Warcraft – Watching the Movie

Worst. Cinematic. Ever.

-My Daughter, on leaving the theater

We went to go see the Warcraft movie last weekend.

Coming June 10, 2016

Really, no need to reserve, plenty of seats available

Looking at the movie times I could see that the poor reviews the movie was getting was starting to influence the theater operators.  The movie was showing in almost every single first-run theater in Silicon Valley, the exceptions being a couple venues that tend towards art house sorts of releases.

But the show times were… sparse.  It seemed that the big multi-screen theaters were shuffling their options and cutting back on Warcraft showings.  The big AMC theater near us only had three showings on Saturday for the standard version of the movie.  There were four showings for the 3D version and five for the 3D IMax version, both of which come with a surcharge that boosts the box office take.

Any real summer season blockbuster would have had standard version showings starting every hour and as many 3D running…. which is what Finding Dory has running this weekend.  This weekend Warcraft has two showings each for standard and 3D, but still five for IMax.  I guess if you want to see if, they want to get the most money they can out of you.

And so the movie was a bit of a damp squib on its opening weekend, bringing in $24 million.

That sounds like a lot of money, but lets put this in perspective with other recent opening weekends.

  • Captain America: Civil War – $179 million
  • Finding Dory – $136 million
  • The Jungle Book – $103 million
  • X-Men Apocalypse – $65.7 million
  • The Conjuring 2 – $40.4 million (opened against Warcraft)
  • The Angry Birds Movie – $38.1 million
  • TMNT: Out of the Shadows – $35.3 million
  • Central Intelligence – $35.5 million (opened against Finding Dory)
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass – $26.8 million (opened against X-Men)
  • Warcraft – $24.1 million
  • Now You See Me 2 – $22.3 million (opened against Warcraft)
  • Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising – $21.7 million (opened against Angry Birds)

Warcraft isn’t setting any records, and is down more than 70% this weekend, looking to bring in a meager $6.5 million.  It won’t catch The Angry Birds Movie.  There is a metaphor in that I am sure.  So not a big success.

But look how well it did in China!

-Every over-invested fan trying to distract from the US Box office

You tell me what percentage of the Chinese theater revenues the studio gets to repatriate and we’ll talk about that.  A dollar earned in China isn’t the same as a dollar earned in the US.  The China success is an interesting side story, but not much else.

But how was the actual movie?

We went with a mixed group, myself, my wife, my mother, my daughter, and her boyfriend. (Lord help me.)  Of the five of us (out of a total of 10 in the theater, so it wasn’t going to well already), only my wife had never played the game, so she was our disinterested outsider.  The rest of us were in what I would consider the sweet spot target audience, we had all played the game, had a generally positive view of it, and were not immersed enough in the lore to nit pick anything that might come up.

The Good

The film looked good.  Stormwind looked really good.  The brief glimpse we got of Ironforge looked great.  Lorthar’s griffon mount looked very good.  Orcs looked good.  Magic effects looked good.  Even the fel taint looked good.  Visually, I approve.  This is the main argument for seeing it on the big screen.

Lothar’s griffon fought like a badass.  That was awesome.

That murloc we see in a stream early on.  He was the best.

Also, some amusing asides.

The Bad

Don’t see the movie in 3D.  The action includes a lot of camera shake and jumping around that will make you regret your 3D choice, as it just blurs things and will likely give you a bit of motion sickness.

The story they chose to tell is so distant from the current game as to be confusing.  I had one friend comment later about the portal not being in the Blasted Lands, and I had to point out that the portal in the movie was a DIFFERENT portal… we’re up to three portals now I think.  The one in the movie is the one from the Cavern’s of Time mission The Black Morass, which is in the Swamp of Sorrows if I recall right.  They had done that run before, but had forgotten.

The passage of time is not handled well in the film.  I could not tell you if the events in the film took place over a week, a month, or a year.  Travel takes exactly as long as the plot requires it in order to setup the next set piece, and not one second longer.

