Warcraft: The Beginning Review: Awakening an Era of Successful Video Game Films

Video game movies usually suck. If you doubt me, pop in any of the Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, or Halo renditions—most didn’t even make it beyond the straight-to-video release. The most casual moviegoers can pick out this genre’s weak spots, and even dedicated gamers won’t tolerate shoddy casting, canned dialogue, and a rudimentary storyline, all for the sake of seeing their favorite characters come to life. I won’t. I love Lara Croft, but those films were atrocious.

It’s important to note that, although I love gaming, I’m not a religious warcrafter. My knowledge preceding the movie was based solely on my experience with a level one Night Elf specialized in hunting. I don’t recall her name, but I do recall that my playing time lasted about twenty minutes. Impressed? My high school crush wasn’t either. I may have set a record for the most deaths (me, not my enemies) in twenty minutes, though. Poor elf. When Warcraft: The Beginning was announced, I thought the trailers for the film were as disenchanting as my gameplay experience eight years ago, and my expectations were low going in.

The movie is based on World of Warcraft (WoW), a popular online RPG (role-playing game, for those of you with real lives) set in a magical, medieval world filled with fantasy races and enchantments. The game eventually inspired books, which is where most of the cannon came from. Never fear, however, for although the well-researched will appreciate the accuracy, viewers like me will be pleasantly surprised by the fact that you needn’t understand any of the lore to enjoy the film.

The third feature-length film for up-and-coming director Duncan Jones, Warcraft: The Beginning takes place in the mythological realm of Azeroth, which has been at peace for thousands of years and features a dominant human population. Chaos ensues when a mysterious portal summoned by a sinister leader, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), appears in Azeroth, and a new race starts seeping in: the orcs. Fleeing their dying world of Draenor, the orcs—self-deemed the Horde—will stop at nothing to find new land for their clans to flourish in, while the civilized races of Azeroth want only to save themselves from obliteration. As orc etiquette is about ten times worse than Game of Thrones’ Dothraki, it seems that both sides are at an impasse.

Cue the one semi-decently mannered orc, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), who starts to realize that Gul’dan’s green gas magic might do more harm than good. With a clan of honorable orcs, a loving wife, and a newborn, uh, orclet (?), he has a lot to lose. Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), is in a similar boat: brother-in-law to the king and an esteemed warrior, he is determined to stop the Horde and get to the bottom of the Fel magic. It isn’t long before Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a rookie mage and scholar, and Garona (Paula Patton), an orc and human half-breed rejected by the Horde, cross paths with Anduin. The answer to destroying the portal and deadly magic appears to lie with the guardian of the world, Medivh (Ben Foster), but darker forces are afoot.

Casting was near-perfect for the movie, especially in regards to motion capture genius Toby Kebbell, who’s most recently known for portraying Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The orcs were extremely lifelike and fearsome to behold, yet, they had character, families, and stories. Their love of honor is their most redeeming quality, perhaps because it contrasts so greatly with modern society’s priorities. The special effects were as advanced as they get in today’s filmmaking, and Jones did a wonderful job of immersing followers and newcomers alike in his world. The fight scenes were also glorious. Finally, just enough background was touched on to add a layer of complexity without drowning viewers in lore.

Warcraft’s biggest loss was a contrived romance that was awkward at best and farfetched at worst. There were also certain characters that would have benefitted from a little more development; however, there may be potential for that in the sequels. Those looking for classic fantasy film depth and stimulation like that found in Lord of the Rings won’t be satisfied with Warcraft’s simple storyline. Those looking for an A-list cast might as well stick with Captain America: Civil War. Those looking for superb dialogue, well, why are you watching a fantasy film, anyway?

