After seeing the Warcraft film trailer back in November of 2015, I wrote an article about the World of Warcraft video game universe wherein I discussed the lore surrounding the Orcs. I also made predictions about what messages the directors of the upcoming film would try to promote. Most importantly, I told my readers that I would write a follow-up review of the film.
I’m a man of my word, so here you go.
Allow me to begin by saying that I give the film a grade of C. On the plus side, my predictions about the film being used to jam pro-immigration propaganda down our gullets was false, for the most part. The visual effects were impressive, especially the CGI that was used to render the Orcs, Dwarves, and other fantasy creatures. It actually felt as if you were looking at real-life humanoids going about their business. As a former WoW player, I also took note about how true to the game setting the film was. Stormwind City had its giant cathedral, its port, and its buildings of uniform white stone. Khaz Modan had its steampunk feel with massive forges and iron structures everywhere. Dalaran had its tall lavender spires within which many of us players have spent countless hours preparing for raids. The list can go on.
On the negative side, the overall plot was poorly executed. It almost felt as if the movie was made more for the players of the Warcraft game franchise, who would easily be able to fill in the holes left by the hastily-unfolding story and brief dialogue. It reminded me a little of the way I felt after watching that 1984 abortion of Frank Herbert’s story, Dune, where no backstory is given on the world or its characters and you are left scratching your head as to why certain people are doing certain things. (Why the hell is Paul Atreides able to destroy walls with his Fremen name, and why do people wear force-fields while knife-fighting?)
The Plot (massive spoiler alert)
The film begins on the Orcish homeworld, which those who play the game know as Draenor. The main Orcish protagonists, Chief Durotan and his “mate” Draka of the Frostwolf Clan, are expecting the upcoming birth of their male child. Under the leadership of the sorcerer Gul’Dan and Warchief Blackhand, the Orcish Horde has assembled to witness the opening of a cyclopean portal. In rows stacked around the portal are cages holding imprisoned blue creatures that the Orcs apparently conquered, though no explanation is given as to who they are (WoW players know they are the Draenei.) In a spectacle of green magic, Gul’Dan draws the spirits out of their bodies — all several hundred of them — and uses them to cast a spell that opens a rift within the portal. He then delivers a diabolical speech in front of the portal about a world that lies beyond the rift for the Orcs to conquer and settle. First, a smaller warband of “the Horde’s strongest warriors” would need to establish a foothold on the other side and claim as many captives as possible to further fuel the portal. Once this is secured, they would be able to open an even larger portal to send forth every last member of the Horde.
Durotan and Draka are part of the initial warband, though they express misigivings about Gul’Dan and his intentions. Even so, they march forth through the portal into the verdant realm beyond in hopes of a bright future for their people and their child.
When the warband makes it through to the other world, the shock of interstellar travel induces Draka to give birth, but the child lies lifeless. Gul’Dan pulls the soul from a nearby deer and uses it to power a spell of revival, which turns the infant Orc a greenish hue as he springs to life. It becomes apparent at this point that the green skin of many of the other Orcs, including Gul’Dan himself, results from the use of his strange magic that is referred to as “the Fel.” Other Orcs, such as our protagonists, are light brown, suggesting they have not dabbled in it. No background is given of this mysterious “Fel,” though WoW players know there is a massive tale behind its origins.
The Orcs sack a bunch of towns near their landing site and take most of the inhabitants captive. Word eventually reaches the lords of this new land, most notably King Llane of Stormwind and his most trusted commander, Anduin Lothar (played by Travis Fimmel), that they are under attack from an unknown force. Lothar leads a contingent of men to a fort that was recently attacked to try and figure what the Hell’s going on. Once there, he opens a door where he sees some young mage rifling through a book, mistakes him for an intruder, and puts him on his back. It’s not well explained why a hooded man reading a book in a small room within a fort is such a problem, or how Lothar knew he did not belong there, but we are expected to just trust in Lothar.
This cloaked interloper introduces himself as Khadgar and explains that he recently gave up his vows for becoming a member of some organization called the Kirin Tor. He also seems to always know exactly what step everyone needs to take next . . . somehow. If they examine one of the corpses of the vanquished fort garrison, he explains with certainty, they can get to the bottom of what is happening. Sure enough, Khadgar works some magic on one of the corpses until it’s eyes turn green, and it spits out some green liquid. Even though Khadgar looks too young to have much training among this enigmatic Kirin Tor, he is somehow learned enough to know that the body is tainted with Fel. “We must tell the Guardian!” he exclaims, though Lothar would prefer if they spoke to the king first.
Oh yea, Lothar has a son named Callan who just gets thrown in as a survivor of the attack on the fort. The two don’t communicate much aside from a clichéd “Dad, I want to bring you honor by fighting for the kingdom” to which Lothar basically responds “You need to heal up first.”
