I am a lover of games. I am a lover of films. So my need to fulfil the dream of a film based on a game, that's also good, is very high. Cinema has had plenty of chances to do so in the past. Doom, Mortal Kombat, Super Mario Brothers, Prince of Persia, each classic and historic video game that got their silver screen time to shine yet sadly crashed and burned faster than you can say "trust the fungus". So when World of Warcraft loomed its gargantuan head into the cinema scene, I was most certainly intrigued.
I will get this out of the way first off. The world building was incredible, the characters had depth and the soundtrack was outstanding. But did I like the film? No. Let's break it down.
I'll admit now, I am not a World of Warcraft fan. But that is for mechanic and game play reasons. Blizzard's strongest suit has always been lore and world building, and for that I have a somewhat restrained interest. So, the film already had a bar of expectation from the get go.
As I said before, the world building was great. The world that lay before the eye on that big ol' screen in the centre of the room was organically gorgeous. You had a definite idea of the scale of the land, and you can get a read of the inhabitants and denizens that lived there. The iconic soundtrack emphasised this. The action in the scenes was beautifully scored, and had a rythmn to it that made you want to hum it after the film.
The characters had depth, showed relevant emotion and intention, and most importantly weren't just narrative agents that propelled the story. They were joshing when they were happy, and they were stern when they were sad. They had lives and backgrounds and reasons to exist. A thing that is uncommon in many films, particularly video game films. The characters, on paper, were gold.
So why don't I like it? The answer is actually quite simple. The film is nothing new. It is so safe. It practically writes cliché on a massive whiteboard, circles it, then throws it at the viewer. Throughout the entirety of the film I could see bits and pieces practically replicated from other films.
The best way I can describe the aesthetic and the plot of the film is Lord of the Rings meets Star Wars meets Prince of Egypt. From your Aragorn / Arwen love story, to your Obi Wan Kenobi teaches the youngster that ran away. And I swear on all that is holy, they spliced the Hulk roar from the first Avengers film, shot for shot, and replaced it with an Orc.
The characters, while yes they had depth, were also very stale. The acting was very wooden for some scenes and there was several immersion breaking points where I sat back and thought "why the hell did that character say that?". This is not to say the performance is to blame on all accounts, I praise Ben Foster's stupendous portrayal of Medivh, or as I like to call him Gandalf the Guardian, and Daniel Wu's voice acting for Gul'dan was superb. Khadgar was also a loveable character and probably my favourite in the movie.
The biggest breaking point was at the end of the movie. I won't spoil anything but there was a moment where one person was so wildly out of character I couldn't help but cringe. For all intents and purposes, it was a deus ex machina; a moment to resolve the plot in a way that heeded no explanation nor followed any core character trend.
So while the film had its strong points, it fell too short on the one's that mattered most. However, if you are a World of Warcraft fan you may well enjoy this film, it seems like a good nod to fans. But overall the film feels like a really long cut scene at the start of a game. Or, to put it more accurately, like a really big inside joke to WoW players.
Alas, the quest to find a good video game film continues. Perhaps Assassin's Creed will be the chosen one? But by all means, Warcraft is not awful. It's just not good either. It's too safe, it takes no risks and peddles what we've already seen from both films and games of years gone by. However, credit where credit is due, it is arguably the closest we've gotten to a good video game film. Most certainly better than that Angry Bird abomination.