Posted on Tuesday, June 14th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
When Warcraft opened last week, the big screen adaptation of Blizzard’s opeugely popular fantasy franchise was greeted with scathing reviews from critics and lackluster box office from domestic audiences. For many viewers, director Duncan Jones‘ high fantasy epic of orcs and wizards and magic and war was dead on arrival. Normal people, it seemed weren’t interested in this movie or its world. It was too outlandish, too nerdy, too inscrutable.
However, every movie deserves a fair shake and I decided the best way to approach Warcraft would be to view it through the lens of the nerdiest people I know, the people who would be most open to what this movie was selling. If my Dungeons & Dragons group couldn’t embrace Warcraft, who would?
So I gathered my fellow adventurers at the local tavern to chat about this divisive film and it turns out that even people who spend hours going on fantastical adventures that only exist on paper and in dry erase marker were also thoroughly divided. Here’s our conversation, which has been edited for length and clarity. Each participant is identified by their D&D character class and race (I’m the human rogue, for the record) and we get into major spoilers.
Roll For Initiative
Human Rogue: What was everyone’s experience with Warcraft before the movie? Did you know know anything all all?
Tiefling Barbarian: I knew nothing about Warcraft before going in and watching it. I mean, I knew that it existed because it’s a worldwide phenomenon but it’s not anything that I’ve played.
Half-Elf Ranger: I have never played Warcraft. Most of my experience with Warcraft is that South Park episode.
Tiefling Barbarian: That’s true. I did know about the South Park episode.
Drow Warlock: I’ve played the three originals. I’ve played World of Warcraft, but not extensively or at a high level or anything. Just little bits here and there. I have Warcraft figures and stuff in my house. I’ve read some of the novels.
Human Rogue: So you’re more of the target audience for this than anyone else at this table?
Drow Warlock: Yeah, yeah.
Elf Sorcerer: I have no experience with it other than the many Blizzard boxes and models at our house. [Ed. note: Drow Warlock and Elf Sorcerer are married.]
The Fog of War(craft)
Human Rogue: How confused was everyone by this movie? How did you feel around, oh, minute twenty or so?
Tiefling Barbarian: At minute twenty, I felt like I could still follow the basic gist of what was going on, but I didn’t know about or care about any of the characters. I knew names and I approximately what they were trying to do and why, but it made no difference to me because there was no character build-up.
Human Rogue: You’re nodding your head, Elf Sorcerer.
Elf Sorcerer: Yeah. Well, the characters could have been more fleshed out. I still can’t tell you the names of the characters. Drow Warlock tried to teach me the names but the only thing I remember is that there is a Gryphon and I liked it.
Human Rogue: Half-Elf Ranger, were you confused?
Half-Elf Ranger: Yes, but not from a…the narrative you could follow, but they just throw stuff at you and you’re left on your own to determine what’s important and what’s not. The story isn’t helping you at all to tell you, “this is important and this isn’t.” For example, they go through about four different locations at the beginning but you don’t know what any of them are. At first, old boy is at Ironforge, which doesn’t mean anything to me and we never go back to Ironforge, so I don’t know why we were there in the first place.
Human Rogue: So [Lothar] can get a gun?
Half-Elf Ranger: Suuure?
Tiefling Barbarian: Oh, you mean a boomstick?
Half-Elf Ranger: And they make a big deal out of the phrase “From lightness comes darkness and from darkness comes light” but it doesn’t have any bearing on the plot. Even at the end, the lady in the tesseract box tells the guy [Khadgar] to remember it and it doesn’t have any effect on the film.
Human Rogue: Drow Warlock, you’re the expert here. Inform the group – who was the weird lady in the box?
Drow Warlock: Oh, I don’t know. Then again, my knowledge…the story of Warcraft is very long. Very long. Like, the story that happens for the most part in this movie is contained to the game that came out in 1991 of 1992 or something. Everything that has happened since then is not in this movie. There’s a lot. I’ve played five percent of World of Warcraft, so I don’t know most of the story. I know this story well because I’ve known this story since I was a kid, but I don’t know who that character is. Somebody might say “Oh, it was this person who was this and this,” but off the top of my head, I don’t know who that was.
Human Rogue: Since you’re familiar with the source material, did you think that people who were unfamiliar with the games would be baffled by this? Did you get that impression?
Drow Warlock: I didn’t. Tiefling Barbarian was saying she was confused by stuff, but for me, I think my brain was filling in gaps because I knew things and I didn’t realize until now that they weren’t explicitly saying things that I was just filling in.
Half-Elf Ranger: For example–
Tiefling Barbarian: For example.
Half-Elf Ranger: We were talking about why they didn’t just use a blue portal the whole time if Med…Meddie?
Drow Warlock: Medivh.
Half-Elf Ranger: Medivh. If he could create a blue portal without having to kill anybody, why didn’t they just do that from the beginning? Why did they have to fuck around with green portals? And Drow Warlock was like “Well, the blue portal was within Azeroth and the green portal went beyond to another world.” The movie does say that the orcs came from another world so we do know that part, but you don’t get to the blue portal until the very end and it’s never explained.
The Inevitable Comparison
Human Rogue: This is probably the comparison that nobody who made the movie wants us to make, but look at Lord of the Rings. The original three movies. Tolkien is just as dense and complicated as the Warcraft lore, but those movies ease you into the lore in a way that allows you to be comfortable and understand what’s going on. This movie just tosses you in. It feels unfair.
Drow Warlock: That’s the biggest problem with the movie. I think it should be an hour longer. I think there’s probably a three-hour cut of the movie that probably still has character problems and things like that, but eases you into things and doesn’t just put you in a location for a few seconds and then crossfade to the next location and then crossfade to the next location. I think there’s a longer version that won’t be Peter Jackson quality, but spends more time in locations and more time explaining things and more time with characters. I hope. I know an extended cut exists because Duncan Jones responded to a tweet where somebody asked if there would be an extended cut and he said it depended on well the movie did.
Half-Elf Ranger: So good luck with that.
Drow Warlock: It’s actually doing incredibly well. Just not in the U.S.
Human Rogue: China.
Drow Warlock: And the production company, Legendary, was bought by a Chinese company, so they’re getting a larger portion of the profits from China than a movie normally would. I think, I hope…I want to see a three-hour version of the movie.
Tiefling Barbarian: Uuuuuugggghhhh.
Drow Warlock: I think it would be a better movie.
Tiefling Barbarian: Unless that other hour is nothing but Gryphons…eff that noise.