"A 10-second joke that gets everything right" - the Polymorph gag is The Best Bit of Warcraft: The Beginning

Imagine being Duncan Jones (or any of the cast and crew), working on the Warcraft adaptation. Here's a series that, when it was an MMORPG, snared more than 10 million people. That's to say nothing of the various novels, comics, toys, board games, tabletop RPG adaptations, and of course, the original strategy games that started it all. Ask 100 people what Warcraft means to them and you'll get 100 different answers.

But I bet if you ask anyone who saw the Warcraft movie what the best bit was, they'd tell you the same thing: the moment the renegade mage Khadgar transforms a jail guard into a sheep. Or at least, that's what I'm going to tell you.

It's easy to write off this moment as a funny Easter egg - a wink and a nod to the fans - and nothing more. Especially once Khadgar warns hero Anduin Lothar that the two of them only have a little less than a minute to escape. World of Warcraft players will recognize that as the duration of the Polymorph spell that players can cast - which turns the creature it targets into a sheep. So yes, it's a reference joke. But you know what Warcraft could've used a whole lot more of? Jokes.

The original strategy games were known for hiding extra lines of dialogue that players could hear if they clicked a unit enough times. A ghostly spectre might whisper, "I'm invisible. Gaseous. And deadly." A dwarf demolition crew might shout, "I'm TNT! I'm dyn-o-mite!" When a player character named Leeroy Jenkins charged into a dragon's nest, shouting his name at the top of his lungs, he became not just one of the internet's earliest memes, but a canon part of Warcraft lore. Players can still earn the last name ‘Jenkins’ in-game.

In other words: the Warcraft universe is goofy. The Warcraft movie, for most of its 123-minute runtime, is not. There are orc invasions, raids on human settlements, soul-sucking magic, and world-ending prophecies delivered by stone-faced actors who either convey zero sense of emotion or seem to take everything so dreadfully serious that there's no room to crack a smile.

Don't get me wrong, Warcraft nailed the epic scale of the orcs vs humans conflict and the world of Azeroth. If the Warcraft universe were as morose as, say, The Lord of the Rings, the film would've been a flawed, but solid, adaptation. But it's not. This is a land of gurgling fish-men, trolls with Jamaican accents, and shoulder pauldrons the size of a Humvee.

The Polymorph scene captures that essence, however briefly. Sure, it's a 10-second joke. But it's a 10-second joke that gets everything right.

The Best Bit focuses on the special moments, scenes, and elements of movies and TV that make them worth watching. It arrives every Wednesday at 0900 PST / 1700 GMT. Follow @gamesradar on Twitter for updates. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hi! My name's Sam Prell. I'm a games journalist with a soft spot for MOBAs, MMOs, and puppies. Forever a farm boy, forever a '90s kid.
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