Movie Review: Warcraft

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When an evil orc uses dark magic to invade a peaceful realm, heroes both human and orc try to work together to prevent him from destroying the world.

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Duncan Jones, 2016

Orc warriors Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Draka (Anna Galvin) must hide the fact that they’re expecting a baby when they travel via portal from their ruined world to the peaceful realm of Azeroth. Their leader, dark magic user Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), plans to kill the natives in order to open the portal and bring through the rest of the horde, taking over Azeroth. His magic has dangerous consequences, though, and the noble Durotan is the first to discover just how twisted Gul’dan has become. He attempts to make a pact with the human warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who has been fighting to protect the land from the orc army with the help of the magical Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster). A half-human, half-orc former slave named Garona (Paula Patton) helps brings the sides together as she forges friendships with Lothar and the young, fresh-faced wizard Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), whose shifting allegiances worry Medivh.

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I also think this is a genuinely cool poster.

Warcraft has been accused of many things, some of which it is guilty of, some of which it is not. To my mind, the most unfair accusation that’s been levelled at this film is that it’s a cynical cash grab. While there are certainly some moneygrubbers’ fingerprints on the production of this film – particularly its bids for a Chinese audience, which seem to have been received quite well – I truly believe that Duncan Jones and the rest of the filmmakers involved made this film with genuine affection and reverence for the source material. Occasionally this reverence gets in the way of the filmmaking, which takes itself very seriously, seemingly interested in creating a fantasy epic. The problem is that this film attempts to be Return of the King (with more endings!) when it needs to be Fellowship of the Ring; it drops us in the deep end, with too many characters who aren’t interesting enough to hold our interest amongst one or two well-rounded characters. They put in so much effort in some places – there are some talented actors, a talented director, the film looks nice – but just completely dropped the ball where it really matters – the script, mostly, and the length (it’s SO LONG). This lack of focus means that this sprawling film is narratively flawed, with far too many boring moments and fantasy cliches to hold interest. It’s a shame, because there are hints of a good movie in here. Moon director Duncan Jones is a good director who has the ability to tell a small story well, but he’s out of his depth here. The sweeping shots of Azeroth are gorgeous, as are the incredible armour creations and costuming. I can only imagine what it must be like to be a fan of the game and get to see these beautifully rendered visions of locations that mean so much to you. Then the characters start talking like role players reading out their characters’ melodramatic backstories and suddenly you can’t help but tune out.

Interestingly, the orcs are the most interesting part of the film. These computer generated characters look amazing, and we get a really good sense of their culture – these aren’t token “bad guys” but a community with strong cultural roots. Picking one orc hero to focus on for the duration of the film really would have helped fix a lot of the problems with this film, though it may not please all the fans who want to see the different races and locations represented. Paula Patton’s Garona is the film’s pivotal character, and she carries herself with dignity. Some of the best scenes occur between Garona and the Azeroth queen, as played by Ruth Negga – two women of colour who are the major female characters in this film and pass the Bechdel test. You can see Jones trying for some diversity – there are female warriors on both sides – but there are just too many white men at the centre of this movie, and one of them is easily the movie’s worst character. Travis Fimmel’s Lothar is awful, an unlikeable, emotionally cut-off “hero” who represents the worst of the fantasy genre. Khadgar’s not much better. The incredibly talented Ben Foster does what he can with the tormented Medivh, who is the best of the human characters. But it’s the orcs who carry the movie, putting in powerful motion capture performances that are more lifelike than most of the humans’. The film is just too boring when it’s not about them, with too many battles and not enough story.

Warcraft on IMDb

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