In 1994, Blizzard Entertainment released the game “Warcraft: Orcs & Humans,” which created a universe so popular the company created three more games in the series; the most widely known and arguably the most popular being “World of Warcraft (WOW).” The “WOW” phenomenon has had its ups and downs in popularity among gamers, but it continues to have a solid following. The most shocking part of the games’ story is that it took over 20 years to have a movie based on them made. Warcraft has finally arrived, rolled up in an action-packed, CGI-filled spectacle that will surely have “WOW” devotees grinning from ear-to-ear.
What about the non-gamers? Well, they are going to be put into quite a predicament.
The screenplay for Warcraft assumes the viewer has a great deal of knowledge of the story before they enter the theatre. The characters and their ways of life, lands, and the overall thematic principle of warring are given very little set-up, if any, which leads a non-gamer to question everything. The consistent need to know whether something is part of the game universe or whether it was created specifically for the movie is constantly at hand. Should one see the film with an informed player of the games, they will certainly ask a myriad of questions throughout the film.
Is she part human and orc? Why was she taken prisoner and not killed? Does he wear shoes in the game? Can you play as a guardian? How did the Fel come to exist in the first place? Is there an orc in the game who fights against his own kind? What of the baby orc? Are there biblical references in the game or did they throw that in for the movie? Should I relate the “Warcraft” world to the King Arthur legend? Why are humans considered the gentler, more accepting species?
These are just a handful of questions one will encounter, and quite honestly, the simplest. Warcraft develops an intricate world that is not fully explained by the end of the film. It was made, undoubtedly, with the intention that sequels will follow, leaving non-gamers to wonder if they will ever get a deeper explanation for many of the plotlines and backstories of characters. One could always refer to the game Wiki, but the film should stand on its own in telling the story. Instead, it assumes the viewer already knows what has happened, what will happen, and so, that should excuse the various plot holes that plague Warcraft.
A non-gamer can surely enjoy watching Warcraft, mostly because of the action sequences and CGI effects that are, in particular, very impressive. Director Duncan Jones (Source Code, Moon) has done an adequate job of bringing the “Warcraft” universe to life, even with a very flat, emotionless script that tries very hard to quickly interject character-driven scenes that fail to add life to what is at its core a simple action film.
Warcraft does succeed at creating the possibility that its sequels will be more substantial and develop into emotion-driven films with a wealth of opportunities for character development and motivation, as well as dealing with interracial conflicts and resolutions. You do not need to be a player of the “Warcraft” games to realize, after seeing the film, that there is a great deal of hidden meaning in the story, and that it can–and should–be used as a medium to mirror present-day social problems when put to film. Will it do this? One can only hope.
Warcraft sequels will either expand and adapt to become meaningful or remain rooted as nearly lifeless action movies. Either way, it seems inevitable that they will be enjoyable to watch, once. But a non-gamer will never be able to appreciate Warcraft, or its sequels, as much as someone who has developed a relationship with the universe via gaming.