I can't remember the first time I heard about the Warcraft movie, and I can definitely not remember ever being excited about it. Considering how long it has been floating around I probably was at some point, but if that was the case it had vanished completely by the time the movie was actually released.
I guess my problem with the movie (as I imagined it) was two-fold: firstly, good video-game to movie adaptations don't exactly grow on trees. I really liked the Resident Evil movie (I enjoyed all of them but thought the first one was really good). I actually like the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter movies (the first ones, respectively), although far from brilliant movies they manage to entertain. And I am among the 0.1% who thinks the Mario Bros. movie is completely misjudged and misunderstood. But then you have movies like Prince of Persia. It was so boring I can't ever remember what happened in it. Silent Hill is another good example of squandered potential. And there are a ton of other video-game movies that I haven't even bothered watching because I just knew they would waste my time, like Bloodrayne and Alone in the Dark.
Secondly, I never really cared much for the lore in Warcraft. I haven't even played the first three games (and only after watching the Warcraft movie did I realize it is in fact based on the first Warcraft game, rather than World of Warcraft). I haven't read any of the books or series on the lore and I only cared so much as to get the basic grips of why I needed to kill the next big end-boss. Eventhough I spent 8 years in World of Warcraft, I am shamefully ignorant about the Warcraft Universe. My ignorance both led me to believe that whatever lore there was would be boringly convoluted and confusing, and if I haven't had an interest in it so far, how could this movie change that?
But it was part of something I had already invested 8 years into so I still wanted to see it. And I am damn glad I did because it was great.
Needless to say, going in to the theater my expectations were almost as low as they come. I didn't think it would be Dragonball Evolution bad, maybe not even The Last Airbender bad, but not far from. With me I had a friend who has absolutely zero knowledge of the games and even less knowledge of the lore than I did. She's barely played any game, let alone any Warcraft game. I asked her why she even bothered seeing it, and she replied with "I liked the trailer". I feared for her as we sat down, worried it would be two hours of torture for her.
It turned out to be two hours of delight. Not only did the movie manage to be far from convoluted and confusing, it actually managed to really get me interested in the Warcraft universe and lore and made me crave more. When I asked my friend what she thought of it afterwards she said she had really liked it and that it reminded her of Lord of the Rings in style.
I'm not saying this is a masterpiece of a movie, but it does what it sets out to do and it had me entertained the entire way through. If I was worried the two hours would end up filled with bloated and cringeworthy scenes, I couldn't have been more wrong. Some people might dislike the stage-set looking aesthetics of the movie (however they manage that with so much CGI going on), but it is done completely shamelessly. Not only did I get the feeling that the creators knew and udnerstood what Warcraft was about, they didn't back down from it either. If you're making a movie about orcs and demons and mages that can teleport and turn people into sheep you need to embrace that. Backing away or trying to ridicule it is only going to alienate your own material. That was one of my biggest fears for this movie but it was definitely not a problem.
When watching the movie I felt like the guy playing Anduin Lothar, Travis Fimmel, stood out in a weird way. He played his character differently to everyone else, not necessarily in a bad way but like he was playing in a slightly different movie. Afterwards I read that Travis Fimmel had absolutely no previous knowledge of the Warcraft series or lore, and somehow I think it shines through on the way he portraits Lothar (it could also just be my imagination). I still thinks he does an ok job however and it's nothing that ruins the movie in any way.
The story is simplistic enough to be coherent but not too cliché to be boring. Even if there weren't exactly any twists or deeper plot points that a five year old couldn't have figured out, many characters (especially on the orc side) were given enough depth to make up for any flatness in the story. In fact the movie is smart enough to not even try to treat the few twists there are as some sort of revelations, but only play them for as much as they're worth (probably because they assume everyone watching will know the story anyway). And I didn't expect much from the story, but I also didn't expect them to do such a great job with some of the characters, so that was a nice surprise for me.
I think it's hilarious that there is such a huge discrepancy between critic reviews and regular movie goers. Because I can't personally judge how well this movie performs without any pre-knowledge it's hard for me to say what they're complaining about. Maybe it's because they don't get that tingly feeling in their gut when they see Lothar greet Moroes in Kharazan or when Draka puts Go'el in the river. Little things that hold little meaning to them but huge meaning to me and I suspect a lot of other movie goers.
Still, I'd recommend this movie both if you've played any of the games related, but also if you have an interest in fantasy movies but no previous knowledge of this game-series. I wouldn't say the movie stands completely on its own, but it's not far from. My only gripe is that I really wish there would've been more of it! I wanted to see undeads (I realize they don't come into play until later), I wanted to see more of the elves, I wanted to know more about Go'el. The movie managed to make me more interested in the Warcraft lore than 8 years of WoW ever did. In essence I desperately want them to make more of these movies and I don't think there is any better praise than that.
BIG SPOILER WARNING!
Things I learned from the movie I did not know beforehand;
- That the main orc character was Durotan, I had assumed it would be Thrall.
- That Garona is a half-orc, I always thought she was just plain orc. Probably because her model in WoW is orc.
- That Medivh was the guy who invited the orcs into Azeroth. I knew he had been corrupted by the fel magic, but not what he did. The movie doesn't explain how he nor Gul'dan gets to the magic however.
- Pretty much everything the movie tells you about Khadgar was news to me.