Review by Lauryn Angel
Warcraft opens with a scene strongly reminiscent of the opening cinematics of its source material, the MMORPG World of Warcraft. An orc warrior and a human warrior are locked in battle, while a dramatic voice-over explains that orcs and humans have been enemies for so long that no one remembers why. From there, the story of the movie begins. Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftan of the Frostwolf Clan of orcs. Durotan brings his clan under the leadership of Gul’dan, an orc mage who leads the warriors into Azeroth, home of the humans and elves. The humans are led by King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and his chief warrior, Anduin Lothar. The humans have never encountered orcs before, so they take a prisoner, Garona (Paula Patton), as an informant. The party is rounded out by Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a mage who has defected from the Kirin Tor. The final player is Medivh (Ben Foster) a powerful wizard who serves as the Guardian of Azeroth.
The movie has quite a few moving parts, and it moves swiftly from scene to scene. This can be a bad thing, as constant shifts can make it difficult to follow the story – especially as alliances shift. It’s also a good thing, as this keeps the plot moving quickly, usually to another battle scene. For those viewers who have actually played World of Warcraft or its RTS predecessors, there is quite a bit to enjoy. Those new to the franchise may find the film less satisfying, as there’s an awful lot of lore dumped into a relatively short movie (compared to hours of game time). Still, I enjoyed seeing some of the game locations rendered on screen and spotting murlocs at the edge of the frame. (And that orc baby is adorable. But I digress.)
The movie does have its issues, however. Director Duncan Jones and his screenwriting partner Charles Leavitt simply try to do too much with the story. It’s difficult to establish meaningful characters when the film shifts too quickly between them. And the plot is teeming with plot devices that are perhaps a little too predictable – and some that don’t make much sense. Another problem is that while many of the performances are great, some of them fall flat – I’m thinking particularly of Ben Foster’s Medivh here, a character that should have been a lot more fun to watch.
Warcraft does not come close to the level of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings or Hobbit trilogies, but it is a satisfying fast-paced high fantasy spectacle. But that’s really not the point of this movie. There’s a lot here for fans of the game to enjoy, and it’s a lot better than most movies based on video games.
In stores on Tuesday, September 27th and on Digital HD now.