Warcraft (film)

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Two faces divided by a large sword, on the left an fang toothed orc with red facepaint, on the right a bearded man with blue facepaint.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDuncan Jones
Produced by
Screenplay by
Based onWarcraft
by Blizzard Entertainment
Music byRamin Djawadi
CinematographySimon Duggan
Edited byPaul Hirsch
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • May 24, 2016 (2016-05-24) (Le Grand Rex)
  • June 10, 2016 (2016-06-10) (United States)
Running time
123 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$160 million[2]
Box office$439 million[3]

Warcraft (alternatively known as Warcraft: The Beginning)[4] is a 2016 American action fantasy film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Charles Leavitt and Jones. Based on the video game series of the same name, the film stars Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, and Daniel Wu. The film portrays the initial encounters between the humans and the orcs and takes place in a variety of locations established in the video game series.[5]

The film was first announced in 2006 as a project partnership between Legendary Pictures and the game's developer, Blizzard Entertainment.[6] Warcraft premiered in Paris on May 24, 2016, and was released by Universal Pictures in the United States on June 10, 2016.[7] Despite a disappointing domestic box office performance and the film and script receiving negative reviews from critics, the film has grossed $433 million worldwide, surpassing Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time as the highest-grossing video game adaptation of all time, although it was still considered a financial disappointment.[8]


Draenor, the homeworld of the orcs, is being torn apart by a mysterious force known as fel magic. Gul'dan, a powerful orc warlock, unites the orc clans and forms the Horde, and creates a portal to the world of Azeroth. The orcs begin to use fel magic to drain the life out of captive draenei in order to sustain the portal. Once it is operational, Gul'dan leads a small warband to capture prisoners on Azeroth and sacrifice them to bring the rest of the Horde through the portal. Durotan, the chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, his pregnant mate Draka, and his friend Orgrim Doomhammer join this initial warband. While crossing through the portal, Draka goes into labor. When the orcs arrive on Azeroth, Gul'dan assists Draka with giving birth, and rescues the dying baby by draining the life out of a nearby deer to revive and infuse fel magic into the baby, which Durotan later names Go'el. The orcs raid several settlements throughout Azeroth. Anduin Lothar, the military commander of the human forces in the Stormwind Kingdom, looks over some of the men that were killed, and finds a trespassing mage named Khadgar, who explains that he was investigating the dead bodies because they contained traces of fel magic. Khadgar persuades Stormwind's king, Llane Wrynn, to consult Medivh, the renowned Guardian of Tirisfal, and Llane sends Anduin and Khadgar to Medivh's stronghold, Karazhan, to inform him of the fel magic's presence on Azeroth.

Anduin, Khadgar, and Medivh join a scouting team following traces of fel magic but are ambushed by orcs. Medivh uses a spell to kill the fel-corrupted orcs, leaving the Horde's warchief, Blackhand, to flee along with Durotan and Orgrim. Khadgar restrains a half-orc slave, Garona, and the soldiers take her prisoner. King Llane frees Garona in exchange for loyalty to Stormwind, and she leads the humans to spy on the orc camp, where they learn of Gul'dan's plan to bring the Horde to Azeroth. Meanwhile, Durotan realizes that the fel magic is responsible for the destruction of Draenor, and if Gul'dan is not thwarted, Azeroth will suffer the same fate. Despite Orgrim's objections, Durotan invites Llane to a secret meeting so that the Frostwolf Clan and the humans can unite to defeat Gul'dan. While studying a book he found in Medivh's library, Khadgar learns that Gul'dan could not have opened the portal on his own; he had help from someone on Azeroth. The Frostwolf Clan meets with the humans to negotiate an alliance, but the group is ambushed by Blackhand. As the humans retreat, Medivh forms a magical barrier to protect them, but Lothar's son Callan is separated from the rest of the group and killed by Blackhand. Medivh is severely weakened, and Garona and Khadgar take him back to Karazhan to recover. After noticing Medivh's eyes shine green, Khadgar realizes that he has been corrupted by fel magic and that he is the one who helped Gul'dan. At the orc camp, Blackhand purges the Frostwolf Clan. Orgrim helps Draka to escape, and she sends Go'el down a river in a basket, but is then found and killed by another orc.

