeeze hours and hours of gameplay and lore into a two hour movie), like the romance subplot. But as far as storytelling goes, this isn’t a bad effort at all.
Look, if you aren’t going to even try to use a bit of brainpower to piece together stuff, don’t blame the movie. Unless they make this into the next Lord of the Rings, with three movies of three to four hours screentime, there will be things that won’t make sense or are left unexplained. Try paying attention next time.
2. Lack of world building.
At the start of the movie, we were shown the orcs gathering for war. They had a clan structure, where each clan is led by a chieftain and they answer to calls for war. Azeroth, on the other hand, has a king and a queen, and you can assume that the kingdom is pretty much structured like one of those medieval kingdoms. Lothar is a commander of the army, and Medivh is the consultant mage, who is only summoned when his expertise is required. Basically the story revolves around these two worlds: the Orcs’ and Azeroth. What more world building would you ask for? Do you want them to show trades, their farms? How they make their clothes and the food they eat? Seriously, what other details do you require from the movie?
I agree that the onslaught of names in the first few segments of the movie (I only remember Stormwind, and that’s all that matters, really) can be confusing, but did that ruin the entire movie? No! The important things will be repeated over and over again as the movie goes along. Again, unless they do it the LOTR way, we will have to accept that there will be details left unexplained.
Another complaint that I saw is that the movie never touches on the other races that they showed on screen, like the elves. Really? Look, Star Wars showed aliens species in quite a few of the scenes, but I don’t see people demanding that they flesh out each of those races. Those scenes with elves and dwarves are to establish that there are other races other than humans in Azeroth, but they are in no way essential to the plot, so don’t complain if they leave out the details. The only categories that mattered in this movie are Orcs, Mages and Humans. Do you not know what mages and humans are?
3. Bad acting/underdeveloped characters.
Look, we definitely won’t get Oscar-level of acting here, but really, is great acting what people expect when they come in to see Warcraft? Plus, even the critics can’t seem to agree whose acting is the best. As for character development, as far as the major characters are concerned, they seemed fine to me (except for the forced romance subplot; that was really just weird).
Some of the criticisms were aimed at the mages Medivh (Ben Foster) and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who were considered to be boring. I don’t know about the game, but how ‘fun’ are mages supposed to be? For all I care, mages can be dark and brooding and boring, for all I know. Anyway, Medivh was corrupted by the Fel, and it seemed like it took him a lot of effort to keep it under control, which might explain why he appeared so listless and tired sometimes. In my opinion, he seemed to be channeling a lot of Frodo Baggins-under-dark-influence. Given the narrative, that is an understandable choice.
There were also criticisms against Garona, one of which complains that she sounds like she has a mouth full of magic beans. Alright, firstly, I have no problem hearing what she said. Maybe I have special pair of ears or something, but I did not find her speech unintelligible. Secondly, how are orcs supposed to sound like anyway, much less a half-orc? If you want world-building and details, here: with jaws like that, it will be understandable for the Orcs to sound a little mangled, and it is reasonable to assume that they aren’t evolved for human speech. THERE.
Look, is the movie perfect? Not by a long shot. Does it have parts that doesn’t make sense? Definitely. But is it a bad movie by any means? No. There are plenty of things to like about the movie, like complex characters. Yes, I like Lothar’s relationship with his son and his king, I like Durotan as the fierce warrior with a nurturing side, I like Garona and her predicament, trying to earn acceptance. Heck, I even like Khadgar and Medivh; Khadgar with his wide-eyed earnestness, and later the trepidation of having to battle the most powerful mage in the kingdom, Medivh and his struggle against the weight of his responsibilities. Then there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you entertained, with even seemingly major characters dying.
There are things that I dislike, of course. There’s the weird turn that the movie took in order to set up materials for a sequel, which left me feeling dissatisfied. There’s the pointless death of Durotan, which amounted to nothing. There’s the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fight between Lothar and Blackhand that was really disappointing. But all in all, the movie is still entertaining and I don’t see how it can get such bad ratings.
But then again, most of the bad reviews seemed to come from people who are not familiar with RPGs or are looking for the next LOTR here. It is not, and it is never intended to be one.