Warcraft: The Beginning has done what its genre has continuously failed to do: proven that video games can be adapted into successful and entertaining movies. It’s comparable to most summer blockbusters, and it’s worth watching those motion captured orcs come to life on the big screen if nothing else. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to become a level two elf.World-of-Warcraft-Movie-Pic.png

In Ferg We Trust

In Ferg We Trust

If you ever find yourself on New Zealand’s South Island, in the vicinity of Queenstown (a four season lake and alpine resort town), and within walking distance of 42 Shotover Street, you’d be foolish to overlook the taste bud-riveting experience that is Fergburger. Established in the year two thousand as a basic burger joint, Ferg has flourished so much that it’s now recognized on an international level. Though it’s yet to launch a chain of restaurants, Ferg has spawned a bakery that neighbors next door and provides burger buns made from scratch daily. Fergbaker specializes in meat pies, bagels, and ice cream. Kiwis take pride in their hometown phenomenon, and it’s no surprise that this restaurant is consistently prosperous throughout all twenty-one of its opening hours.

After a warm summer’s day in January filled with a Lord of the Rings helicopter tour, Moke Lake hiking, and our first hang-gliding excursion, my newlywed husband and I found ourselves bursting with euphoria but depleted of sustenance. It was nearly eight o’clock New Zealand Time, and the Lord only knew what time that meant back home in Colorado. As we strolled past the bustling shops filled with indigenous jade and kiwi bird and silver fern paraphernalia, Jared pointed to a swarm of people gathered across the way at a storefront. Judging by the line, it was safe to assume that either someone was giving away free iPads, or the food was extraordinary. Jared persisted, and I reluctantly got in line roughly half a block from Fergburger.

The line moved rapidly, and we were greeted halfway through by a friendly Fergling with a menu to aid in the decision-making process. The twenty-four item menu was simple enough to not overwhelm the guests, yet it had enough variety to please just about any diet—or to give one a desire to come back twenty-four times to try everything on said menu. Catchy names like “Chief Wiggum” and “Sweet Bambi” alluded to the elaborate burger contents while keeping a low-key edge on the ambiance. Within twenty minutes, we arrived at the entrance. We could scarcely hear the music above the bustle of the crowd, but we hardly noticed as we inhaled the aromatic duo of freshly baked bread and meat on the grill.

We were promptly greeted by attentive employees clad in uniforms branded with their company emblem: a vintage-looking man with a stoic expression and equally intense chops. The employees labored tirelessly but smiled at patrons all the while. The glass case below the register displayed a mini-store reminiscent of California’s In-N-Out Burger, complete with T-shirts and lanyards. Since New Zealand is known for its livestock, I gave “Little Lamby” ($12.90 NZD) a chance, and Jared took the plunge with “Big Al” ($17.90 NZD). Ferg served fries with a variety of sauces (like the Kiwi staple: aioli), along with onion rings and fried calamari. We settled on the classic fries ($4.50 NZD) and onion rings ($5.50 NZD). The larger menu posted inside also offered a breakfast and kids menu, complete with a full list of beers, wines, and non-alcoholic beverages ($2.50-$7.00 NZD).

Our order took another twenty minutes, but Queenstown’s quaint shops and astounding scenery hardly made us notice the time lapse. We spent a majority of our waiting time out by the wharf, watching the sunset over the pristine waters. Ferg bags in hand, we searched for a table to no avail and realized the seating was inadequate for the popularity of the small restaurant. The locals paid it no mind, however, and informed us that most people view it as a take-away (carry-out for us Americans) and simply eat it out by the waterfront or take it home. Eager to fit in, we skipped the crowded tables and dipped out with our paper bags as if we were smuggling hidden treasure.

If I had any qualms with the wait time or lack of seating, they were quickly laid to rest when I set eyes upon my burger in its full glory. Aside from being picture-perfect, my lamb burger was succulent, grilled to perfection, and between the tangy mint jelly and savory aioli sauce, its flavor palette was spot on. My husband’s burger held up to its name; Big Al’s double serving of char-broiled beef smothered in gooey cheese, thick slabs of bacon, and fried eggs slathered in aioli were almost too much for him to finish. Both burgers were bookended by soft, warm buns and layered with crisp lettuce and juicy tomatoes alike, complete with a Kiwi favorite: pickled beetroot. The fries and onion rings were crispy and well-seasoned, and we were left with our money’s worth of full tummies and one of the highlights of our honeymoon.

And remember: Ferg loves you. If burger quality equals love, then he most certainly does.

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