Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil and even Super Mario Bros. are all AAA video game franchises with a ton of history, lore and personality. Yet, when they tried to make the leap from console to the big screen, they all fell flat, with films that felt like they were exploiting their fan bases' loyalty in exchange for cash. But with Warcraft, director Duncan Jones has a few not-so-secret weapons for avoiding the mistakes of past video game movies.
To find out if Warcraft lives up to the hype, Tom's Guide sent two writers to see it: one with more than 180 days played in World of Warcraft and one who, before seeing the movie, couldn't tell the difference between a troll and an orc.
Cherlynn on Warcraft: The noob's perspective
Before walking into the theater for our screening of Warcraft, I was expecting to feel like a clueless idiot. Clearly, I'd severely underestimated director Duncan Jones' commitment to making this film accessible to the general audience.
Two minutes into the movie, I was hooked. I felt like I was watching a way more fun version of Lord of the Rings (which I was also dragged into watching back in my teens, and ended up loving). The film played out like a mix of Spartacus and Game of Thrones, without the nudity.
As someone who has never set foot into the World of Warcraft universe, I was surprised by how much I loved the movie. Characters such as orc leader Durotan, half-orc prisoner Garona and human knight leader Lothar drew me in with their compelling struggles. I hate watching flicks in which people stray from the right path, and characters' incompetence and failures give me anxiety. But in Warcraft, all our heroes do their best and are incredibly likable.
Another surprise for me was how comfortable I felt watching the 3D version of the movie. I usually suffer from headaches when viewing 3D movies, and stay as far away from them as possible. But my disappointment in learning our screening was in 3D IMAX quickly melted away once the very first scene appeared.
Lifelike textures and supercrisp details had me marveling at the production team's obvious skill at crafting such realistic characters and backdrops. Throughout the movie, I never once felt the need to remove my 3D glasses to give my eyes a break; I'd forgotten the eyewear was even there.
At its core, Warcraft, like any other adventure movie, is about a fight between good and evil. You don't need to know any of the backstories to root for the many protagonists, nor will you have trouble getting sucked into the world.
After the screening, my colleague Sam Rutherford filled me in on how this film plays out in the game, and I was supereager to learn more. What would happen to Garona? Does Lothar become king? What about the baby? In a little over 2 hours, I went from an oblivious skeptic to total convert.
This movie can and will unite fans of the game and nonparticipants alike. If you play the game or know someone who does, or if you're just looking for a cool adventure movie, Warcraft is a must-watch.
Sam on Warcraft: The gamer's take
What I loved about Warcraft wasn't the acting or the story, because even though they were solid, something else came across even more clearly: passion. It's a kind of fervor and affection that not just anyone could deliver.
That's because before Jones was awarded the job of directing Warcraft, he was already a longtime fan of the game franchise; from 1994's Warcraft: Orcs and Humans real-time strategy game all the way until now with World of Warcraft, where he still maintains a human warrior today.
This gives Jones a different kind of sensibility. Instead of pandering to fans, which has often been the downfall of previous video game flicks, Jones said he simply "wanted to make players feel like they've come home." And you know what? He absolutely nailed it.
From the grand archways of the human capital city of Stormwind to the floating city of Dalaran, everything just feels right. It's the kind of authenticity you can't fake, and it serves as the linchpin that holds together Warcraft's amazing motion capture, spot-on special effects and the spine-tingling soundtrack, escalating those elements to a whole other level.
Jones even hit on little details like using powerful spells throughout the movie, instead of saving them for a big finale. Because, while that might seem anticlimactic to others, it's how action actually plays out in the Warcraft games.
Even all the little homages and Easter eggs, and there are plenty of them, are there to benefit the movie as a whole, instead of just piling on as one too many knowing winks.
However, if I take off my robe and wizard hat for a second, I can admit there are still a couple flaws with Warcraft. One of them is pacing. Even for me, the whirlwind of faces and places in the beginning of the movie felt like a bit too much.
Another is that, occasionally, even as a fan, I feel like the movie goes too far into the minutiae of the Warcraft universe. And especially for newcomers to the franchise, I can see how that makes some sequences feel a bit disjointed.
But when it's all said and done, if you care about Azeroth on any level, Warcraft is a must-see. Before this movie, I wasn't sure if it was really possible to do a video game movie right. But seeing is believing, and just as Iron Man paved the way for the rise of blockbuster comic book movies, I hope Warcraft will do the same for video games.