Let’s start by being clear about who Warcraft is for – it’s for Warcraft fans. It’s not for fans of fantasy or action, or for fans of movies with beginnings, middles and ends, and it’s certainly not for fans of movies that make sense. This is for Warcraft fans. I doubt anyone else will have the energy to overlook all the nonsensical gobbledygook and find much worth liking in his hot mess masquerading as a fantasy epic.
The film takes place in the magical land of Azeroth, a peaceful kingdom where men, dwarves, mages, and other creatures live alongside one another. The kingdom is threatened when an army of orcs arrives through a magical portal, powered by dark magic known as Fel. The orcs seek to imprison the people of Azeroth and use their life force to power a new powerful strong enough to bring the entire Horde to Azeroth.
These orcs are much like the ones you’re familiar with from Lord of the Rings, except their quite a bit larger and quite a bit more digital. These hulking, tusked behemoths live right on the edge of the uncanny valley, somewhere between Avatar’s Na’vi and a videogame cut scene. Director Duncan Jones wisely starts the film off amongst the orcs, giving us time to adjust to what we’re seeing, but they rarely feel like more than giant CGI puppets.
Not that the humans in this world have much more life to them. Travis Fimmel (Vikings) stars as Anduin Lothar, a soldier and brother-in-law to King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper, Captain America). As the threat of an orc invasion looms, they seek protection from their guardian, Medivh (Ben Foster, 3:10 to Yuma), a mage charged with protecting Azeroth. With the help of Garona (Paula Patton, M:I – Ghost Protocol), a human-orc hybrid and a young mage named Kadghar (Ben Schnetzer, The Book Thief) they seek to stop the portal from being built before the orcs can invade.
After 10 years of production, it’s strange that Warcraft feels like a rush job. The film desperately tries to pass itself as a fantasy epic, but it never takes the time to explain where we are or why we should care about these characters and the relationships between them. In fantasy epics like Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones, the landscape is as much a character as the people who inhabit it. Here, we get a Settlers of Catan board game map.
The ill defined geography wouldn’t be such a problem if we cared at all about the characters crossing it, but Warcraft is so stuffed with characters, it’s impossible to keep track of who everyone is. It certainly doesn’t help that most of the humans are clad in armor and the orcs… well they look like orcs. The film is filled with subplots that lead nowhere and small details that have monumental ramifications. None of the characters, their sacrifices or victories make any sense and it all leads up to one of the most unsatisfying non-endings of all time.
I’m genuinely puzzled by the number of profound miscalculations that talented people had to make in order to make this train wreck. The screenplay was penned by director Duncan Jones (Moon) and Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond), talented screenwriters, and I can only assume that much of their work was left on the cutting room floor by Paul Hirsch, the Oscar winning editor of Star Wars in order to achieve a sub-two hour running time, which feels glacial anyway. There’s far too much talent involved in this movie for it to fail on this many levels. It truly boggles the mind.
Verdict: 1 out of 5
There is so much wrong with Warcraft, so much I would almost recommend you see it, so I can get a second opinion on what the hell happened. The visuals are undeniably impressive, especially in IMAX 3D, but this feels like a movie and more like an extended demo of the latest Warcraft game, complete with inane plotting and garbage dialog. The film leaves itself wide open for a sequel, but maybe first Hollywood should try their hand at a videogame property with a beefier narrative, like Frogger.