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WARCRAFT the movie is very soon to be launched on DVD and BluRay so you can own it and watch it as often as you like.

Making a movie based on a Computer game is not entirely new and has seen several degrees of success, but financially I believe that the majority, if not all, have actually made a loss or broken even at best at the Box Office. It is the after sales, DVDs and BluRay where the finances become a plus on the budget sheet.

Personally my thoughts are that making and releasing WARCRAFT in the midst of a wave of super-hero movies is a mistake. The current climate of movie goers are waiting for the next round of Hulk, Thor, IronMan, Captain America etc and the money those films have grossed in the last few years has proved that this is where the current requirements lie. Many a good movie, starring a myriad of A listed stars have come and gone almost unnoticed amongst the wealth of MARVEL, and to a lesser extent DC comic book characters so whoever thought it would be a good idea to spend, as I understand it to be, close to $450m on a film based on an MMO world is probably sitting holed up somewhere with his fingers crossed as the DVDs and BluRay prepare to launch. Having seen a boardgame, a collectible card game and a range of Warcraft figures all fail when compared to similar merchandise for other entities, making this movie was such a major gamble.

A quick look at the demographic: The World of Warcraft (Blizzard) is still one of, if not the, leading MMO game in computer gaming history. There are anywhere between 8million and 10million players around the world, each paying about £10 a month to play it. Those who have been with the game since the beginning have seen it change considerably, so much so that anyone new coming in now is entering a world so different than it was when I first started playing (nearly 13 years ago - I played in the first Beta in the UK and stayed with the game until about 2 years ago). That world is now gone! To join now you need to buy a version of the game that allows you to quickly install as much of the basic game as is necessary and then the latest expansion or two. Hereby lies the first problem for new players - the game is huge and to get the most out of it you need to take the time creating and building up several characters from level one through to (I believe the current cap is) level 100. There are acceptable exceptions that allow you to enter the game at higher level, but unless you have played WoW before you cannot control high level characters with any degree of success with the experience, which means that unless you join a PuG (Pick-up Group) who don't really care or a very (very, very) patient Guild you are going to spend a lot of time playing on your own.

    

The game is about adventurers from any of the available Races, Orcs, Humans, Elves, Dwarves, Trolls, Gnomes etc etc etc joining into groups and going around doing odd jobs for Lords and Masters, Traders and Tinkers, Warlords and.. well you get the idea and gaining experience (leading to Level rising) and equipment (leading to better character statistics  aka stats etc.) It pits the Horder (green skins and evil/dark creatures) against the Alliance (shiny knights in armour and their like) and players get to choose which side they want to play - they can even make characters for both sides, though cannot use them both at the same time so they cannot fight themselves. Characters from the sides meet up and go adventuring, down dungeons devised specifically for one side or the other and occasionally in areas where both sides have the same common goal. Very occasionally now (it happened a lot in the early days of the game) someone will organise a mass raiding party often from numerous smaller groups and go and wipe out an opposing village or mass attack (mass suicide) against a major town. These were the only times when the regular game (aka PvE  Player versus Environment)  allowed for big battles of Horde versus Alliance, until the advent of PvP servers (specifically for Player versus Player).

It is the PvP side of things that is represented in the WARCRAFT movie!


  

There are no small groups of adventurers or individual heroes going off on their own, WARCRAFT the movie is basically an ORC versus HUMAN onslaught. A few other races appear in cameo shots, Dwarves, Elves and Trolls mainly, but for reasons of their own the writers (Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones) and director (Duncan Jones) decided not to involve these races in the main war. Well straight away they have cut their prospective audience down to about 25% of the game's players as the other 75% prefer to play characters that are neither Orcs nor Humans and so immediately have the hump because the film is not representing the game that they play. For non-WoW players let me put it in a sporting term. If there was a movie made about Arsenal FC it would get lots of viewing from Arsenal supporters, but the supporters of the other 19 clubs in the Premier League would boycott it; whereas if it was a film made about football in general many of those would be likely to want to watch it.

Thus we are thrust into the world of Warcraft, the world of Azeroth where humans and (we shall believe) other races live peacefully. One day an Orc (who the humans have never even heard of in their 7 Kingdom paradise) warband burst through a magical portal and begin to slaughter anyone and everything that isn't an Orc. It seems that their world, Draenor, is being destroyed by Fel magic (green dark magic) and they need a new place to live. Okay then that's a story we have read, seen and heard a myriad times already - Avatar, multiple Alien invasion movies etc etc etc - and they have decided that although the Orcs have a code of honour amongst themselves communicating with other races isn't anything they are likely to consider. The Orc code of honour allows them to kill other Orcs either in a one on one duel (to prove who is right and who is wrong) or for the sake of it if in battle they get in each other's way.

