In a universe of where orcs, dwarves, elves and magic exist alongside men, the peaceful realm of Azeroth is on the brink of destruction when orc leader and warlock Gul’dan opens a portal from their dying home world so they can conquor and colonize anyone in their path.
It’s worth mentioning that I have never played or read any books relating to World of Warcraft and so am taking Warcraft on the merit of its entertainment value as a film only. Credit to creator’s Blizzard in the way they went out and got themselves a very good director in Duncan Jones (Yes, son of David Bowie Duncan Jones who also made Moon & Source Code) and a lead in the form of Vikings star Travis Fimmel. You can see some of Jones influence over the shooting as there is some good camera work and visually good set ups throughout with tons of detail. The rest of the cast is filled out with the likes of Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper and Toby Kebbel in a variety of roles that span from warriors to kings to mages and orc clansmen/women where some were suited their roles but at the same time some were horribly miscast. Given the relatively strong ensemble the acting on show is a bit of a mixed bag. When there is as much CGI as there is there is always going to actors who just don’t know where to act, so some of the humans characters you could tell were quite wooden against a green screen, partly this is due to them being poorly written but many of them did not make the most of the characters they had. In stark contrast they were some who were completely overacting their roles and were verging on parodies of themselves making it hard to take them seriously. Even though these aspects of Warcraft do inhibit the viewing experience somewhat the film does know what it wants to be and where it wants to go and does so in quite a clear, if not cliche’d manner, dealing with it in a way so that someone who has never heard of the franchise can follow easily. There are no spectacularly original ideas or themes to contend with here and this movie could have easily have split into two. It is overlong and so much has been crammed in it really doesn’t give much time for the characters to breathe, missing out explanations which led to some of the more ballsy decisions plot wise to not have the impact they should have.
All is not lost though as it is entertaining throughout with an interesting universe being created with some of the action in particular standing out alongside the visuals. The CGI backdrops are stunning and the orcs have superb detail from character to character, giving an authentic feel to watching scenes that were purely CGI. It is noticeable that for all the plaudits director Jones can be given for his vision, equal amounts of criticism can be laid down for the ineffective manner of all the human characters. The orcs came across as far more sympathetic and just more interesting all around. The action when the CGI vs CGI was hugely entertaining and looked the part, but when it was CGI vs humans it was mostly terrible with a few exceptions. The size difference when humans was battling something 4 to 5 times their size was not well realised and when you watch the big battles in particular, it looks more like a glitchy strategy game with poor choreography than a climax to an epic battle.
Even though there are a plethora of characters to deal with the villain is menacing and worthy of the title and the orc hero is as honourable as he is conflicted and there is something about their stories that leave an intriguing taste in the mouth. Though not perfect I am interested to see where they would go with it all if it ends up getting a sequel. The lack of realisation when it came to merging the CGI with real life made Warcraft sometimes look like a normal film, then 10 minutes later it looks like a cut scene from a next gen console, and later still looking like distinctly average cosplay. It’s these inconsistencies with a stuffy plot that make it harder to watch than it should be, proving once again that video game adaptations should perhaps be shelved for good.
Warcraft: The Beginning gives it a bloody good go with the adaptation of the popular game but is stunted with poorly written characters and a plot that could have easily filled out 2 films. It ends up coming across as a Sunday afternoon film you don’t necessarily need to concentrate on fully to know what’s going on. If you go in not expecting much then there elements that can be enjoyed, but that’s as far as it goes.