Well, Warcraft certainly had a lot of things you’d typically find in movies: characters, music, some things happening. But it had to be one of the most incoherent, meaningless exercises I’ve ever seen put to film. It’s not that people aren’t trying. I think there actually is a lot of effort put into some of the acting, music, special effects and so on. But it doesn’t add up to anything. The only way you can truly comprehend how bad it is is to either see it yourself, which I don’t recommend, or read my analysis of the entire movie and use that to speculate on what the filmmakers were going for. So, if you want to move forward, full spoilers ahead.
I’ll warn you right now that I won’t get all the names of characters and locations right. I’ve never played a Warcraft or World of Warcraft game before. I’m sure if you have it gives you some extra knowledge for the movie but I don’t think you should ever have to read a book or play a game to appreciate a film for its own merits. So if I botch a name, you really needn’t bother correcting me because I don’t care. And if you saw this movie, you will have trouble caring, too. I mean about anything. It’s like falling into a void that sucks meaning out of everything.
The overall gist of the movie is that orcs invade the human realm. But they’re being manipulated by obviously evil magicians. Do they end up teaming up and defeating the bad guys? No. Not at all. The bad guys basically win and it takes an hour and forty minutes to get there but it felt like a 3 hour movie. I shifted in my seat a lot and noticed several other people in the audience fidgeting and pulling out their cell phones to check the time. I don’t like to annoy other people like that but whenever a scene was really bright I did look at my watch because I also wondered how much more there could be.
So the movie begins by showing us orcs. They’re kind of like ogres or trolls, if you’ve never seen an orc in Dungeons and Dragons or Lord of the Rings. But these guys are actually far more eloquent when they talk. Visually, they look like the Hulk in the Avengers movie, plus they have massive tusks jutting out from their lower jaw. Some of them pierce these with rings. It looks goofy to me but then again, humans pierce just about everything so I can believe monsters would pierce their tusks. The movie didn’t lose me with that.
For some reason, the massive tusks do not impede their speech at all. That’s weirder. Anyway, the main orc we get to know is called something like Durotang. He’s a pink orc (some are green). At first I thought that meant some sort of racial divide or a magical influence that meant they’d have different personalities but it doesn’t. There are good and asshole versions of both pink and green orcs. Durotang has a pregnant wife orc and they seem to have a pretty progressive relationship where she goes out to fight just as much as a male orc. They’re happy but they follow a wizard orc named, like, Guldakat or something. Seriously everyone has made up names so if you’re hoping for a token Luke or Sam, give up now.
Anyway, Guldakat has magic green energy powers and he literally sucks lives out of prisoners, including women and children in cages to power up. For some reason, the other orcs have no problem with this now but later in the movie seem shocked that Guldakat might be a bad guy. I mean, he’s a hunchback with bone spikes in his back and his eyes glow green and he sucks the life out of kids but the orcs literally do not suspect he’s evil.
Durotang, his wife (who had a name but I didn’t catch it) and his buddy Grimm seem to notice that their world is dying of all life but they go with Guldakat through a magic portal his creates out of all the prisoner corpse energy (he calls it The Fell which sounds kinda evil) and a few hundred other orcs. I guess they’re a scouting party and their plan is to get more prisoners to open the portal for the thousands of other orcs. It’s not described in an expository scene. You have to just piece it together throughout the movie.
The orc party goes through the portal and Durotang’s wife immediately miscarries. But Guldakat sucks the life out of a deer to bring the baby orc back to life and it changes him green. So Durotang is about the only guy who looks at the deer and you can sort of see gears turning in his head with him going, “Waiiiiit a minute…” but he’s grateful to have his son and that’s that.
This is all pretty brief and now we cut to a human character in the fantasy land of Azeroth. A big chunk of the early part of the movie just jumps around to all sorts of characters in different lands and it’s impossible to keep up with the names. We meet a knight named Lothar who is talking to a dwarf who builds him a gun. If it seems important, it really isn’t. At the end of the movie all of a sudden a bunch of knights have them but they don’t really do any more damage than a sword. The dwarf looks super cartoony.
