Most will think of Lord of the Rings when we talk about live-action adaptations of the fantasy genre. While it technically does fall into that category, (it does have dragons and magic) Warcraft: The Beginning is the first, in a while, to properly bring high fantasy to the silver screen.
I remember a time when movies didn’t take themselves too seriously and still managed to entertain generations of fans. In fact, that’s what made us fans in the first place. Remember, Val Kilmer’s Willow, Tom Cruise’s Legend and David Bowie’s Labyrith? The 80s were a goldmine of pop-culture greats.
Yes, LOTR was ground breaking. It had the Orcs, the Elves and Dwarves. But while it was a fantastic novel and probably one of the best fantasy movies of all time, it also followed that trend where movies started to be more ‘serious’ and darker, not just in tone, but in colour grading as well.
While I loved the books and the movies, it did lack some of that spark that you sort of expect when you watch a fantasy movie. If you’ve ever read the Belgariad, Icewind Dale saga or Dragonlance, you would understand what an integral part magic plays in the genre – flashy and very beautiful in its destructive nature. Of course, when I first watched LOTR, I was just giddy with excitement about the fact that it existed. Warcraft, however, brought me back to that place in the 80s where armor was grand and mages not shy to sling their spells about.
Warcraft has been spinning its lore since 1994, when Warcraft: Orcs and Humans was released. This is the period Warcraft: The Beginning is based around – when the Orcs first invaded Azeroth. The Orc’s homeworld of Draenor is done for and it’s time for them to conquer new worlds to ensure their survival – didn’t Agent Smith say something like that about humans in the Matrix?
For years, fans have been treated to top-notch FMV’s from Blizzard. Videos and trailers that were so good that Blizzard never really needed to make a live-action movie. The real question was, would the live action movie be able to meet the standard?
Right from the start, Warcraft gets the visual aspect spot on. If you’re a fan of the games, you will definitely recognize the iconic locations and characters in the movie. If you’re not, just sit back and be in awe. From the gates of Ironforge, to the streets of Stormwind and the spires of Dalaran, Warcraft brings them all to life.
The Orcs in LOTR were obviously the bad guys, but in Warcraft, there’s much more to them. As a race, they’re a destructive, yet honourable warrior race that’s been corrupted by Fel magic. The Humans, on the other hand, have enjoyed peace for years as their alliance with the Elves and Dwarves holds, but aren’t all prepared for this new foe.
The movie keeps true to the spirit of Blizzard and the (World of) Warcraft with the accurate recreation of characters, iconic locations and armament. Picking a side isn’t all that clear cut as the story is told, a little fractiously from both sides. The Orcs in Warcraft aren’t, unlike most other franchises, inherently evil. Ironically, the CGI orcs come across more human than the humans themselves with a greater range of personality and emotion.
The Orcs, Durotan, Blackhand, Guldan, Dhraka and Orgim Doomhammer play their parts extremely well, more so than King Llane Wrynn, Anduin Lothar and Lady Taria Wrynn who come across quite flat. Khadgar and Medivh though, acting aside, have their magic to save their asses from the horde masses.
A special mention has to be made with the way they handle the fact that the Humans and Orcs don’t speak the same language – just like it is in game.
For the casual movie goer, Warcraft: The Beginning is a fun fantasy flick that doesn’t reinvent the genre, as much as it does revisit the way movies used to be – just with much better special effects. For the Warcraft fan, it’s a journey into a world we know all to well – from places to faces. I can’t wait to see more.