Durotan challenges Gul'dan to Mak'gora, a traditional orcish duel to the death for leadership of a clan – in this case, all of the orcs. During the fight, Gul'dan violates the honorable combat rules by draining the life out of Durotan with his magic, killing him and earning the disapproval of the orcs watching, and he empowers Blackhand with the same magic. Medivh, now in a half-demonic state, starts to open the portal to Draenor, and Gul'dan begins sacrificing the captured human villagers to allow the rest of the Horde to enter Azeroth. Llane leads the human army in an assault on the orc camp, while Anduin and Khadgar fight Medivh and destroy the demon that had begun to manifest on the outside. Medivh is left mortally wounded, and uses the last of his strength to close the portal to Draenor and instead open a portal to Stormwind, allowing Llane to evacuate most of the freed prisoners. When Medivh eventually dies, the portal closes, leaving Llane, Garona and a small number of human soldiers to fight the orcs. Llane secretly orders Garona to kill him, bringing her honor among the orcs and putting her in a position of power to bring peace between the two races. Garona reluctantly does so and is welcomed into the Horde by Gul'dan. Lothar arrives to retrieve King Llane's body, but is confronted by Blackhand, who challenges Lothar to Mak'gora, only for Lothar to quickly dispose of him. Against Gul'dan's demands, the orcs, bound by tradition, allow Lothar to depart with Llane's body. At Llane's funeral in Stormwind, the leaders of the other human nations, along with the high elves and dwarves, proclaim an alliance against the orcs and rally behind Lothar as the leader of the Alliance forces. Elsewhere, Orgrim takes one of Durotan's tusks to one day give to Go'el, and the basket containing Go'el is found by a human.


  • Travis Fimmel as Anduin Lothar, the military commander of the human forces in Stormwind Kingdom. Steadfast and charismatic, Anduin is a knight who has sacrificed everything to keep the king and his people safe.[9]
  • Paula Patton as Garona Halforcen, a strong-willed half-orc caught between the war of orcs and humans.[9]
  • Ben Foster as Medivh, the Guardian of Azeroth and a mysterious and reclusive protector who wields formidable magical power.[10]
  • Dominic Cooper as King Llane Wrynn, the ruler of the Kingdom of Azeroth and a beacon of hope for his people in times of darkness, and Anduin's brother-in-law.[9]
  • Toby Kebbell as the voice and motion-capture of Durotan, noble orc chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan and the father of Go'el he fights to save his clan and the rest of the renegade orcs from Gul'dan and the destruction of their world. Kebbell also portrays the Archmage Antonidas, leader of the Kirin Tor, the mage council of Dalaran.[9]
  • Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar, a gifted young mage who was trained at a young age by the Kirin Tor to succeed Medivh as Guardian, but left and eventually found his place in the Stormwind Kingdom.[11]
  • Robert Kazinsky as Orgrim Doomhammer, Durotan's best friend and second-in-command of the Frostwolf Clan.[9]
  • Clancy Brown as the voice and motion-capture of Blackhand, the fearsome orc chieftain of the Blackrock Clan and puppet of Gul'dan.[9]
  • Daniel Wu as the voice and motion-capture of Gul'dan, a sinister orc warlock who is the founder and leader of the Horde. Wielding powerful fel magic and driven by his ravenous desire for power.[9]
  • Ruth Negga appears as Lady Taria Wrynn, Queen-consort of Stormwind, King Llane's wife and most trusted counsel, and Anduin's sister.[9]