But then we cut to some dead bodies in a castle that Lothar goes to look at. There’s a 20-something warlock guy looking them over and Lothar gets mad at him because he shouldn’t be in there. I don’t know where this guy came from or how he got past guards. Also never caught his name. I just thought of him as The Nerdy Guy.
Then we go to the King and his wife. Lothar shows up and the King is like, “I want you to go see The Guardian.” Everyone fucking loves The Guardian. He’s a wizard that apparently helps out whenever the King wants him to but they haven’t needed him or seen him in a couple years. Oh, and the King is played by the guy that’s Preacher and his queen is Tulip from Preacher. So that was distracting. Also, the Queen is apparently the sister of Lothar even though he’s white and she’s black. They don’t talk about adoption or anything so I don’t know. I guess it isn’t that important in the scheme of things so I just went with it.
Lothar takes the Nerd with him for… reasons? The two go to some tower somewhere where the Guardian and his butler live. They live up super high and Lothar, who is in good shape, seems winded halfway up. That’s one of the two bits I chuckled at in this movie because it felt relatable. The Nerd hangs out by himself at the base in a library and he sees a black ghost go into a book. So he takes the book. Seriously, it’s like, we see a demon go into a book and the guy steals it so I expected that to pay off in some sort of punishment. But actually, that ends up being a wise decision. You’ll never figure out where the movie goes. Never.
The Guardian gets his powers from a blue pool of magic up at the top of the tower. He’s also making a huge clay golem. He looks young because he’s played by Ben Foster but acts aloof. I assumed he was an old wizard whose magic lets him look young. Pretty sure I got that right. Anyway, he agrees to help Lothar figure out what killed the people.
Lothar, Nerd and Guardian join a small party of knights on horseback and go into some woods. I don’t know, I guess they’re looking for more dead bodies. They’re ambushed by orcs led by Durotang and his pal Grimm and some other green orcs. Nerd has a couple magic moves like a shield and Lothar is smaller than an orc but apparently much faster and he slices a bunch of ’em up. The orcs just smash almost all the knights to hell. It’s very very digital. Eventually Guardian does a spell that makes the green orcs glow and explode. It’s implied he accessed The Fell and these orcs were green because of the Fell so Guardian could… actually I guess I don’t know exactly what he did but it was evil magic so he made them die. The magic doesn’t seem to have rules. Like, I have no idea if there’s a cost to it or you have to memorize something or only certain people can do magic. Sometimes magicians suck souls and teleport and stuff. It just happens and you can’t question it because the movie is already onto the next scene.
Durotang has his orcs flee and they leave behind this half-orc half-human lady they had prisoner called Groanuh. She’s just a person in green makeup with tiny little teeth jutting out that really look like she had to wear kids’ plastic vampire teeth upside down. The humans take her prisoner. Oh, she’s super hot because she’s human instead of a digital hulk monster.
The humans take Groanuh to the King and he instantly sets her free in exchange for her showing them where the orcs are. The queen gives her a tiny little knife and treats her nicely. The King and Queen are NICE. That’s about the only thing going on with them.
So Groanuh helps Lothar spy on the orc camp and they see the orcs building a huge portal. Hmm, but why? Oh, Groanuh tells them it’s so they can bring over all the other orcs. Seems like the kinda thing they could have just been told back at the castle. Oops. Just didn’t come up I guess. No one thought to ask Groanuh what the orcs want to do.
Meanwhile, Durotang suddenly realizes that Guldakat uses evil magic and tells Grimm that he thinks they’ll need to stop him. But to do that, he’ll have to team up with the good guys so he just sort of finds Lothar and Groanuh with no trouble and tells them to meet at some mountains with the King. They do.
Meanwhile, back at the castle, Guardian meets Nerd and the Nerd is like, “Oh, I was reading a secret book and the bad guys could only come over here if they were INVITED.” Guardian snaps at Nerd that he is capable of protecting the realm himself and snaps his fingers burning up all of Nerd’s note pages. Gee. That isn’t suspicious, right? Like, we should totally still think of Guardian as a good guy, right?
Well, the meeting is about to begin and some green orcs burst out of the ground and Guardian teleports in and creates a lightning wall. Lothar is able to save the King but Lothar has a son that’s a young knight and he gets trapped on the other side of the electric wall and the orcs kill him. So much for any truce.
