Review: Warcraft: The Beginning
Director: Duncan Jones
By Kitty Turpin
Let me pretense this review with the fact that I have played World of Warcraft, but I wouldn’t say I know anything about its intense lore and history. If you’re looking for a n00bs review of Warcraft I suggest you Google one. There are plenty of them already – you can find them by the shitty score they’ve given to this film.
I went into the theatre expecting something different from the movie I saw . From watching the trailer I expected an almost 99% unbelievable CGI world, orcs vs. humans and “orcs try to make an alliance with humans”. This battle between orcs and humans was the least of Azeroth’s (the world the film’s set in) worries, not to mention the CGI was the least of my worries.
The story follows the characters and loose plot that was the first EVER Warcraft game released in 1996.
Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), some sort of powerful orc mage, leads his best warriors, called the Horde, from their dying home world and into a new one. This new world, Azeroth, is already inhabited by a peaceful alliance of races, but the movie mostly focuses on the humans. So war between humans and orcs ensues. The humans call upon their “Guardian”, Medivh (Ben Foster), their strongest mage, to help lead them into battle. Unfortunately Medivh has “changed” in his years of solitude. On the orcs side, a clan leader, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), believes the dark magic Gul’dan practices could be the reason why their home world became inhabitable. He takes it upon himself to form a friendship with the humans, aided by some translation from the orc halfing Garona (Paula Patton), to take down Gul’dan.
Sound complicated? It was.
The story is set between two worlds, in multiple locations, with little to no explanation of where these locations are in relevance to each other. In an interview with BBC reporter Adam Rossler, director Duncan Jones explained this choice by comparing it to Lord of The Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: “You’re coming to [it] as a Tolkein reader. A lot of our audience is coming to Warcraft as Warcraft players.”
Even though these cuts to different locations sometimes felt disjointed, as a World of Warcraft player, I could follow along. It didn’t necessarily bother me because the CGI world Warcraft presents is beautiful and diverse. The overall best thing about this movie was the CGI. Everyone seems to hate the overuse of CGI in films these days, but Warcraft was nothing on the fails of the CGI fight scenes that X-Men: Apocalypse had.
The character development in the first half of this movie was atrocious. We find out information about characters through forced unnatural dialogue (e.g. “hi this my son, hi this my sister, hi this my king”) and the “romance” between the main characters Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and Garona comes out of no-where. I mean, love-at-first-sight can be understandable in a rom-com sort of way, but not in a fantasy action movie where I’ve hardly had the time or the incentive to care about either character. Once the film got past its dying need to tell me all of this information through dialogue, most of which I couldn’t follow, the character development actually got better.
It was unfortunate the character development was lack-luster because the actors in this movie played the shit out of their characters. Even the CGI characters were amazing in the way that they looked, especially in the emotions that were shown on their faces. I admit, I cried when I saw Durotan’s CGI eyes tear up.
No matter how self-deprecating, or perhaps sarcastic, Aussie actor Travis Fimmel is about being cast as Lothar, he fits the character well. His cheekiness brought a needed humour to the movie.
I felt the seriousness of the characters and plot didn’t allow for the amount of humour that can be found in the World of Warcraft games. In fact, the use of humour in the first half of the movie was stilted and forced—like almost everything in the first half—but gradually warmed the audience. I had a good chuckle at some of the scenes.
The one thing missing from reviews of this movie is the connection it has with long time fans of the game: Warcraft. I went with a friend who was incredibly happy with the storyline. The plot was quite true to the original Warcraft games, fleshed out with the World of Warcraft universe of 2016.
Duncan Jones directed this movie for fans of the game series, of which there are millions (as there are millions who hate it), at the expense of basic film elements that would have made it more easily accessible to those new to the Warcraft franchise.
Past the sluggish first half and the predictable characters, I actually enjoyed this movie, if only for dreamboat Travis Fimmel, the intense fight scenes during the climax of the film and the beautiful CGI world they created.
Warcraft isn’t the worst video game movie, but it certainly didn’t redeem the industry. In hindsight it was probably made to boost declining membership subscriptions. Well, it got me. I might now buy another month’s subscription to World of Warcraft.