Warcraft Director: Duncan Jones
Screenwriter: Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, and Daniel Wu
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Rated PG-13 | 123 Minutes
Release Date: June 10th, 2016
It’s not easy being a movie adaptation based on a very popular video game, especially one that has a huge fanbase like “World of Warcraft.” The long-running MMORPG has been a part of the gaming culture for the better part of 20 years, and with that kind of history, there is bound to be a number of stories to work with at anyone’s disposal. So with Warcraft, it was up to Duncan Jones (Moon) to go straight back to the beginning where it all started, and give us a film that both players and non-gamers can appreciate, by tapping into the source material and using the mythology of the fantasy genre.
However, the film does not deliver. In fact, it falls very short of saving the kingdom and lets the castle fall into the enemy known as boredom. Check out my full review below.
The film begins with this long-winded 15 to 16-minute intro that alone looks cool on the surface, but the characters do nothing to connect to their audience, or have them care about their dire situation. This intro has the orcs leaving their decrepit and dying world through a mystic portal created by Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a sinister orc warlock from the Shadowmoon Clan, so that they can colonize the human world otherwise known Azeroth. Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Orgrim Doomhammer (Robert Kazinsky) are the orcs who will lead the charge in overthrowing the human kingdom.
Slowly villages of the Stormwind Kingdom start to be taken one by one, with villagers being used to power Gul’dan’s magic. The humans do not know what’s going on until they receive important intel from young mage named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who seems to be familiar with the dark magic that is being used to colonize villages. Together, with the help of the Alliance’s lead knight Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), they consult the great wizard Medivh (Ben Foster). Caught in the middle of all of this is Garona (Paula Patton), the half-human half-orc who seems to be the key for one side to win this war – although her purpose in the film is never made clear.
There’s no telling where Warcraft went wrong, but given how it is just a complete clusterfuck of epic proportions, let’s just start at the beginning where the film opens with a very unclear and boring exposition that would have most people press the skip button on most long-winded video game intros. The characters are cold and one-dimensional, and give the audience zero reasons to empathize with their situation. Despite being able to differentiate the humans on the Alliance, it was extremely difficult to tell which orcs were different from each other in the Horde. The were browns and greens, all having the same tattoos and tooth necklaces. Similar facial structures and muscular builds made it even harder to tell the orcs apart.
It’s not as if Jones wasn’t up for the job. A guy who has the talent to make films like Moon and Source Code, certainly deserves to go up to the blockbuster tentpole plate for a few swings. The film has such strange pacing as the story attempts to juggle one too many arcs. Scenes do not connect seamlessly and subplots are introduced at a rapid fire pace. These subplots only add to the confusion, as the story then bounces randomly with no thread to tie it back to or reference to look back on. All of this just leaves you with the feeling that the movie has to end. And yet, without any sort of established goal, it keeps going and going and going, with no end in sight. Perhaps a reset button could help the audience, as someone like me would probably hit that thing over and over again.
If there are any sort of positives that should come out of this, it is the fact that Jones’ script, co-written with Charles Leavitt, humanizes the orcs by showing us the family side. We see a father’s natural love for his wife and child, and the lengths to which he would protect that family. However, all of that seems moot every time it switches over to the humans or talks about magic spells and what not. Lothar also has a son, who also a part of the knighthood, but with so much going on, you barely remember (or care for) that family. Fimmel looks disinterested and seems aware that everything going on around him is completely fake, which just takes the illusion of it all away. It takes a great deal of patience to even understand what Patton is trying to say as she speaks while wearing those obviously store-bought Halloween fangs. Throughout the film, she looked like she just wanted to take those things off. And that’s not even the worst part. I still don’t understand what her purpose was in the film, if she had any to begin with. Schnezter is the only one who seemed like he was having any sort of fun, as he got lost in the character with the physicality of those crazy hand gestures to cast spells and wizardly charm.
Visuals don’t seem anything to get too excited over. It’s not as though we haven’t seen a mix of the practical woodland environment with the computer-generated giant castles before.
Of course, with an already built in fanbase, it’s hard to believe that players would not like Warcraft. Maybe the problem lies with trying to make a film of this size appealing to both fans and non-gamers. It’s not fair for the latter who may not be interested in the games but only the fantasy genre, to suffer through the film trying to figure out which one it should entertain. Or maybe it was the razor-thin story that the games are based on that the film had to work with. I’m sure there are plenty of references in it to remind them of why they like the game so much.
Warcraft is a dizzying experience that is simply to be forgotten. Even then with the subpar visuals, humanizing of the orcs, and Schnezter’s energy, it is not enough to overcome the overwhelming narrative and character motivation problems that plague this film, like a pestilence that probably killed faster than the Black Death.