Lothar and Khadgar head to Stormwind Castle, where King Llane (played by some effeminate-looking guy with a beard) basically says “Yea, Khadgar is right. You should talk to the Guardian.” As a side note, the queen is played by some half-Ethiopian name Ruth Negga, but she is supposed to be Lothar’s sister. Those who play the Warcraft games, however, know that the people of Stormwind ought to be medieval White Europeans.
Lothar and Khadgar hop onto a griffin and fly to Karazhan, the fort of the Guardian known as Medivh. We are never really told what a “Guardian” is, where it comes from, how it is chosen, or what it is guarding everyone from, only that it is a wizard who lives in a tower. Medivh and Lothar are apparently old pals, as the two embrace upon seeing each other. Khadgar starts doing what he does best — looking through other people’s books, which causes Medivh to launch a few spells at him in anger. The tension is eased when Khadgar mentions the Fel magic he uncovered, to which Medivh basically says “Yea, I guess I need to help you guys.” It is evident from the start, though, that Medivh is troubled by something. He has the look of someone who has learned so much esoteric knowledge about the world that it has made him depressed. At one point much later in the film, he tells Khadgar “You have no idea what forces I battle within myself.” At a later point in the film, Khadgar returns to peruse his books yet again, where he uncovers a suspicious text about creating a massive portal. More on that later.
With no smooth transition, the super best friends league of Khadgar, Lothar, and Medivh march forth with a retinue of soldiers to scout an area that was recently attacked by Orcs. They are ambushed by a party of Orcs led by Durotan and Blackhand, who literally squash most of the Humans beneath their giant hammers and axes. As his men fall by the score, Lothar manages to easily dispatch his foes with a wise-guy grin and an air of confidence as if he somehow already knows how to fight Orcs. When it appears as if they are to be overwhelmed, Medivh saves the day with a random spell that is able to specifically target all nearby Fel-tainted beings and kill them. Durotan and Blackhand, being untainted, are unscathed and manage to escape. It reminded me of a recurring theme from the old TV show Power Rangers: when the Rangers are at death’s door, unable to defeat their much stronger foe, they invent some random super weapon out of nowhere that has never been seen before in any prior episode (but that we are supposed to assume has always been part of their arsenal) to one-shot-kill the enemy. “Okay guys . . . let’s combine our strength and do the . . . uhh . . . super-awesome-turbo sword. Hi-yah!”
When the incursion ends, Medivh portals himself back to Karazhan with no explanation (bathroom break?) and Lothar finds the not-so-Orcish looking half-Orc named Garona (played by an actual half-breed Mulatto named Paula Patton), whom he takes prisoner back to Stormwind. In a scene that is probably supposed to be moving, or something, the wise female queen explains to Garona how her people value peace and harmony among different races, and offers to set her free so long as she promises to help fight against the Orcs. She seriously has to promise, though. No vetting process of any kind is necessary, just a promise. After all, the queen is a dark-skinned female that values peace, ergo her methods are clearly the smartest.
Now the newly-augmented Super Best Friends League of Lothar, Khadgar, and Garona embark on a quest to spy on the Orcish stronghold and figure out “What’s going awn” à la Donald Trump. There is a comical scene where Garona catches Khadgar checking her out, to which she tells him he is a beta and would make a poor mate (not exactly her words.) Ragnar Loth . . . I mean, Anduin Lothar, just maintains his 24/7 grin that never seems to go away, but we can assume that he actually finds this funny from the context clues. Travis Fimmel always has a permanent cocksure grin in every role he plays, it seems.
While the trio spy on the Orcs as they construct a much larger portal on the Azeroth side, Durotan expresses his doubts about Gul’Dan to his close friend Orgrim Doomhammer. He notes that the Fel energy which Gul’Dan unleashed on their own world seems to be having the same corrosive effect on this world, with the vegetation withering up and the land going barren. The two come to the snap conclusion that they need to rebel against Gul’Dan and use the Humans to help them. They know nothing of the Humans at all: not their culture, their religion, their language, their proclivities, their military capabilities, or anything else; for all they know, the Humans might like to gang-rape Orcish women. Even so, they are certain that this is how they can save their people from the Fel. As fortune would have it, Garona sneaks into Durotan’s tent a few moments later and proposes to broker the exact same thing he was just discussing with Orgrim. What were the odds of that?
