STARRING: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin, Clancy Brown, Terry Notary, Dylan Schombing, Michael Adamthwaite, Callum Keith Rennie, Burkely Duffield and Dean Redman
The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilization faces a fearsome race of invaders: orc warriors fleeing their dying home to colonize another. As a portal opens to connect the two worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people, and their home.
Warcraft opening up in the homeworld of the Orcs, Draenor, which is dying. A orc warlock and leader of the Shadow Council, Gul’dan, unites the orc clans into one army known as the Horde and promises to lead them to a new world to claim as their own…Azeroth. Gul’dan uses strange magic known as the Fel to bring them through to Azeroth, which requires draining life from other creatures to sustain the portal, using them as sacrifice to breach through to the other side. The military commander of the kingdom of Stormwind, Sir Anduin Lothar, who receives news of raids and human villages and meets a young mage named Khadgar, who finds out that the villagers were killed by the Fel. As the King of Stormwind, King Llane Wrynn, agrees that they should consult the fabled Guardian, Medivh, about the Fel, they learn that the orcs are responsible and that they plan to open the portal from their world for the rest of the Horde to cross over.
Warcraft is the latest video game to film adaptation to come out in the year 2016 (and it won’t be the last) which is has Duncan Jones, director behind Moon and Source Code, in the directors chair on this $160m behemoth of a blockbuster. Now it’s fair to say going into this film that I had the most limited amount of knowledge about Warcraft (humans vs orcs…..pretty much it) as I’m one of the 5% of people in the world that has never played a single second of the MMORPG franchise. Also the film by definition that it’s a video game to film adaptation had a certain history going against it, in that video game adaptations for the big screen have had their fair share of stinkers, as in always (accept Mortal Kombat, we can all appreciate its guilty pleasure status there).
I’ll happily admit that I thought the Warcraft film was much better than previous video game to film adaptations, as in all of what came before, and Duncan Jones does a solid job in creating this world to get sucked in to. While the film has a lot of characters and lore to throw at the general audience (more on that later), Jones does attempt to get across the theme of parenthood through the characters of human Lothar and orc Durotan. While the film takes a while to find its footing for me to gasp, I found myself invested in the mythology of the orcs and the details of their culture and I found Toby Kebbell’s Durotan the most interesting and compelling character in the film. I bought into his doubts and his people following the orc warlock Gul’dan as he believes that his powers using the Fel damaged their homeworld and will do the same in Azeroth and that he tries to get the humans to help take Gul’dan out of the equation. There’s the introduction of a half-breed (half-human/half orc) Garona played by Paula Patton, whom I thought done fine in the role as a character trying to figure out where her place is in the world, despite the way she’s been treated in the orc homeworld, she has a true warrior’s spirit. While the human characters don’t feel as developed in comparison, I managed to like Travis Fimmel’s Lothar (who has at least the side-arc with his son who is also a warrior) though I would’ve preferred to think of Kebbell’s Durotan as the lead if I were to compare due to who I was more invested with following. I believe the original script was very one sided in terms of telling the story of the humans and the arc and with Jones rewriting the script, I thought he done a good job of balancing out both sides and their reasoning for their actions. Even the CGI I thought was handled well for the most part, from the unique characterisation design of the orcs, to the battle sequence in the final act.
While the film has these things going for it, I found myself having a few issues with it. As someone coming into this universe, I found myself initially lost in the first act as we’re introduced to the Orc’s using the Draenei as sacrifices to cross into Azeroth, to the mysterious Guardian of Tirisfal, there’s a lot in here that I’m sure fans would have prior knowledge to and can quickly run with it in the way that the film paces itself, I just felt lost in understanding the mythology and the separate villages/kingdoms that exist within that realm. There’s a lot to digest and enough time to explain in full to a newcomer basically is how I would describe it but that’s from my point of view. Another is that the film has a lot of characters (side characters, if you will) to the point that names are lost like leaves in the wind once they’re introduced to us in the start and appear briefly here and there throughout the course of the film, especially the human knights like Ryan Robbins (who had a recurring role in the flashback arc of Arrow Season 4) though if the film were to come back with a sequel, I suppose he could have more to do. There’s one particular character I couldn’t buy in to and that was Ben Schnetzer’s portrayal of Khadgar, I can’t tell if it is the actor that they got for the role, or the fact that his arc and the way those scenes to explain the mystery of how the orcs arrive didn’t interest me as most as what else was going on as once he begins to unravel the mystery of how the orcs came through the portal, I felt it would go a certain way and sure enough the film does, I just couldn’t get invested in the character. There’s a few story decisions that the film makes throughout that from an investment standpoint I disagree with, but I can admire the direction in which it potentially takes the story continuing going forward if the film were to make enough money at the box office to grant a sequel.
A video game to film adaptation that I can safely say I had a good time at the cinema watching. Duncan Jones has created a nice world for which I can only hope that we get to explore more in future. I definitely enjoyed following the orcs more than the humans, with Toby Kebbell’s Durotan the most interesting and compelling character for me in the film. Outside of Travis Fimmel’s Lothar, I didn’t really feel the need to care for the other human characters and couldn’t get invested in Khadgar’s journey also. Though the key villain ends up feeling predictable and the film feels like you need to have knowledge of the lore, races etc., it is still a spectacle worth seeing on the big screen. 6/10