This underrated fantasy epic just crashed the Netflix top 10 and it deserves a second chance — here's why

An image from "Warcraft" showing Durotan (Toby Kebbell)
(Image credit: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo / Universal Pictures)

In recent years, it feels like creators are really starting to nail the art of turning a video game into a movie or TV show; you only need to look at the likes of Prime Video's "Fallout" TV show, "Arcane" season 2, the eagerly-awaited second season of Netflix's celebrated League of Legends adaptation or HBO's take on "The Last Of Us" as proof that the times have changed. 

But long before all those projects arrived on the scene, we got Duncan Jones' 2016 fantasy action take on Blizzard's Warcraft franchise. It's a movie that certainly wasn't well-received at launch (it holds an inauspicious 29% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes), and wasn't quite the box office smash it needed to be (it failed to break even, despite performing very well overseas). 

After recently arriving on Netflix, "Warcraft" has quickly claimed the No. 2 spot on the Netflix top 10 movies. As a big fantasy nerd (and someone with an on-off relationship with World of Warcraft), I've long had a soft spot for the flick. If the movie's poor reception put you off, now is the perfect time to give it a second chance. Here's why I think you should give "Warcraft" a shot....

Warcraft - Official Trailer (HD) - YouTube Warcraft - Official Trailer (HD) - YouTube
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'Warcraft' reveres its own source material

The "Warcraft" story is simple enough. Having organized the orc clans into "The Horde", Orc shaman Gul'dan seeks out a new world for them to move to. Gul'dan uses his Fel magic to establish a portal to the fantasy land of Azeroth, and he sends some of his strongest warriors through. 

The Horde pours through and begins conquering this new world, and the humans attempt to resist. But sensing a more sinister plot is at work, a few dissenting orcs work together with key figures on the human side to thwart the true evil behind the war.

In an interview with Business Insider, Jones explained that he was approached by franchise stewards Blizzard with this pitch for "Warcraft". He was a huge fan of the games, and came on board with the idea of turning Blizzard's more traditional movie into something closer in tone to the very first Warcraft strategy game, showing there are heroes and villains on both sides of the war between humans and orcs.

This reverence lends the movie a certain admirable quality. Some lesser game adaptations feel little more than attempts to cash in on an IP, but "Warcraft" really wants to bring its universe to a new medium. Its characters may trade in clichéd, occasionally hammy dialogue, but they are earnestly brought to life. Toby Kebbell, especially, turns in a genuine performance as the renegade orc, Durotan. 

The movie is certainly guilty of trying to cram so much fan service in that its pacing is uneven; it ends up racing from place to place and name-checking lore tidbits a little too frequently, but it is nonetheless committed to grand, immersive world-building. It's a world that I have enjoyed revisiting and one that does the heavy lifting in the lore department, introducing us to a new film canon. It's a shame audiences never got to explore more of this take on the Warcraft universe. 

'Warcraft' boasts some brilliant visual work

An image from the "Warcraft" movie

(Image credit: Pictorial Press Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo / Universal Pictures)

Upon revisiting it for this article, I really expected to have to eat my words on the visual front, but honestly, I think this is still a good-looking movie, and the visuals are a big part of that. 

Being quite so CGI-heavy, there was every chance that "Warcraft" could have ended up looking dated. However, the team opted to stay true to Warcraft's slightly cartoonish style, which goes a long way in ensuring that the orcs look just as good now as they did on the big screen. 

Sure, it means the live-action humans look a little goofy in their bulky suits of armor, comparatively, but this commitment to the franchise's style works very well on the orc side (which is already the more compelling side of the story, anyway). 

The impressive effects don't stop at the character models or props, either. Anyone with an appetite for action will be well-served, as there are multiple fight scenes which, though almost entirely CGI, are still well-staged.

Magic, especially, looks brilliant. I'd point almost immediately to the moment that Fel magic surges through Kharazan or the carnage that rumbles across the battlefield when the humans and orcs cross swords. Sure, it's not always perfect, and some of the wider shots look a little game-y in places, but I think you can admire the scale of what the filmmakers were trying to achieve. 

So, should you stream 'Warcraft' on Netflix?

"Warcraft" is by no means a perfect movie, but I hope I've put across at least a solid case as to why it deserves a better reputation than it currently holds, and I think that anyone — especially fantasy fans — should at the very least give "Warcraft" a shot now that it's available to stream on Netflix. 

Still not convinced? Upon the movie's release, Tom's Guide sent two writers to see "Warcraft", and they both really liked it, too; one was a diehard fan and the other was a franchise newcomer. If you really don't think "Warcraft" is for you, why not check out what's New on Netflix this week or our picks of the best Netflix movies you can stream right now for more inspiration?

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Staff Writer, Streaming

Martin is a Streaming Writer at Tom’s Guide, covering all things movies and TV. If it’s in the theaters or available to stream somewhere, he’s probably watched it… especially if it has a dragon in it. Before joining the team, he was a Staff Writer at What To Watch where he wrote about a broad range of shows that stretched from "Doctor Who" and "The Witcher" to "Bridgerton" and "Love Island". When he’s not watching the next must-see movie or show, he’s probably still in front of a screen playing massive RPGs, reading, spending a fortune on TCGs, or watching the NFL.