Shortly thereafter, the Super-Mega-Ultra Best Friends League of Lothar, King Llane, Garona, Khadgar, and Medivh meet up with Durotan and his Frostwolves in a canyon to discuss an alliance (as if the Best Friends League could get any more hyphenated.) Things go awry when the group is waylaid by Gul’Dan’s warriors, who were informed of Durotan’s intentions by his traitorous friend Orgrim, who didn’t take kindly to the idea of allying with Humans against his own race. Medivh does another crazy spell to help the Humans escape, but not before Lothar’s son Callan gets impaled by Blackhand. This is supposed to be a sad scene, and Travis Fimmel tries really hard to suppress his involuntary grin while it happens. All jokes aside, I was stirred a little by Callan’s cry of “For Stormwind!” (or did he say Azeroth? I forget) and his heroic last stand.
As retribution for his betrayal, Gul’Dan orders his men, including Orgrim, to purge the Orcish ranks of all Frostwolves. As the massacre unfolds, Orgrim starts to feel bad for his double-cross and allows Draka to escape with her child. She makes it as far as a river, where she sets her baby Go’el (who WoW fans will know to be Thrall) adrift in a basket before being stabbed to death by one of her pursuers. I found this to be another moving scene, as I read about it years ago in the literature and witnessed Thrall’s (which becomes Go’el’s name) anguish at the loss of his parents while playing WoW.
Medivh, who is badly worn out by his barrier spell, gets griffon-lifted (or was he portalled?) back to Karazhan by Khadgar and Garona. Once there, Khadgar notices Medivh’s eyes turning a Fel green. While the text on portals he found in Medivh’s library drew minor supicion, this was the smoking gun that revealed Medivh’s true intentions. At this point he realizes exactly what he has to do next: fly back to his home city of Dalaran to talk to the Kirin Tor. Duhh!
Without having to go through any security checkpoints whatsoever, he flies right over the city limits atop a griffon and into the tower of the head council. They initially berate him with “How dare you come back after forsaking your vows!” Once he shouts about the Fel energy surrounding Medivh, they let him right in to their inner sanctum in one of those “Oh, well why didn’t ya say so?” moments. It is there that they show him some black floating cube called the Alodi that is somehow significant and has something to do with the Guardian. As Khadgar approaches, a doorway suddenly opens leading inside. Khadgar says “What is it doing?” to which the head mage responds “No idea, it never did this before.” How convenient for the plot! Khadgar steps inside to find Glenn Close in a black robe. She tells him what he already figured out: Medivh is corrupted with Fel and must be stopped before he helps the Orcs open their new portal. Truly a brilliant, Game of Thrones-esque plot twist (more because it is Glenn Close telling him this than anything else.)
Durotan makes it back to the outskirts of the Orcish fortress, where Orgrim says “Sorry for getting our whole clan massacred, bro,” and the two reconcile. Even though the Frostwolves have been slated for genocide, Durotan is able to walk past every single other Orc to challenge Gul’Dan to Mak’Gora (duel to the death). The two Orcs duke it out until Gul’Dan realizes that Medivh has begun his incantation to open the new portal, which requires his assistance. With little time for tom-foolery, he slays Durotan with Fel magic, much to the disapproval of his people, and begins his part in the incantation.
The rest can just be summarized hastily, as the plot thus far unfolded hastily anyway: Khadgar and Lothar fly to Karazhan to fight Medivh, who transforms into a horned demon and unleashes a giant golem to fight them. How did he get possessed by a demon? “Who cares,” says the director. King Llane and Garona lead a sortie against the Orcish camp and free the Human captives. After a well-directed battle scene of swords and sorcery, Medivh is defeated and purged of the demon possessing him. Sure enough, Lothar knows exactly how to grapple with a hitherto unseen golem. Note: I would suggest to leaders of the Alt Right that we recruit Lothar in our battle against world Jewry, given his skill in destroying golems.
Before dying, Medivh causes the portal to open to Stormwind instead of the Orc homeworld, allowing the Human captives to get away. As he dies the portal closes, leaving Llane, Garona, and their men surrounded by the numerically superior Orcs. Though Llane knows nothing of the Orcs or their manner of politics, he counsels Garona to kill him because he deduces that it would allow her to return to her people as a hero, and hopefully one day influence them to stop attacking the Human world. How he comes to this reasoned conclusion in the midst of a blood-drenched battlefield is anyone’s guess. “Fuck you, that’s how,” says the director. Garona concedes and shoves a dagger into his neck. Lothar then swoops in on the back of his griffon, kills a bunch of Orcs, and finds his King’s corpse with the dagger sticking out. The Orcs subdue him and force him to fight a Mak’Gora with Blackhand, who is now Super-Shredder from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II after consuming a massive amount of Fel. The fight scene lasts five seconds: Blackhand charges at Lothar, Lothar does a baseball slide under his legs and slices his groin (kind of a dick move), then finishes him off. Despite Gul’Dan’s pleas to kill the Human, the other Orcs honor his victory and let him escape with the body of King Llane.
