‘Warcraft’ Movie Reviews Lead To Warring Opinions

Legendary Picture’s latest foray into the fantastic has hit international audiences, and it’s a clear success story. Legendary, partnering with Universal Studios and Blizzard Entertainment, has finally released the long-rumored, long-awaited and long-desired Warcraft movie, and it’s performing well by all accounts. Though the massive fantasy film still has two weeks to wait before U.S. and Chinese audiences can get a look at 2016’s summer blockbuster season starter, Warcraft has already easily cleared $9 million in international markets. According to Variety, the film has topped the charts in 11 countries already, and broken a few records in such huge markets as Russia and Germany.

Warcraft is the biggest opener of the year in Germany, the second biggest in Russia (after February’s international hit Deadpool) and the fifth biggest non-holiday opener of all time in Russia. The movie also opened at number one in Denmark, Egypt, and many other huge markets, and will be launching in Norway and Sweden this weekend. Warcraft’s budget was in the vicinity of $160 million, and the huge success of its opening weekend in international markets is a promising display for the two big names: the U.S. and China. Even so, tracking is only showing a potential $25 million opening in the U.S., well behind other titles like The Conjuring 2, and Batman v. Superman. Fans will just have to wait and see if the movie is a success, as the projections are confusing at best.

The Warcraft movie has also received some criticism for its “supposedly racist undertones,” which are, at least according to the cultured vultures blog, entirely non-existent. Certainly the villains are darker skinned and more primitive than the heroes, but the movie quickly shapes up to tell a far more complex story than that. In fact, the parallels to our own real world European colonization of the Americas is clear, but the importance of personal choice is also a blatant theme in the movie. Heroes and villains are featured on both sides of the conflict, and their motivations are anything but simplistic. Often, the movie’s characters carefully blur the line between right and wrong. Once you take a closer look and get past the visceral and almost overwhelming CGI and fantasy imagery, the sometimes “frustratingly dense” story of Warcraft shapes up to be a relatively complex study of belonging, fairness, family, friendship and where the line is between generosity and being a pushover.

The movie is set in the fictional, high-fantasy realm of Azeroth, which also hosts Blizzard Entertainment’s global phenomenon of a video games, World of Warcraft. Though the most famous of Blizzard’s products, World of Warcraft is far from the only, or even the first, entry into the Warcraft franchise. Blizzard has been producing video games in the franchise for well over a two decades now, including the inspiration for the movie and the first Warcraft property ever created, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans.

Initially intended as a video game adaptation of Games Workshop’s own high-fantasy classic Warhammer, the video game was changed to its own property after the miniatures and war gaming giant stepped out of the deal, leaving Blizzard Entertainment to slap together something to make up for their losses. Despite its ominous origin story, the Warcraft franchise has grown into a massive success, spanning 11 video game titles (including expansions to previous titles), a pen-and-paper roleplaying game, and several offshoots and spin-offs. The fourth and fifth entries into the franchise, Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos and its expansion Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, even spawned their own genre of video game, now dominating the casual sector with titles like League of Legends and Blizzard’s own Heroes of the Storm.

The Warcraft movie is based on the first game in the series, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans, and follows the story of fan favorite characters Lothar, Khadgar, and Durotan. The story takes place at the beginning of the video game’s own storyline, and the movie closely follows the video game, with a few changes. Azeroth is a peaceful land of brightly colored kingdoms, home to knights, wizards, elves, dwarves and a vast array of other fantastic creatures. Enter the orcs, who come to Azeroth by way of an inter-dimensional doorway, fleeing their own apocalyptic world and intending to conquer the movie’s setting of Azeroth. Tensions run high, as can be expected, and a complex story unfolds, clearly inspired by real-world events like the European colonization of the Americas, and even the Roman Empire’s history. With a colorful cast of interesting, albeit sometimes melodramatic, characters and a visual fiesta of special effects, it’s no wonder that Warcraft has been dominating the global box office.

However, the movie has received some criticism for its fast pace, which some reviewers believe takes away from the interesting characters, and for its clear favoritism toward fans. It’s also been criticized by critics, including Hitfix, for being too dense, and “only act one of an obviously-larger story,” despite being an otherwise fun film. Some names, characters and lines fall flat for audiences not intimately familiar with the Warcraft franchise, which may be off-putting. However, though Warcraft is nowhere near the epic saga telling of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings in its appreciation for the uninitiated audience, it nonetheless takes viewers on a fun, wild ride through a fun and bright world. Much less foreboding and serious than the Rings trilogy, the Warcraft movie does the bright and fun fantasy vibe right. It is clearly superior to Peter Jackson’s own attempt at a more whimsical fantasy series with his Hobbit movies, which fans of the Rings movies criticised as derivative and forced.

While the Warcraft movie may not satisfy the serious and dark itch of fans of the Game of Thrones series, it certainly has a bright and accessible adventure vibe; a vibe sorely missed in cinemas since the likes of ’80s classics Willow and Legend passed out of popular favor. According to Christian Today, the film makes admirable use of “almost seamless” CGI technology to create a visually stunning world, even if the story is a little rushed. If you want something dark, serious and a little upsetting, stick to HBO. If you are looking for something a little more fun and vibrant, definitely give Warcraft a look.

[Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP]