I love the world of Warcraft, the universe. I love the stories, the characters and its rich history—that is not without its retcons and mess-ups. Up until the moment I started country hopping, moving to a new place with frightening frequency (a little adventure I hope has ended), I collected and read every novel written in the universe. I enjoyed reading about the War of the Ancients by Richard A. Knaak, the man responsible for the entire Dragon lore in the Warcraft universe and many more stories. I loved reading Christie Golden’s stories on the Rise of the Horde and The Lich King. Jeff Grubb took me to Karazhan to meet Medivh and his increasingly erratic behaviour and possession by Sargeras.
I’m an avid World of Warcraft player and while I had to stop playing as I made and executed my evil ploys to get to England, I’m now re-subscribed and enjoying what the World of Warcraft has to offer, which more often than not is just the company of some really amazing people. I’m dying for Legion to launch so I can face the Burning Legion once more, something that I’ve been waiting to do since Warcraft III, though I always thought such a big enemy would fit better in the nonexistent Warcraft 4 than in an MMO. But I have hope that it’ll be great. At the very least, they’re making my class fun to play again!
With all that said I should be hyped about Warcraft: The Beginning, the (first) film set in this universe I so adore. But I’m not. I’m wary at best and my expectations are low, perhaps even lower than they were for Rise of the Tomb Raider, a game I was pretty sure would be horrendous. But while Rise of the Tomb Raider surprised me with how good it was—despite its name being dumb as hell—I’m not entirely convinced the same thing will happen with Warcraft. I want it to be good, for sure, not just because I want it to do justice to this amazing universe and its characters but also to buck the trend of poor video game adaptations on the big screen.
As a Warcraft lore buff, a part of me is unconvinced by the plot of the film, though Metzen states that it’s what he would’ve liked the story to be in Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, a game released about twenty years ago, give or take a few. Admittedly, the first two Warcraft games didn’t have the strongest storytelling and at most you got the story elements in the mission briefings between levels. So if the points is to clean that up while at the same time bringing in elements found in the Warcraft ‘extended media’, then I’m able to see past my initial discomfort and give the film a chance.
I’m worried that the film will attempt to stand on the legs of the source material, to be a film for fans of the universe, instead of standing on its own merits, on being good as a film, not just a Warcraft thing. My concern comes from the fact the film, even with the announcements and early trailers feels perhaps too ‘busy’. There are too many characters, places and subplots happening and I’m worried the storytelling, in trying to tell these stories at the same times will become muddled and not give any of them enough screen time.
In this regards I feel that even if it’s good and it’s successful, it’s not the right film to make first. Warcraft: The Beginning, feels more like the second or third in the series, even if its name states otherwise. The first films should be about characters, they should be the stories of Lothar, Medivh and the Orcs in their world. It should be about the human kingdoms, the Guardian of Tirisfal and the Rise of the Horde on the other side. This film, this adaptation of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans should have been the Warcraft Cinematic universe’s version of The Avengers, where all the pieces come together. In doing so, people would already know the characters and care for them and would know the basics of the universe to make this story workable for a new audience.
Because that’s what will decide if this is a film good enough to stand on its own legs, if it has a wide reach and everyone can enjoy it, not just we, the people who know how many disguises the Dreadlords go through in World of Warcraft until we finally defeat them all. By setting the story in this volatile time, in this clash of worlds and ideas, it makes the learning curve a bit steep, as it asks the audience to learn a ton of stuff in a very short time and then pleads with them to care about these characters and the worlds.
On another note, and this is in the wake of the Batman v Superman fiasco is my worry that the film will take its source material too seriously, that it will attempt to portray this story without even the smallest hints of humour, something that while closer to the novels and other Warcraft media, goes in sharp contrast with the camp nature of the setting and Blizzard’s own works. The world of Warcraft is full of humour even during times of adversity, because Blizzard knows that even the worst situations have moments of joy. I’m concerned the filmmakers will forget that and go for grittiness, which might put people off to be honest. It’s happened before.
Warcraft: The Beginning premieres in the UK on Monday 30th of May and I’m going to go see it, most definitely, but my expectations are very low. I hope it’s good, but if it’s passable I’ll be happy enough. I know it will look great, I know the visuals and CGI will be amazing, because, hell, it’s Blizzard. If their name is one something, you know that at the very least the animation is going to be jaw dropping.