In the end we see all of the other civilized races of Azeroth congregating outside of the Stormwind Cathedral to honor the fallen king. The Dwarves, High Elves, and other Human nations cheer as a new alliance is formed to combat the Orcs more formally, which is to be led by Anduin Lothar. As the credits are about to roll, we see a scene of feisty baby Go’el being scooped out of the river by an unknown Human.
* * *
All in all, I’d say that I waited 6.5 months to watch a let-down. The nostalgic former WoW-player in me enjoyed returning to Azeroth. The untrained and unqualified film critic in me, however, reminded me that the film is poorly put together.
For one, there was little to no character development. Anduin Lothar is a sword-slinging, smirking badass who is able to summarily slay any foe that comes at him without breaking a sweat, even monstrous Orcs that he’s never faced before. Where five armored footmen get smashed into the ground by one Orc, he comes swooping in with sword kung-fu and wins the fight in seconds. He has a son that we know next to nothing about, and there is barely any exchange between the two in the entire film. When Callan dies, Lothar gets drunk in a tavern, but it only takes a hug from Garona and some soft words to get him back into action with a full smirk. Medivh is an enigmatic character with skeletons in his closet, but we learn nothing about his past, how he became possessed with Fel, or what his goals really were the whole time other than letting the Orcs into his world. In his dying breath he says “I just wanted . . . to save everybody.” Whatever that means. Khadgar looks on tearfully, even though the two barely know each other and the few bits of dialogue between them were unpleasant. Also, what the Hell makes Medivh a Guardian anyway, and what is a Guardian? King Llane is the noble king, the queen is his gentle wife, and there is little else to say about them. Durotan and Draka are the only characters with much of a story to tell, but we barely get to know them before they end up dead.
The plot unfolds like a mad dash to the finish line. The main characters go to point A, then realize they have to go to point B, then realize they need to split up and form new parties to go to A and D, then reform their parties to go to E, etc. It almost follows like a questline within the game of WoW itself, and I would not be surprised if the director did this on purpose as a nod to the gaming fanbase. There is no depth to any of the plot developments, just brief dialogue followed by action, which is rinsed and repeated. The characters seem to know exactly where to go next and what to do, especially the baby-faced Khadgar. It feels as though the entire story is taking place within 24 hours.
In November I expressed my fear that the film might be used to promote a pro-immigrant or pro-Islamic refugee agenda. Thankfully I was mostly wrong on that count. There are moments where it seems like the director is trying to push ideals like tolerance and interracial harmony on the audience, but not with much zeal. As mentioned above, there’s a scene where Queen Llane tells Garona about peace between the races of Azeroth and extends her the gift of acceptance. In another, Garona confides to Medivh that she has the hots for Lothar (even though he’s from another freaking planet), and he tells her to do what she needs to do to find love. He supports his argument with his own tale about how he had to travel far and wide to find a mate from another part of the world at one point (but she opted to be with Lothar instead, which is glossed right over.) Over the course of the film there are moments where it seems like Lothar and Garona might kindle a romance, but it never actually occurs; hopefully this remains the case in future films. Finally, there’s the part where Durotan and his Orcs try to broker an alliance with Llane’s kingdom (harmony between the races).
One could argue that the idea of “good Orcs” teaming up with Humans to combat the “bad Orcs” is reminiscent of the cuckservative and cuckliberal idea that “moderate Muslims” need to team up with the West to destroy “radical Muslims,” but even this narrative is not pushed very far. In the end, Durotan’s plan to forge an alliance falls apart and the film closes with the Humans forming an entirely different alliance with other races to ultimately crush the Orcs. Instead of Humans helping the good Orcs fight the bad Orcs, it’s Humans joining Elves, Dwarves, and other Human nations to fight all Orcs. American and European leaders could take a cue from this, though I would hope they leave Bashar Al-Assad alone already.
To dash the film with a little more PC, the director put some less-than-White faces into roles that should have been filled with Whites. Queen Llane is a mulatto who ironically has a White brother, while in the game universe we never actually see her. Her son and grandson, however, are very fair White men. One of Llane’s unnamed commanders is a Negro. Among the Elven delegates we see an Asian Elf sitting with Caucasian-looking Elves. Obviously it could have been a lot worse: they could have made Anduin Lothar a Korean.
I was pleasantly surprised that the PC angle was not totally shoved down our throats, as it very easily could have been. There are some PC elements, but the film is meant to be more of a generic adventure story. If you are a big fan of the game and WoW lore in general, go see the film. If you would like a cookie-cutter fantasy tale with little depth but lots of excellent graphics and well-executed CGI, and mediocre action scenes, go see the film. But if you are expecting something on par with Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit, spend your money elsewhere or not at all.
To those of you White Nationalists and other Alt-Righters who have ever been into WoW, I say Bal’a dash, malanore! Of course, I hope you are spending your time more productively and doing your part to help our Cause, at this point.