Movie Review: ‘Warcraft: The Beginning’
Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Clancy Brown, Ruth Negga
Plot: To escape their dying world a race of savage, barbarian Orc travel through a magic portal to the world Azeroth. There they begin a war with humans for control of the land, but discord grows within the ranks of both armies.
Review: Right, being a writer on House of Geekery I know all about ‘Warcraft’ and can speak knowledgeably about the lore and accuracy of depictions in the films. Didn’t see any axe-thrower trolls or goblin zeppelins, though…
Ok, so I haven’t played a ‘Warcraft’ game in…21 years?! Cripes, how old am I?
So I went into this film pretty clueless about the whole thing and damn, they throw a lot at you in the first half hour. We get dropped right into all these big green toothy guys going through a Stargate thing and then we go from a dwarf city to Ragnar flying on a giant bird thing to another city and then another city and then a floating library thing with characters being thrown in left and right…it was all a bit much. Things did settle into a rhythm by the second act and we got a pretty good sense of the world they have based the movie on.
Surprisingly there was more to the story than humans=good, orcs=bad. It was a smart move starting us off with some orc characters to flesh them out as foes rather than just having a bunch of monsters. Every orc has a distinctive look and personality, meaning that we could think of them as ‘guy with decorative spines’ and a ‘dude with a hand thing’ rather than try and make sense of their names. Even when they’re in a large horde you can pick out different features of each one. When some of the orcs started plotting an alliance with the human’s against what they saw as a dangerous orc leadership it felt a bit more engaging than things initially seemed.
On the flip side, having the same thing happen in the human camp was entirely pointless. Juggling two betrayal subplots stretched the story out much further than it needed to be. When you add in a fatherhood subplot for both a lead human character AND a lead orc character it began to feel less like a complex story and more like a checklist of ways to artificially make the film feel ‘epic’. Many of the side characters get little screen time but we’re still expected to feel sad when one of them gets carved up.
Story problems add up in the final battle. They just can’t seem to wrap the movie up. We have the a big showdown between a couple of orcs, followed by the king having a showdown with the orc army, cutting back and forth to the other lead humans having a showdown with their betrayer. When that is all done with we have another showdown between Ragnar and a third Final Boss orc guy. I don’t know if this is fan service covering all the bases of the game, but as a casual viewer it started to get a bit tiresome. There were noticeably restless people in the audience as it failed to wind things down in a timely fashion.
In terms of design the entire thing looks impressive. There should be a special award for commitment to a bonkers visual aesthetic as it has worked incredibly hard to replicate the look of the games. In some instances the work is reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings series, in that the armor of the humans and orcs have had an immense amount of detail put into them. In other cases it does veer very close to being cartoony. The bright, bright blue and green used to represent magic is downright headache inducing, and whilst the motion capture is mostly on point the orcs do, on occasion, look like Muppets.
As a stand alone film it has it’s moments. The action sequences are vicious and creative, giving the movie it’s most visually impressive moments, even if they do ultimately outstay their welcome. If the idea of a Warcraft movie doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, it’s not going to make you a convert. But if you want to chew some popcorn and watch fantasy characters squish each other there are worse movies to watch.
Rating: SIX out of TEN