Warning: We are going to talk about specific plot points in the movie and spoil it all.
World of Warcraft changed my life. I spent literal cumulative months of my life playing the game, which, along with millions of other players, I considered to be one of the best MMORPGs of all time. I quit several years ago just before the release of the Cataclysm expansion after realizing it had gotten to the point where it was becoming a burden on me—sort of like an unpaid part-time job—rather than just a pastime. The sequence of life events the game sparked for me, however, were numerous: lifelong IRL friends, a marriage, a move to another country to be with said spouse, and friends.
You can imagine why someone who spent many weekends in college raiding instead of partying would be a bit excited to see a video game that had such monumental meaning for them put on the big screen. But instead of instigating a long-awaited, warming nostalgia, watching the movie Warcraft served as a funeral service for the fandom I once fully immersed myself in.
A $160-million dollar [€140-million EUR] budget. Avatar-esque animation. A director with a promising career. A ten-year wait for release. It had to be some dream-affirming shit, right? Well, if you look at how China is reacting to it, you might think it was. And the fact that it's the highest-grossing video game-to-movie flick ever might also have served to propel your deranged theory along. The reviews were shit—a 29 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, for starters—and many people personally told me to stay away, but I had a glimmer of hope much like that you'd have after grinding three hours for a trinket with a 0.00001 percent drop rate.
But that hope was short-lived. After I watched the film with a panel of ex-hardcore WoW players, we walked out of the theater hanging our heads in need of a decompression group therapy session to discuss the ways in which Warcraft failed us. The participants of said therapy sesh were as follows: Pavel, a married dude I met on WoW, who was top-ranked PVP on his server and played mainly a warrior since vanilla (notably, he has gone up against Leeroy Jenkins); Cleo, an undead rogue I once was in a guild with who logged 140 days on her main character and created her account in 2005; and Conrad, an ex-ret Paladin, who much like myself, avidly raided between Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King. All of us, like so, so many others, quit the game within the last few years.
Yet another warning: Shit's about to get really confusing if you never played WoW.
VICE: Starting with the people who actually paid attention to the plot in-game, what did you think of the film?
Pavel: It was good! [Author's note: Pavel fell asleep during part of the movie.] It stayed true to the plot, but listen: It's a movie about a video game. There's only two video game companies that do plots right, and one of them made a movie with Sony, and it bombed horribly—the Final Fantasy movie. It tanked completely.
Cleo: There was also Resident Evil ,too, though.
Pavel: The thing about video games is that the plot works in a bubble. It's an experience; it's something that you're engaging in, but when you put it in an alternate form of media like a movie, it just falls flat.
Cleo: You're meant to go fight all those battles, so watching it as a movie is just kind of pointless.
Pavel: The way it's presented as a movie is like really shitty fan fiction.
Can we talk about how wack Medivh was? I fucking hated that character, and he reminded me of what my guild leader would look like IRL with long, greasy hair, and a neckbeard.
Cleo: The actor was shit, but in the actual plot [in-game], Medivh was a badass.
Conrad: He should have been way, way older. Wasn't he supposed to turn into a bird or something also?
Pavel: Yeah, a raven. In the story, he is supposed to be the most powerful wizard, but in the movie he is just lame as fuck.
OK, also, Khadgar.
Pavel: Yo, Khadgar in the game is amazing and next level. He takes over Medivh's role as the guardian of Tirisfall in World of Warcraft.
Conrad: He can fuck shit up. He is one of the most intense characters.
Pavel: In the movie, he was like a kid, like a random guy, and he's supposed to be this powerful wizard who dropped out of the Kirin Tor because he was too fucking good.
Conrad: Well that's the thing, he's supposed to be young at this point. Also, he's a mage, not a wizard. Get it right.
Let's talk about the polymorph scene, which was one of the only points during the movie that we were all visibly excited—the few seconds where a mage turns a guard into a sheep.
Conrad: There wasn't enough fan service like that.
Cleo: Yeah, I wanted to see more spells. I liked the way they did Stormwind, though.
Pavel: Yeah, Gul'dan was perfect too, though. He was life-tapping and soul-siphoning the whole time. It was fucking sick.
Cleo: Yeah it was before the patch, so he had soul shards [laughs].
OK, as a warlock, soul shards were so fucking annoying. They took up so much room, you had to have a special bag. Honestly why? Warlocks had some bullshit for real. Sometimes I don't know why I played one.
Cleo: Well the pets were pretty badass, and it was really easy to get the warlock epic mount—a flaming fucking horse, which is a sick-looking model. The paladin one was so lame, and it was such a pain in the ass to get it.
Pavel: Warlocks were one of the hardest classes to balance.
I feel like it would have made sense for Blizzard to start the movie series out in the middle of the entire plot, kind of like Star Wars.
Conrad: I was thinking the same exact thing. They should have done three, then gone back to the beginning. When people think of Warcraft as a story, they think of Arthas. I expected for this to be dry, and it was.
Cleo: Yes, exactly. The Warcraft storyline in particular you'd be like, "What the fuck is going on?" especially if you're a World of Warcraft player and if you quit early, I mean, you meet Durotan and his wife in the new expansion.
Pavel: I mean, they don't even explain who the baby was at the end. We know it's Thrall, but no one else does. People are like who the fuck is this baby? Is this Moses? Honestly Thrall is basically Goku, who is basically Jesus.