Terry Notary provides the voice and motion-capture of as Grommash Hellscream, the orc chieftain of the Warsong Clan, though the part is listed in the credits as Peon. Notary also served as stunt coordinator and movement coach for the film, working with cast members Kebbell, Kazinsky, Brown, Wu and Galvin on their portrayals of the orcs, and with Foster on his portrayals of magic.[12] Michael Adamthwaite appears as King Magni Bronzebeard, the dwarf ruler of Ironforge. Glenn Close makes an uncredited appearance as Alodi, an ancient mage locked in an artifact within Dalaran, described as "the Guardian before there was a Guardian".[13][14] In the comics, Alodi was the first Guardian of Tirisfal and a male half-elf, while the character in the film is closer to that of Aegwynn, Medivh's mother. Chris Metzen, who served as a co-producer and uncredited story writer for the film, and is the Senior Vice-President of Story and Franchise Development at Blizzard Entertainment and the voice of Thrall in the Warcraft franchise, makes an uncredited cameo appearance as a turbaned perfume vendor on the streets of Stormwind Kingdom.[15]



The project was officially announced in May 2006[6] with Blizzard initially wanting it to be set in the universe of the first RTS Warcraft game with a basic Orcs and Humans storyline. This setting was later dropped, with Blizzard feeling that it would be too similar to The Lord of the Rings.[16] Initially scheduled for a 2009 release, the film was later delayed to 2011.[17] However, by Comic-Con 2011, the film was announced to still only be in the development stage.[18]

Uwe Boll made a bid to direct, but was turned away by Blizzard, who he claims to have said, "We will not sell the movie rights, not to you… especially not to you. Because it's such a big online game success, maybe a bad movie would destroy that ongoing income, what the company has with it."[19] Sam Raimi was initially attached to direct,[20][21] but was replaced by Duncan Jones in January 2013.[22] Upon coming aboard, Jones immediately voiced his displeasure at the script, which he stated "was the stale fantasy trope of, humans are the good guys, monsters are the bad guys". With Blizzard's approval (who had also been looking to change the story), Jones altered the story so that "It's 50-50."[23] Jones also faced personal struggles during filming, as his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after Jones took over, and his father, David Bowie, died from cancer late in production. Jones thus summed up the challenge by telling The New York Times, "My film started and ended with cancer."[23] At San Diego Comic-Con International in July 2013, a concept trailer was presented, featuring a battle between a human and an orc.[24]


On September 23, 2013, it was reported that actors Paul Dano, Travis Fimmel, Anson Mount, and Anton Yelchin were on the shortlist to star in the film. In October 2013, Fimmel was announced to play the lead character.[25][26] On December 4, 2013, the main cast of the film, consisting of Fimmel, Ben Foster, Paula Patton, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell and Robert Kazinsky, was announced. On December 14, 2013, Universal added Daniel Wu and Clancy Brown to the cast.[27] In early March 2014, newcomer Burkely Duffield joined the cast.[28]


Principal photography began on January 13, 2014, and lasted for four months, finishing on May 23, 2014.[29][30] Filming took place primarily in Vancouver, among other locations.[31][32] Post-production lasted twenty months.[33] Regarding the use of computer-generated imagery, Jones said, "It's a tool like any other. It can be done well and it can be done shit. The best CGI has you forgetting [that] it's CGI, and accepting the visual as whatever it is supposed to be—like props. No one has an issue with props in film, do they?"[34] Cinematographer Simon Duggan said the film had a 12 weeks prep period.[35]


Warcraft: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is the soundtrack.[36] This music was composed by Ramin Djawadi and released on June 10, 2016.[37] Djawadi was hired by Jones and Legendary Pictures in October 2014.[36] The vinyl version of the soundtrack was released on September 5, 2016.[38]


Warcraft was set to be released on December 18, 2015, but following the announcement of the coinciding release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the release was pushed back to the following year.[7] The film premiered at the Le Grand Rex in Paris on May 24, 2016. It was released in the United Kingdom on May 30, 2016,[39] in the United States on June 10, 2016[7] and in Australia on June 16, 2016,[40] ten years after the project was first announced.

Home media[edit]

Warcraft was released on digital download on September 13, 2016, and was released on Blu-ray, Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and DVD on September 22, 2016, in Australia[41] and on September 27 in the United States and Canada.[42] Select editions of the physical release include a digital copy of World of Warcraft along with digital bonus codes for other Blizzard games to tie-in with the film.[43]


Box office[edit]

The cast of Warcraft at the 2015 San Diego Comic-Con to promote the film.