For a movie that is set in the what is now the distant back story for the current game, it made a lot of jumps and assumptions.  Even the scene with the portal opening for the orcs is pretty much, “Our world is screwed, let’s get another one by burning these unexplained blue people to power a portal.”  I came out of there with more questions than answers.

The story, despite jumping about, still seems to plods along in between the action so I felt every minute of the two hour journey.

Character motivation is pretty scant at times.  Still not sure why Medivh did what he did.

While the story correctly leaves the other races out of the events… it being Orcs and Humans like the box said… the brief glimpses of elves and dwarves were not pretty.  Do not want.

What the hell was Lothar’s griffon doing while he was unconscious?  Did he just give up and go have drinks with the orcs?  He was hanging around, ready to fly him home afterwards.  I expected the orcs to have eaten him at a minimum.

They just had to use the fucking Wilhelm scream.


Not a good movie.  It deserved the reviews it got.  The viewer ratings are just fan boy backlash.

It isn’t even bad enough to have a hope of being “so bad it’s good” after a while.  It was bland.

There were no real stand-out performances.  Nobody was horrible, but I didn’t come away with a new appreciation for any of the actors.  The plot was muddled and did not do anybody any favors.  Yes, the plots of video games are convoluted to start with, but this just made things worse, not better.  I feel no compulsion to watch it again.

They should have cut this down to a 20 minute cinematic for people to watch before the REAL movie, which should start somewhere between Warcraft III and World of Warcraft, if not later.

Seriously, Warcraft III was considered a huge success because it moved 4.5 million copies back in 2002.  WoW has that many people playing it right now, and has sold many, many more copies, falling only behind Minecraft for best selling PC game ever.  The prime target audience cares about Azeroth in the WoW timeline.

This was highlighted by questions my wife asked about how this related to WoW, wherein I had explain that the green orc baby and the teen mage have to grow into middle and old age respectively before we get to the actual game we started playing in 2004.

The whole enterprise covered production costs, but that doesn’t include marketing and other expenses, as anybody who has every had a “percentage of net profits” deal in such a venture will tell you.  I would guess that any result under half a billion in gross receipts guarantees no sequel, and it would have to somehow climb beyond three quarters of a billion to have a good chance of one.

So if you are a fan, go see it in the theater, if only to take in the scenery.

25 thoughts on “Warcraft – Watching the Movie

  1. Talarian

    The portal in the Caverns of Time scenario *is* the same portal as the Blasted Lands. The Black Morass got turned into the Blasted Lands sometime after the portal opened, something something Draenor explosion leak portal.

    Haven’t seen the movie yet, I’ll probably treat it just as a “cool set of pictures that show places in the game I played a lot”.


  2. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Talarian – But it isn’t the same portal as the portal from The Burning Crusade or Warlords of Draenor. Those came up when the lands were already blasted.


  3. Kishmet

    Just to point out the original portal and the blasted lands one is the same. Upon nerzhul ripping apart outland a section of the swamp of sorrows turned into blasted lands Yeah I’m picky about my lore haha.


  4. Miss Defied

    ” I had one friend comment later about the portal not being in the Blasted Lands, and I had to point out that the portal in the movie was a DIFFERENT portal… we’re up to three portals now I think.”

    It’s not a different portal. Black Morass = Blasted Lands + Swamp of Sorrows.


    So there’s the one side of it in the Blasted Lands (Azeroth,) other side in Hellfire Peninsula (Outlands/Draenor.)


  5. Miss Defied

    “But it isn’t the same portal as the portal from The Burning Crusade or Warlords of Draenor.”

    Yes it is.

    “Those came up when the lands were already blasted.”

    No they didn’t. They’re the *reason* the land is blasted.


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Miss Defied – All three of them are on different timellines. There are literally two portals in Azeroth right now, one to Outland and one to Draenor. Not the same.


  7. Miss Defied

    “one to Outland and one to Draenor”

    Outlands and Draenor are the exact same place, one’s just destroyed and the other isn’t. And Tanaan = Hellfire Peninsula.

    It’s the exact same portal.


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Miss Defied – Different timeline, different portal. Hell, even you had to write “one’s just destroyed” about the destinations. Your own words say they are not the same. Give it up.


