Director: Duncan Jones
Writers: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt
Staring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Daniel Wu
A review by Ryan M. Holt
Warcraft is a movie based on the Warcraft video game franchise, most known for the MMORPG World of Warcraft. The game series has spanned 12 releases between the original real-time strategy games, the MMO and it’s expansions, and one addicting digital card game. This doesn’t include a large amount of New York Times Bestselling Novels and comics. As a World of Warcraft player of 10 years, I was eagerly anticipating this movie, just to see the world come to life on the big screen.
As a franchise fan and die hard I was not disappointed. As a movie goer though, I left the theater confused and bewildered. This movie was entertaining at its best and deeply troubling at worst. I don’t know if the movie needed to be 15 minutes shorter or 25 minutes longer.
The movie draws upon the first game, Warcraft: Orcs and Humans for its stories inspiration. It tries its best to blend a dual story line from both sides of the conflict, but it doesn’t succeed or fail at either one. In the original game, the Humans were the clear good guys and the Orcs were the clear bad guys, but as the franchise evolved, more Orc lore was added to the pot. With the movie trying to please both sides, the story comes off incredibly muddled. I often found myself wanting the film makers to pick a side and stick with their story instead of the bouncing back and forth between the two. The film is also riddled with side plots that work only half the time. During an ambush when a secondary character dies I didn’t feel myself caring, but when a main character has to consult a council of mages to confirm his theories, I was genuinely intrigued. Unfortunately, after Warcraft really finds its footing in the second act, the movie abruptly ends. And the ending title card is shown a full scene before it should have been.
The performances were a mixed bag as well. Travis Fimmel played one of the many main characters, Anduin Lothar, okay enough. His back and forth with disgraced mage Khadgar, played by Ben Schnetzer, was amazing. Speaking of Schnetzer, he was probably the best developed character of the humans. Fimmel on the other hand faltered in his performance against everyone else but Schnetzer. As Garona Halforcen, Paula Patton was the only ‘orc’ whose performance was not done via motion capture and it shows. Her interactions with the human cast sing, but when ever she is placed next to the towering orcs her performance falls flat. Toby Kebbell gives a great and nuanced performance as the Frostwolf clan leader Durotan. Daniel Wu is incredibly menacing as Gul’dan, although his motivations aren’t clearly explained until the finally moments of the Orc storyline.
Of course the real champions here are the designers from ILM. The Orcs and magic effects are jaw dropping. It is a shoe-in for a nomination for Visual Effects come Oscar season. The spell casting was fun and over the top, and I loved it compared to the more subtle approach other fantasy takes with it. The magic truly felt like Warcraft, big, animated, and over the top.
See it because it brings back fantasy in a way that has sorely been missed in recent years. It isn’t a perfect film, but it is visually gripping and most of it the character work sings. The parts that fall flat hit hard, but there is enough substance here to fill a void.