Warcraft grossed $47.4 million in the United States, and $386.3 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $433.7 million.[3] Given its $160 million net production budget, The Hollywood Reporter reported the film needed to earn at least $450 million to break-even.[44][45] In July 2016, the magazine reported the film lost the studio around $15 million, although noted several executives put the losses in the $30–40 million range.[46]

Worldwide, it is the highest-grossing film of all time based on a video game (breaking Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time's record).[47] It is the first video game film to cross $400 million in ticket sales globally.[48] The film joined Terminator Genisys as the only American films to earn $400 million worldwide without also crossing $100 million in North America,[49] and also one of the few Hollywood releases to earn $100 million in China without making $100 million in the United States.[50]

United States[edit]

In the United States and Canada, Warcraft opened on June 10, 2016, alongside The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2, and was projected to gross around $25 million in its opening weekend.[51][52][53] Variety reported that the film was generating only moderate interest among U.S. moviegoers, which could possibly hurt its box office performance stateside, with poor reviews and competition from the aforementioned films and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (released the week prior) also affecting its performance.[54] The film grossed $3.1 million from 2,632 theaters in its Thursday night previews and $10.7 million on its first day.[55][56] It went on to gross $24.2 million, finishing second at the box office behind The Conjuring 2 ($40.1 million).[57] It fell by 70% on its second weekend, earning $7.2 million.[58]

Outside US[edit]

Warcraft was released in a total of 65 countries from June to August 2016, and international territories were expected to produce better results than in North America.[54][59][60][61][62] It opened across 20 countries in the week ending May 29, 2016, including France, Germany and Russia, two weeks ahead of its North American debut, and was estimated to gross around $20 million in its opening weekend. Internationally, it faced competition from Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse,[63] Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,[60] The Conjuring 2, Finding Dory,[64] as well as the UEFA Euro 2016 in most European countries[62] throughout its run. It opened on Thursday, May 26, earning $9.3 million from 11 markets.[51] On Friday, May 27, the total rose to $16.3 million.[59] In its opening weekend, it grossed $31.7 million from 20 markets, of which $2.1 million alone came from 73 IMAX screens.[65][66] In its second weekend, it added $29.5 million from 28 markets, with $1.8 million delivered from 130 IMAX screens.[67] It finally topped the international box office in its third weekend with $185.8 million, propelled by a huge opening in China.[62]

It scored the biggest opening day of all time in Ukraine ($233,000),[68] the biggest of 2016 in Germany ($2.2 million), the second-biggest in Russia ($2.8 million), behind Deadpool, and Universal's third-biggest opening day ever in Sweden ($539,000), behind only Fifty Shades of Grey and Furious 7.[59] In terms of opening weekend, it opened with $10.4 million in Russia, giving it the second-biggest debut of 2016 behind Deadpool, and occupied 63% of the market share.[69] It earned $5.8 million in Germany, $4.4 million in France, $3.4 million in Mexico, $2.8 million in Brazil, $2.7 million in Taiwan, $2.5 million in Spain and Australia, and $2 million in Italy and in Turkey, it recorded the biggest opening weekend ever for Universal with a $1.1 million debut and the fourth-biggest in Sweden, with $1.3 million.[62][65][66][67][70] In the United Kingdom, it came in first place with a £3.62 million ($5.27 million) seven-day opening after a close race with Out of the Shadows from 500 theaters.[67][71] In South Korea, it finished in second place with $5.1 million, behind The Jungle Book, which also opened the same weekend.[62]

