Warcraft Movie Review: It's for Those Who Grew up Playing the Game

It's also for the moms and dads who want to watch their children enjoy this bit of fantasy come to life.
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The year was 1999. I watched my then-boyfriend play this fantasy/strategy game on an old Windows computer and I thought to myself, “Hey, I like planning!  I’ll give this a try!” That game was the Battle.net edition of Warcraft II and I played it for hours on end.  I liked the sound of the little guy who proudly announced, “Job done!” when he was done building a house or chopping down trees.  I planned my villages and managed my time, always waiting for something to come in and distract me from my work.  When it happened, I’d panic every time, and hope that my army could beat their army without ruining most of what I’d just spent an hour building.  I never did get into the MMORPG version of World of Warcraft, so when my then-boyfriend-turned-husband got his son involved in playing, I was lost and focused more on making my SIMS into respectable human beings, or building the best SIMTower that I was capable of. 

Fast forward to around 2010.  My then-boyfriend-turned-husband-then-soon-to-be-ex-husband introduced the game to our seven-year-old son.  My world at home becomes listening to him insist that he just needs to “get to Stormwind” before he can go brush his teeth.  The lore seeped into my home and when he wasn’t playing outside, he was waging battles with mages and orcs and the alliance and whatever he could dream up.  

It was no surprise when he saw the first trailer to the Warcraft movie that I’d be taking him.  No, I really wasn’t interested in it, but damn it, my son was.  And it had become such a great fantasy escape for him that I couldn’t say no.  I planned on a nap.  And then, I realized that the incredibly handsome Dominic Cooper and the equally stunning Ruth Negga were in the movie and I figured I’d maybe pay attention. 

Let me tell you who this movie is for.  This movie is for every kid (or kid at heart) who has spent countless hours trying to get back to Stormwind to buy some crap or heal or whatever they need to do.  This movie is for every person who has ever gotten their level-90 paladin on his mount that resembles a gigantic eagle and flew for what seemed like forever to get to whatever land they needed to. But what I was most surprised about was how much this movie was for me.

The movie itself was terribly confusing to me.  I’ve spent countless hours listening to my son play with his World of Warcraft figures and dragons and castles, as he sent King Varian Wrynn off on a mount in search of the Lich King.  So the fact that neither of these characters play a role in this movie was disheartening.  I was, however, smart enough to recognize King Llane Wrynn was likely Varian’s father and that this was setting up the background to the World of Warcraft as we know it today (yawn).  And then something incredible happened… 

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I discovered that Lothar (Travis Fimmel) was super hot, and I was grateful.   While I was pleased with how amazing Lady Taria looked (girl crush!), I was disappointed by the really bad hair that Dominic Cooper was sporting.  I may have died a little inside.  But then there he was - Lothar.  Rugged, dirty, incredibly sexy.  No wait, not that.  I mean it’s true (and apparently I need to devote my life to watching Vikings now), but that’s not what happened.  Let me rephrase.  It drew me into the story more because I’m a fairly superficial person when it comes to movies and television and if there’s no eye candy for me, then my attention span is nil.  Again, I’m kidding.  Sort of.  Seriously though, you might be wondering what happened, and I’m about to tell you.  

I was curious how my son was reacting to the movie and I stole a look at him.  His eyes were filled with wonder.  He was wearing the best smile.  Here were characters and lands and lore that he has played with for nearly six years.  In that moment, I knew this movie had taken all of his imagination and unfolded it on the screen in front of him.  The only other times I saw anything like this on his face was when I took him at two-years-old to see and ride on Thomas the Tank Engine at the railroad.  I saw it again when I took him to Disney World when he was four and he got to “meet” the characters from his then-favorite show Little Einsteins and dance with the dark-haired beauty, June.  And here it was - eight years since I’ve seen that innocent beauty, now plastered on his almost-a-teen face. 

From that point forward, whenever there was reference that made to something I’ve heard about from the game, I studied his face.  The wonder and awe couldn’t be mistaken.  There were two specific parts of the movie that completely sold this and I knew that we’d be getting this on Blu-ray one day.  First - as Llane Wrynn is heading into battle, he passes by his family - his drop-dead gorgeous wife and their two children.  He looks at the little boy, and I instantly turned to watch my son.  I can’t remember his line in the movie, but I know he called that little boy, “Varian,” and the instant recognition on my son’s face - oh my gosh.  Priceless.  

A bit later in the movie during a battle, Guardian opens up a portal and, as the Alliance was having their asses handed to them at the time, I knew what was coming, so I watched my boy intently.  Wrynn says it first.  “Stormwind!”  I am not going to lie to you.  I had tears in my eyes as the boy’s perma-grin turned into the most incredibly infectious smile and he let out an audible, “It’s Stormwind, Mom!” In that moment, I realized there was no amount of money I wouldn’t pay to witness my kid’s pure joy over seeing all of this play out on the big screen.  Incidentally, I'd also pay for a shirtless Lothar scene or five, but this isn't about me.  In fact, for a movie I really wasn’t interested in, it truly turned out to be one of the best things we did all weekend.  

The movie, for me, fell flat.  There was no intriguing story line.  It was fairly predictable, even for someone who had next to no knowledge about this world.  The scenery was pretty great, with the castles and whatnot.  My son was more critical whispering to me mid-show, "that's not how the huts and stuff were supposed to look, but did you see their mounts?"  There were some comedic moments, but mostly it’s the fantasy world fans of the game will be familiar with.  The ending certainly leaves it open for a sequel.  There are lots of loose ends that might be more acceptable for fans of the game and the lore, but for the average non-WoW person - good luck with that.

Who is this movie for?   It may not have been for the five senior citizens who sat behind us, sans anyone under the age of 65.  It’s not for those who want a critically acclaimed film.  It’s not for someone who is going to be judgmental of all of the movie’s shortcomings.  It’s truly for the kids who have grown up playing the game.  It’s for the adults who just want to see this world portrayed on the big screen. It’s for the moms and dads who want to watch their children enjoy this bit of fantasy come to life.   It was also for Leroy Jenkins.  

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