Warcraft Review: From a Non-fanboy

by Biff Rocha

On the other side of the spectrum I write my review having no knowledge or experience of the videogame Warcraft. Based on the review by my friend Donald Dell Lewis III, I went to go see the film. I am a trained theologian so it will note surprise you that some of my observations are from a “religious” perspective. Attempting to avoid spoilers I will provide my brief thoughts assuming you have read Donald’s review which really provides a sound basis for understanding the movie. I found the film to be a powerful and inspiring tale which serves as an analogy for the struggle for culture and human nature.

Directed by Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) this film runs 2 hours and 3 minutes. It is rated for the fantasy violence PG-13 but contains no foul language, sexuality or nudity. Apart from the stylized fighting which might frighten small children, Warcraft can be considered a family-friendly film. With the basic premise of war-loving Orcs pass through a time and space portal to attack the peace peoples of Azeroth and make the planet their own. It would be easy enough to assume a good versus evil plotline will follow, but surprisingly, both sides of the conflict sport heroes, villains and sheep. On both sides, you have masses of individuals who simply follow orders or follow the crowd. The Orcs of Warcraft are very human in their nature. In contrast to J.R.R. Tolkien’s Orcs who are much more savage and animal-like, these Orcs express love, loyalty and aspire to a better life. The heroes are motivated by their love of children, family, friends and tradition.

I mentioned that the Orcs are a war-loving race, so I should clarify. The bad Orc spellcrafter Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) represents a secular or morals-free approach. At the start of the film it is clear that Gul’dan has been leading the Orcs for a while and his influence has corrupted the Orcs. Yet the Orcs’ sense of war is very distinct from our sense of modern warfare; it has rules, and a tradition that bestows honor. For Orcs battle must be personal, not the sending of an unmanned drone to annihilate opponents miles away living in a distant land. Orcs want to test themselves against others who are at least equal in strength and ability. Rather than say the Orcs enjoy war, one senses from the film that strength and challenge provide an undergirding to a rather healthy and sustainable culture.

While the characters may not be developed with much depth, it is not necessary since they serve are virtues in a morality play. These are characters with which we can readily identify. The good wizard Azeroth guardian Medivh (Ben Foster) represents concupiscence, the inclination towards sin; this is a weakness found in all of us. The young mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) displays youthful idealism, independence and restlessness. As well as frustration with the system and authority. The young soldier Callan (Burkely Buffield) displays loyalty, courage and an overestimation of his abilities. The good chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbell) displays leadership, big-picture thinking, care for his people and care for his family. Second-in-command, Orgrim Doomhammer (Robert Kazinsky) reconsiders his loyalties; he becomes the icon of second chances. King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper), is self-giving, sacrificing for peace. Loyal knight Anduin Lothar, (Travis Fimmel) reveals care for his son, loyalty to his king and country, and serves as the audience stand in for this adventure.

A strength of this film is in having a number of strong female characters that serve as role models such as freed half-Orc slave, Garona (Paula Patton), Lady Taria (Ruth Negga), the king’s wife, an active peace-maker wisely extending trust to others, and Durotan’s wife Draka (Anna Galvin), who demonstrates loyalty, encouragement, motherly love and defense of her young. Another strength is the beautiful visual imagery. CGI and stop motion photography are well blended into the film avoiding the clunky feel of other inferior attempts. The story is able to stand on its own. Knowing nothing of the Warcraft game I was able to understand and appreciate these characters and their struggles.

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When it comes to weaknesses I would say the film reminded me of “And the Children Shall Lead” Star Trek Season 3 Episode 4 where the Starship Enterprise encounters a world where there are no adults, only children. Similarly in Warcraft, the age spectrum is shifted significantly downward in favor of the young. In Tolkien’s world (Lord of the Rings), the aged wizard Gandalf is over two thousand years old and the on screen presence is a grand gray haired old man. In Warcraft the ancient Guardian Medivh is about thirty. So too with the king and the knight who I would also guess are played by actors in their early thirties. I’m guessing this is due in part to the anticipated audience of videogame players, a majority of whom are in middle school or high school. To this audience of gamers a thirty year old king would be pretty old. I do have one question that maybe fans can explain to me. Why do the humans have an aversion to shoes? In several scenes, such as the knight going to battle, humans are seen barefoot. This just appeared quirky to me. I am sure there are many things that World of Warcraft fans will discover in this film, which I missed. However, I can easily recommend this movie to all science fiction, adventure or fantasy film lovers. I give it a rating of 3.5 out of five.

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