In China, based on pre-sales, Warcraft was one of the country's most anticipated films of all time,[72] and was projected to gross around $100–150 million[73][74] to as high as $200 million[75] during its five-day opening weekend. It received the widest Chinese release ever, occupying an unprecedented 67.5% of the screens available in China, besting the previous record of Furious 7's 62.8% of screens.[73] It pre-sold $2 million worth of tickets twelve days before its premiere on June 8, which rose to a staggering $20.7 million by June 6, the third biggest of all time, behind Furious 7 and Avengers: Age of Ultron.[72][73][76] It broke the IMAX pre-sales record with $8.2 million for the opening weekend, breaking Captain America: Civil War's $3.7 million, set a month prior.[73][77] However, the film faced competition from X-Men: Apocalypse, which opened on June 3, five days before its debut.[78] It began its theatrical run on Tuesday midnight, June 7 with across 285 IMAX screens, taking advantage of the Dragon Boat Festival holiday, where it grossed $7.6 million.[60] It opened on June 8, earning $46 million on its opening day to record the second-biggest opening day for a Hollywood film, behind Furious 7.[75][79][80] It broke the biggest non-weekend opening-day record, besting the previous record-holder Avengers: Age of Ultron ($28.3 million), the biggest IMAX midnight run ($1.4 million), and the biggest IMAX opening-day gross ($5.3–6 million). On its second day, it added $44.5–46.5 million, breaking the record for the biggest Thursday gross, previously held by The Mermaid, and the biggest two-day gross for a Hollywood film.[81] Through its opening weekend, it earned $156 million in five days – $64.5 million in three days – setting records for the biggest opening weekend of all time in the country, eclipsing the previous record held by Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the fastest film to gross 1 billion renminbi in 117 hours, eclipsing Furious 7's previous record of 120 hours.[62][82] Moreover, it broke IMAX record for the biggest Friday ($4.2 million), the fastest three-day gross ($15.2 million) and the biggest opening weekend ($20 million).[62] Gamers of the video game made up 85% of the total attendees during its opening weekend[83][failed verification] It has so far grossed a total of $27.5 million in IMAX ticket sales, the third-highest for a Hollywood film in the country,[70] and $221 million there.[84]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 28% based on 228 reviews with an average rating of 4.2/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Warcraft has visual thrills to spare, but they – and director Duncan Jones' distinctive gifts – are wasted on a sluggish and derivative adaptation of a bestselling game with little evident cinematic value."[85] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 32 out of 100 based on 40 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[86] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[56]

Geoff Berkshire of Variety criticized the film's attempts at adapting a source material with "inherent ridiculousness" with regard to how the original game series was not meant to have a very deep narrative: "[I]t's an unwaveringly earnest film that never owns up to exactly how campy every character, every conflict and every new realm truly is."[87] A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club wrote that, "To watch Warcraft is never to be transported, but to wade through a thick morass of mythology, exposition, gaudy light-show effects, half-assed character development, and formulaic franchise groundwork," while describing director/cowriter Duncan Jones as "a talented sci-fi fabulist who’s fallen screaming into the same CGI abyss that consumed Peter Jackson during his unfortunate Hobbit cycle."[88] Helen O'Hara, reviewing for the UK-based GQ Magazine, stated that although the film itself is a "strong adaptation" of Warcraft, the script diminishes the film's impact: "The problem is that it just can't escape those cod-fantasy roots. There are too many mysterious proper nouns being thrown into conversation and at least 12 major characters competing for space … [W]e're zipping from one to another here so quickly that they only have time for the most portentous, and sometimes clichéd, dialogue."[89]

Dave Robinson of Crash Landed praised the film's depiction of the Orc race and that they were believable but that there "really is no depth in the script on the human side of the fence".[90]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipients Result Ref.
Annie Award February 4, 2017 Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production John Hansen, George Kuruvilla, Alexis Hall, Gordon Chapman and Ben O’Brien Nominated [91]
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production Orcs - Hal Hickel, Jee Young Park, Kai-Hua Lan, Cedric Lo and KimHuat Ooi Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards February 7, 2017 Outstanding Animated Performance in a Photoreal Feature Durotan – Sunny Wei, Brian Cantwell, Brian Paik, Jee Young Park Nominated [92]

Possible sequel[edit]

With the film's storyline leaving Warcraft open to possible sequels, Jones has expressed interest in a sequel to the film, likely to be adapted from Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness, the second video game in the Warcraft franchise.[93][94][95] On June 18, 2018, Jones tweeted that the chance of Warcraft getting a sequel "doesn't look good."[96]


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