  9. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Talvorian Dex – “Never see any move in 3D.”

    I actually thought The Force Awakens was enhanced by 3D. It gave the space scenes some depth they would have lacked otherwise. But as a general rule, I avoid 3D.


  10. carrandas

    It doesn’t deserve the terrible reviews it has gotten. Is it a great movie? No, but it’s definitely not the worst movie I’ve seen this year. It was OK: enjoyable but also forgettable.


  11. Miss Defied

    I’m done arguing, but only because you’re not willing to admit the error in saying that the movie was a 3rd setting, because you didn’t realize Black Morass and Blasted Lands (+Swamp of Sorrows) were the same place. Despite me not being the only one saying it.

    So have a wonderful rest of the day. :)


  12. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Miss Defied – I said it was the third portal. Your end statement is almost a non-sequitor after telling me they were “the exact same portal.” Location wasn’t the debate, the sameness of portals was.


  13. bhagpuss

    I haven’t seen it yet and probably won’t until it comes out on DVD. I’ve read a lot of blogs, posts and comments on it, though, and most people seem to have enjoyed it to some degree. Your is one of the harsher reviews I’ve seen by someone who actually knows and likes the game, although you’d really have to go some to match the bizarre and peculiar rant Eliot of MassivelyOP unleashed a week or two back – that was disturbingly intense.

    In general I think people tend to expect far too much of mainstream movies. Go in with low expectations and prepare not to have them met is probably the best approach.


  14. The Alien

    On the subject of the Dark Portal…I believe there is only one. On the Azeroth side, at least. It was built in the Black Morass, which was later blasted into the Blasted Lands. It’s opened for Warcraft 1 and 2, closed, when WoW launches it’s sitting there in the Blasted Lands still but not turned on. (I believe Khadgar and company break it from the other side in the Warcraft 2 expansion.) It gets turned back on at the start of Burning Crusade. Then at the start of Warlords of Draenor it gets connected to from the alternate dimension/timeline unexploded Draenor.

    But it’s the same portal(on the Azeroth side) the whole time. Think of it like a phone or a Stargate. It’s open/connected to one place, then closed, then open to the same place, then another call comes in from a different place.


  15. Telwyn

    I thought it was ok given the pacing issues and feeling of being rushed. But I just am not at all invested in seeing movies set on the RTS games. As you wrote, why wasn’t this the movie about WoW lore, the game so many more millions have played. If anything Warcraft the RTS could have been an eventual reboot prequel trilogy *after* three successful WoW movies had got people onboard…


  16. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @The Alien – My argument is that if it goes some place else in space/time/whatever, it is effectively a different portal. The structure is irrelevant. (I feel like I am slipping into church doctrine, with one being three or something.)

    @bhagpuss – The problem with watching a lot of movies is like doing anything else regularly, you start to acquire a sense or taste or proportion or expectation. The minimum threshold for a “good” movie is probably a lot higher for me today than it was 30 or 40 years ago simply because I have seen more movies. (I have the same problem with TV mystery shows. Having seen hundreds now, I can spot the plot well in advanced just by knowing the conventions of the genre and the fact that a well known guest star will never have a minor role.) And I like me some silly movies. Note my devotion to the James Bond series. But they bowl over inconsistencies… most of the time… with style and excitement. Warcraft didn’t look good enough to outweigh the movie itself.

    I went in with expectations set by the reviews AND wanting to like it and came out kind of “meh” on the whole thing. That does not speak well for it. But it is not as bad as that post over at Massively. I don’t want my money back or anything. Glad I saw it, don’t need to see it again, couldn’t recommend it to anybody who wasn’t already into it.


  17. Alex

    Agree with you on what the lazy gryphon was doing the whole time daddy was busy with the orcs. Maybe he was out back, sucking down some Aerie Peak ale with the other gryffons. Maybe he is in the griffon union, and assisting a non-union member with his duties is strictly prohibited in the Grifin Collective Bargaining Agreement and/or he was on his mandated 30 minute uninterrupted meal period.