The story continues with a half-Orc/half-Human slave girl (Garona - Paula Patton) becomes involved as the only one capable of getting the two Races together for a friendly chat. The "good" Orcs agree to a meeting with King Llane (Dominic Cooper) but of course the bad Orcs, led by Gul'dan and the Fel enamoured/controlled Human, Medivh, put paid to this little tete a tete with a wonderful display of CGI fireworks and explosions. Right then that's enough of the movie you'll have to find out what else happens by watching it, though I will warn you that it ends so set up for Warcraft 2, though you'll see this coming by at least halfway through the film if not before.


  

WARCRAFT the movie has the most amazing CGI effects, it is phenomenal. The armour, weapons, mounts (the Orcs ride Wargs, which are giant wolves) and other equipment etc is spot on to that in the game. The cities of Ironforge (only seen for a few seconds as it is the home of the Dwarves who aren't, as I said earlier, involved in this story) and Stormwind as seen from above look as though they could be fantastic, but of course they are mainly pasteboard mattes with characters in them shot against a green screen, and all that glisters is most definitely not gold; shame as these cities, as well as Orgrimmar and Dalaran, could easily have been involved more in the plot, though they possibly weren't as the plot could have been written on a serviette at a diner for what it is. The acting ranges from good, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer and Clancy Brown, to OTT; Ben Foster and Daniel Wu, to OK; Travis Fimmel (bet he couldn't wait to get back to his Vikings buddies) and Robert Kazinsky, to Rabbit caught in the headlights; Paula Patton, to Am I actually in this movie or wtf am I doing here? , Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper (who both looked as though they were filling in while waiting for the next season of The Preacher to start filming).

I cannot see World of Warcraft fans rushing out to the cinema to watch it or to the shops to buy the DVD or BluRay. I can see them surreptitiously watching it, and most likely enjoying it, when it appears on TV (which should be somewhere around soon if the companies want to keep the pennies coming in). There are times when it is difficult to believe you are watching live actors because there is so much CGI onscreen right in your face. It must have been hell for the actors as most of their delivery would have been to green screen backgrounds and props.

It isn't World of Warcraft! It does portray a few of the Races and bits and pieces from the game, and even some of the names used for characters can be found as NPCs dotted around in the game. The action looks great and is possibly realistic - getting hit with a dagger in your neck, shot at point blank range by a black powder pistol, skewered by a gold and gem encrusted sword or smashed by a gigantic hammer will almost certainly be the death of most people, whatever Race they belong to, and indeed most characters in the film die in one or more of these ways. BUT in the game one hit by a dagger is about as painful as a cat scratch, swords, hammers and spears etc do damage but not generally nowhere near enough to kill a hero character and single shots from guns are usually about as annoying as a wasp sting. It would be very difficult, probably laughable, to try to put the combat from the game into a film, I totally agree; but then why attempt to make a film about something where characters take these enormous hits and carry on as if nothing had happened.?

From a WoW player's perspective the film makers have got many things spot on in comparison to the game and players will admire and enjoy seeing their 3D semi-animated visions of their game in full, glorious main screen view, but then on the flipside there are so many things wrong with this as a film about WoW that if you sent 50 WoW players into a theatre to watch it and gave each a pen and paper and told them to write down what was right about the film compared to their beloved game you would probably get a few &X%$ comments, many blank sheets and an occasional but rare gem of wisdom.

From a non gamer's perspective - I put my blank-brain hat on when I watched it - it's a pretty good, run of the mill storyline action fantasy game about a warband of huge green guys who want to take over the lands of a world of mainly cheerful humans. The farms and farmers, citizens and denizens of this fantasy world are all but forgotten, this is heavily armed (and they have huge, weird, weapons as well) green guys (many of whom look like, muscle-wise, the Hulk or his brother or sister) against pretty mainly white guys in fancy armour with weapons of regular sword, shield and spear. Add a couple (only a couple - basically one on each side (which never happens in a WoW game btw) ) of spell casters and the components are all there for a fantastic romp in a fantasy land.

WARCRAFT isn't a bad or a poor film. It is 2 hours of grunting, groaning and heaving with weapons raising and lowering at dramatic speeds and clashing loudly while fireballs and lightning bolts crash around like uncontrolled pinballs. I watched it and I'd watch it again but I wouldn't wear my WoW hat when doing so. Accept it as a fantasy combat film, don't expect LoTR, Harry Potter or the Avengers and you'll thoroughly enjoy it.

  as  Anduin Lothar

 as Garona

 as    Medivh

 as  King Llane Wrynn

 as     Durotan / Antonidas

  as    Khadgar

 as   Orgrim

   as  Blackhand

 as Gul'dan

 as Lady Taria

 as  Draka

 as  Moroes

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015