I saw Warcraft this weekend.  I did so with a certain amount of trepidation after hearing it get so roundly trashed by basically every critic going.  I adored it, but just to get the niggles out of the way, here are the bits I did not enjoy [HERE BE MASSIVE SPOILERS]:

  • All the freaking mumbling!  Definitely a directing problem – big musical swells should probably not be put over a scene of a fella whispering his last words from underneath his own golem.
  • Weirdly, Dominic Cooper (who is normally aces in everything) was extremely wooden and, I think, badly miscast as Llane Wrynn.
  • Too many close-ups of Garona looking anguished and helpless.
  • CGI of Gul’dan seemed a bit off somehow.
  • Too few female guards in Stormwind.  This ain’t vanilla, guys (or is it?).
  • The magic shown was only mage-based.  Perhaps we’ll see other types of magic in the sequels, if other races are more involved.
  • First 30 minutes of the film will be utterly incomprehensible to anyone who has never played the game.

OK, so now the good bits. Oh, the good bits. By the mighty chest-hair of Durotan, the good bits:

  • Humans and orcs are equally sympathetic characters, the orcs possibly even more so.  Motivations of both sides are easily followed without too much clunky exposition.
  • The CGI is OUTSTANDING. I cannot believe the first render from the trailers is even the same movie.  In the final battle with the orcs, each warrior (many of them women!) has different hair, build, armour, tattoos, etc. and they all react individually.
  • Garona’s betrayal of the Alliance follows the comics while also putting a new twist on it; I thought this was cleverly done. Also, Medivh: totally her dad, right?
  • There are a nice number of Easter eggs without it being too wink-wink fanservicey (Rwlrwlrwlrwl! Fishing bobber! *wild summoning stone appears*).
  • The film, while not overly gory, has pretty realistic looking violence.  It’s made very clear that war and magic both have serious consequences and are not to be messed with. Half the main cast dies.

I think that the stars of the show though are Azeroth/Outland, which will only really be fully appreciable by WOW players.  The first aerial shot of the gates of Ironforge actually made me gasp out loud, it was so perfect.  Same with Stormwind, Blackrock Mountain, Hellfire Peninsula, etc.  And the various animals; the gryphons, the battle wargs, the multi-horned deer.  But to someone coming to all of that with fresh eyes, it probably seems like standard fantasy filler rather than a loving recreation of a very familiar world.  There are also a number of characters that appear in the film which are never named (Grommash Hellscream, Tyrande Whisperwind) which was fun to spot for me but would be just another background extra for a non-player.  And of course, Dancing Baby Groot Thrall.

Overall, I do think it was an excellent high fantasy film, made with obvious love, humour and an understanding of the source material.  I suppose it was always going to walk a fine line between being too generic to please the fans, and too specific to attract any other viewers.  I hope that it will succeed enough to make the sequel(s) worth making; my worgen druid will never let me hear the end of it otherwise.