After the ambush, Guardian shows up to the good guys, weakened. So they send him to his tower where he can get better in his blue magic. But Nerd sees that Guardian’s eyes flash green and he’s like, “Hmmmm. A clue.” Like, he d.oesn’t instantly go, “Holy shit, Guardian is obviously the bad guy everyone!” Instead he goes back to this monastery or something where there’s a bunch of magicians. I don’t know what they do other than stand around
Lothar is crying in the castle and Groanuh is like, “oh, you have a sad story of losing your wife to childbirth and now your son? Well I don’t feel like I belong to orcs or people. So I have a sad story too.” And they’re totally into each other now. Obviously.
The magicians take Nerd to this black box that spins and it stops spinning and opens up. The magicians are like, “Whaaaa? That never happened before.” So Nerd walks inside and there’s an old lady in a void that is like, “I was that ghost that led you to the book. Guardian is evil. Stop him.” How was Guardian corrupted? Not explained at all. He’s just generically evil. He never says anything like, “I’m gonna take over the world!” or “I want to rule” or “I need power.” He has no motivation at all other than to just be bad.
The orcs decide to purge Durotang’s clan and his wife runs away with the baby, sends him down a river in a tiny boat and is killed by some random orc. So long, wife. Durotang challenges Guldakat to a one-on-one fight to show all the orcs that Guldakat is evil. Even though it’s time to open the gate, Guldakat is guilted by tradition into fighting.
Guldakat kicks Durotang’s ass. At one point he sort of starts to lose so he starts sucking Durotang’s life force. This makes the orcs say, “Guldakat cheats!” and act like they’re going to stop following him. So Guldakat kills Durotang.
While this is going on, Lothar and Nerd try to help Guardian who has just killed his butler. Guardian opens up the portal for Guldakat and the orcs are afraid of the magic and follow him after all. So I guess Durotang’s sacrifice was a complete waste. It’s really anticlimactic how they just off one of the lead characters at the end like this. I kept expecting him to somehow get revived, but nope. He’s dead.
Guardian goes full evil and animates the golem. Lothar and Nerd have their hands full and know they have to stop it soon. Oh, and the King and his armies all went to fight the orcs, along with Groanuh. It all just sort of happens so it’s confusing in the third act who is going where. You just see them at a location and have to go, “Oh, alright.”
The Nerd opens a portal and Lothar tricks the golem into falling through it and crushing Guardian. With his dying breath, Guardian switches back to being good and closes the portal to the orc world and opens it to the castle. So the King and his men shuttle the few remaining prisoners through there. Then Guardian dies and the portal closes with the King and Groanuh still surrounded by an orc army.
King demands Groanuh kill him so that she will be accepted by the orcs and potentially change things from the inside. So she does. She uses the little dagger the Queen gave her to flat out murder the King.
Lothar jumps on this really cartoony griffin thing and flies over to help the King but he’s too late so he grabs the corpse and flies away. And that’s basically how things end. Guldakat has most of his orc army. The King is dead. Lothar lost his son. Groanuh is seen as a traitor. It’s just depressing.
Obviously in the last 10 minutes everything goes to shit for the good guys just so they can set up a sequel. It’s like watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones as the first movie in a series. Digital effects everywhere and lots of crazy characters and locations and good guys losing. I’d say they were fools for planning this as one in a series since it was so bad and it did in fact do super poorly here in the U.S. but China is gobbling this thing up. It’ll be profitable and I guess there will be more. I bet they add a bunch of Chinese actors as elves or something to the next one.
But I’m out. Warcraft was garbage. I was stunned at how bad it was. None of the characters have much in the way of arcs so much as things happen to them. Lothar begins and ends as a super competent knight. The Nerdy guy is a good magician who I guess is now THE magician. The good orc died. Director Duncan Jones’ first movie, Moon, is fantastic sci-fi. Even his second movie, Source Code, is really good minus a kind of weird last minute ending. But this felt like it was manufactured by a large committee that insisted on sticking lots of characters and locations in but not pausing to let anything breathe. It’s just cut to this scene, cut to that scene.
I give Warcraft zero out of three thumbs.