At this point, one of the participants of the group therapy sesh forcibly put on this song and screamed at all of us about how beautiful 'WoW' music in-game is compared to in-movie.
One nice thing that actually gave me butterflies was when territory names would come up on the screen as they entered a new place, but then it just goes straight back to nonstop fighting scenes. I know it's Warcraft, but for fuck's sake.
Pavel: Yeah, and there's also Garona's story, which is one of the most interesting in the Warcraft lore, and I felt like they completely fucked it up. They started off, and they were like, "Who's this orc woman? How is she only half orc?" Then all of the sudden she's in prison, then she's part of the human kingdom and then betrays the king (for a very good reason).
Yeah, the scene where she kills the king is probably the most iconic one in the entire movie.
Pavel: If she killed him, she would gain the respect of the entire clan, and they wouldn't kill her. It would create peace. But it just created a situation where her character was not developed enough. They didn't develop a strong enough connection where she integrated herself to the human kingdom—all of the sudden she is there with the queen and is a big part of this, and you're like, "What?" Garona's and Gul'dan's stories were the most important of that entire movie.
Cleo: Yet they gave them the least amount of screen time. It was all about Khadgar and Medivh.
Pavel: Yeah, and then they fucked up Medivh. You know how the orcs went through the portal? Medivh originally got possessed, and right from the start, he actually opened the Dark Portal.
Conrad: They were really bad at establishing that. They didn't even explain it.
What are you guys doing? Are you checking your WoW account right now?
Conrad: It says "active." Does that mean anything?
Speaking of the actual game, I feel like this is the worst possible time for this movie to come out. Subscriber numbers are at an all-time low as of late, and Blizzard stopped releasing this data last year in response. It's pretty bleak.
Pavel: Well yeah, but you could argue that's why they made it, to push some press. Man, an $160-million budget.
Cleo: Even if it's tanking in the US, look how much money they made already. I mean, I really think they don't care.
Would you go see the sequel?
Conrad: I would. I think it has potential.
Cleo: I don't care about potential. I'd like to see one with the undead because that was the race I played, and the storyline is way more compelling.
Yeah, it sucked that since they started with the very beginning of the lore sequentially in time that we were stuck with orcs and humans.
Cleo: Well, that's the thing. Orcs and humans are the bread and butter of all of Warcraft. They are boring. They're really fucking basic. They're just these big dudes hitting one another with swords and shit. In other places in the world, you have night elves… They also could have included trolls in the movie technically, which they didn't.
Some of the stuff they chose to keep in versus what they didn't include is bizarre.
Cleo: The whole boomstick scene, they could have not put that in at all. Like why did they spend the time animating Ironforge, which is a huge, massive complicated city, when that's the only scene that took place there? I guess it's an attempt at fan service. That's also probably why they threw the high elves in during that meeting scene too, which felt completely unnecessary.
Yeah, if you were Alliance, then Ironforge was one of the main cities you would be in, so I guess that sort of makes sense to include if this movie is for fans, whom it must be for because for someone who never played any Warcraft games the plot is completely nonsensical.
Conrad: Overall, it was overcomplicated, under-explained, and not enough fan service. They don't even explain where the orcs are coming from or who they are.
Cleo: We start out with the orcs, their shit is fucked up already, and this guy is already cracked out on fel energy. Like where the fuck did he get this? They didn't explain that they basically destroyed Outlands to get to that point.
Conrad: They didn't even say the word "Outlands."
Cleo: Well it's technically Draenor, but still, they didn't reference it.
OK, so since this movie was for people like us who spent somewhere between weeks and months of our lives in Azeroth, why did everyone stop playing the game anyway?
Cleo: The content got super repetitive or other life shit came up. The content sucked, and real life was just better. There also used to be a greater sense of community within the game… I missed out on a lot of things in the real world. I was living an unhealthy lifestyle; I got carpal-tunnel syndrome for fuck's sake.
Conrad: I gave up a lot of hours of my life to that game. As real-life friends trickled out of WoW, there was less reason to come back. Cross-realm battlegrounds also lessened the companionship of the game.
Pavel: [Cleo and I] started playing when we were fourteen; I'm almost twenty-seven now. It just dried out. There used to be times when I would come home from work, get onto Vent, and I would just talk to these people I had never met in my life all night long, and they became some of my closest friends.
Yeah, I was sixteen when I started playing. It's crazy to think that was nearly a decade ago. After watching the movie, would you resubscribe? Clearly that's what Blizzard is hoping for.
Pavel: Oh, yeah, I definitely would.
Conrad: If I had five friends to do it with, I would do it.
Cleo: I'm not really thinking about resubscribing. But yeah, you can be anything now: worgen, panda, goblin.
Conrad: Wait, you can be a panda? I would fuck with the worgen.
Pavel: Yo, I need to show you something. This is a cinematic in the game when Arthas comes home from Lordaeron. The cinematics in the game were way better than the entire movie—they won fucking awards.
Conrad: This shit is one of the best cinematics ever, period, especially for the time it was made at.
Gheez, this is cooler than the movie. Even the music. The music in the movie was fucking corny. Damn, this art style is fucking gorgeous.
Cleo: Now that is fucking Warcraft. Not that sus shit we were watching.
This transcription has been edited for length, clarity, and style.
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