    And yeah, this has a very specific target audience. I saw it with my girlfriend. She brought along a friend to keep her company, heh. The friend actually got up in the middle and left the theater to “take an important phone call” aka “GTF out of here”. At least she returned. Afterward, I got strong “YOU EFFING OWE ME” vibe/eyes from both of them. I gave both of them many chances to go see something else while I watched this, but my girlfriend insisted on seeing it with me, citing Good Girlfriend Behavior. Crap, do I have to be a good boyfriend now and go see some heinous chick flick? Maybe Love and Friendship? At least that has Kate Beckinsale, the only reason to see any of the films in the Underworld franchise. Too bad she’s all covered up in corsets and stuff in this one.


  18. Jenks

    Miss Defied definitely correct on this


    “The Dark Portal, also known as the Great Portal,[1] is the gateway between Azeroth and Draenor (and for a time, between Azeroth and Outland). The Azeroth side of the Portal is located in the Southeastern reaches of the Blasted Lands of Southern Azeroth, while the Outland side, the Stair of Destiny, is located in the Eastern portion of Hellfire Peninsula. During the events of Warlords of Draenor, it leads to Tanaan Jungle in Draenor.”

    It’s 1 portal. It has a name, The Dark Portal. We’re not up to the third Dark Portal, its purpose has changed and it was closed for 20 years but it’s never been destroyed (despite Khadgar nuking it).

    “I had one friend comment later about the portal not being in the Blasted Lands, and I had to point out that the portal in the movie was a DIFFERENT portal… we’re up to three portals now I think. The one in the movie is the one from the Cavern’s of Time mission The Black Morass, which is in the Swamp of Sorrows if I recall right.”

    The Blasted Lands ARE The Black Morass. Pre and post nuke.

    Then, “Different timeline, different portal. Hell, even you had to write “one’s just destroyed” about the destinations. Your own words say they are not the same. Give it up.”

    This is incorrect. A portal is a door. If you changed a spare bedroom into a home office, without replacing the door, you would not say you got a second door. If you want to say Warcraft then isn’t the norm and it is wrong about the definition of a portal, take a look at Stargate SG-1.


    “It follows the present-day adventures of SG-1, a military team from Earth. SG-1 and a dozen other SG teams venture to distant planets using a fictional alien portal known as a Stargate”

    The Stargate is 1 portal that can take you to many planets, it isn’t many portals.

    There you go, TMYK.


  19. Kimeni

    Not a major movie critic, casual consumer of television. Absolutely loved the movie and was entertained the entire way.

    Probably because there is such a lack of pure high fantasy stuff to watch out there, and it really scratched the itch.

    And it’s one portal. ;]


  20. C. T. Murphy

    I am grateful for this review. I have had enough wishy-washy, back-and-forth, not-great-not-bad posts and I needed someone to tell me it sucks. Warcraft has some of the worst lore, so I mostly wanted to see this for spectacle anyway, but I really shouldn’t be paying movie ticket prices for something like this.


  21. Pingback: Warcraft movie, so close to history | Hardcore Casual

  22. raziel walker

    Rewatched the movie as I went to see it with someone else (who never played wow and has zero interest in the game as well), he rated the movie better as I did.
    Definately not worth to watch a second time but I still enjoyed the first watching.


  23. Voreem

    It’s made $37.7 million on the US. The reason people care about non-us markets is that it has made $377.6 million worldwide which isn’t bad on a $166 million budget.

    I can’t believe I watched it though, it’s just horrible. I knew it was going to be horrible and I haven’t even played a Warcraft game since TBC.


  24. Fenjay

    I liked the movie, but reading your review, I realize I have enough knowledge of why things happened that it smoothed over some of the rough edges. For example, Medivh has had an attachment since conception to Sargeras that influenced him to help open the Dark Portal.

    I went in, having seen the bad reviews, and was pleasantly surprised. But then, I also actively try to like movies I see and unless they entirely exhaust my capacity to work with them, I usually succeed. If you’re not too harsh a critic and you are in the sweet spot with respect to not only Warcraft itself, but also Warcraft lore, it can be enjoyable. I realize that is probably a pretty small sliver of the population, though.


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