Warcraft Parent Review
On the surface the plot looks typical, but a cast from a variety of magical races with individual backstories and unique motivation, breaks the simplistic mold of good vs evil.
The Warcraft franchise began in 1994 when Blizzard Entertainment released the computer strategy game Warcraft: Orcs and Humans. Thus far, the original product has inspired four sequels, a series of books, and even a collectible card game. With such a diverse range of media falling under the Warcraft umbrella, it’s not surprising that faithful fans refer to the franchise as the Warcraft universe. What may be more surprising is how long it’s taken to turn that universe into a movie. After ten years of planning, revising and rethinking, Blizzard Entertainment, in partnership with director Duncan Jones, has finally brought the struggling project to the big screen.
The long wait makes sense when considering the enormity of the task. Over the past two decades Warcraft has developed a complicated storyline that involves generations of magical creatures who duke it out over territory and ideology. That’s perfect material for an online strategy game, but a whole lot harder to fit into a two-hour movie, which also needs to appeal to gamers and newbies alike. The end result has its problems, but does offer some pleasant departures from the usual fantasy fare.
The story starts with the orcs, a race of huge and hulking humanoids who’ve had enough with the desert wasteland their world has become. In search of greener pastures, they’re willing to follow Gul’dan, (Daniel Wu,) a skull bedecked sorcerer with supernatural powers that he uses to conjure up a portal to an alternate universe. Unfortunately, this remarkable feat requires fuel. Yet even after slurping the life force out of the orcs’ captured enemies to get the thing going, Gul’dan can only transport a few of his warriors into the new world. If they intend to get the rest of their horde settled in their new home, the orcs are going to need more living victims to power Gul’dan’s magic.
That’s bad news for the unsuspecting humans who inhabit the peaceful land on the other side of the portal. As villages are overrun by orcs collecting prisoners, the knight Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and apprentice wizard Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) must put their trust in the half orc Garona (Paula Patton) as they search for a means of thwarting their enemy’s invasion plans.
On the surface the plot looks typical, but a cast from a variety of magical races, each with their own backstory and unique motivation, breaks the simplistic mold of good vs evil. In many ways, this is a strength. Within the first few minutes of the film, a tender family scene between orc chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and his pregnant wife Draka (Anna Galvin) builds instant empathy for creatures that are usually mowed over by more human heroes in this genre.
Although the potential is there for well-rounded characters and a more realistic view of interracial warfare, the movie only takes a half-hearted stab at it. Characters like Khadgar and Garona are given too little screen time to relate their tragic pasts before the movie hurries onto yet another epic battle where hundreds of anonymous warriors are killed off. While the violence is similar to films like The Lord of the Rings, the images of stabbing, slashing, crushing and impaling, complete with blood effects, feel more disturbing because they so strongly contradict earlier messages of tolerance and understanding. When these are combined with creepy supernatural forces that vividly and painfully drain the lives out of terrified villagers, it’s obvious why the film earned a PG-13 in the US, and that rating should be treated seriously.
Along with the inevitable problems associated with trying to adapt such a complex story into a screenplay, priority is given to combat sequences (that stretch on to tedious lengths), while not enough time is given to explore the clashing cultures. This leaves much of the terminology, place names, and secondary characters, unexplained and apparently irrelevant.
While the characters personify the strengths of cooperation and cultural open-mindedness, the film’s refreshing messages may take a little digging to find beneath the bloody battlefields. Ultimately, like the orcs and humans themselves, this movie version of Warcraft falls just a little short of its noble intentions.Directed by Duncan Jones. Starring Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster. Running time: 123 minutes. Theatrical release June 10, 2016. Updated September 27, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in Warcraft here.
Warcraft Parents Guide
What positive messages did you feel the film was trying to present? How could the filmmakers have strengthened those themes? What parts of the movie detracted or added to those messages?
Warcraft attempts to build empathy for characters on both sides of the orc vs human war. Why is seeing a conflict from both perspectives useful? Why do so many films present a story from only one perspective?
The character Lothar deals with loss throughout the film. What are some productive ways to work through grief? How is Lothar’s behaviour harmful to himself and others?
Many of the orcs justify their invasion of the human world because it will benefit themselves and their families. Are they doing the right thing? What alternatives would you consider in their situation?