123 minutes of beginnings and little take-off
I came out of Warcraft feeling confused. As a total noob when it comes to W.O.W I knew nothing about the material before seeing the film and the film has little provision for the uninitiated. Whilst scowling the web for plot summaries and plot explanations to answer my questions I also came across the reviews. Two outcomes came out of this experience, 1) I still have unresolved questions that may just have been plot-holes 2) There are some really brutal reviews out there that make me feel very sorry indeed for Duncan Jones and his film. Read any of his PR for the film and it is clear this is a project of passion for him – an element that really shines through when watching. Warcraft is not horrendous nor particularly bad; just too convoluted to allow it to flow. Plus, considering the entire film focuses on introductions it still manages to leave too many gaps and lead to much head-scratching.
Draenor, the homeworld of the orcs, is dying. A green-skinned orc called Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) controls a magical force called The Fel which allows him to open a doorway from their world to another, Azeroth the home of the humans. Gul’dan plans to send over the orcs in batches, the first being a group of the strongest warriors. Duratan (Toby Kebbell) the chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, his pregnant mate Draka (Anna Galvin) and his second in command Orgrim (Robert Kazinsky) are amongst the first to cross. Duratan has his doubts over the mysterious green magic, believing there to be a link between Gul’tan using it and the destruction of their home. Fearing the same will happen again with this world me makes contact with Anduin Loather (Travis Fimmel), the military commander of the city of Stormwind who in turn contacts the king (Dominic Cooper), the Guardian (Ben Foster) and a young mage (Ben Schnetzer). United will they be able to stop the Fel from destroying yet another world?
That’s the plot as far as I understood it (apologies to any of the more informed if I have gotten anything majorly wrong there!) It’s not the plot itself that leads to confusing, but some of the main nuances. Character motivations often go unexplained, as are the links and relationships between them. Considering the film’s focus is to introduce it almost feels like a prior film that I had missed had already done so. When it comes to the storytelling process I’m still not sure if the film is really clever or really stupid, lumbering along from one set-piece to the next, frequently impenetrable to the viewers.
The world of Warcraft is a rather beautiful and detailed one, with lots of layers and depth. However although it has made the transition to the screen it has perhaps not been translated enough for it to draw in those new to franchise, and I suspect it it is too diluted for it’s loyal fanbase. I have no qualms in metaphorically using a glossary to understand a mythology for a Fandom, something I have regularly had to do whilst watching six seasons worth of Game Of Thrones or even the six Middle Earth films, but this film has too quiet a soul and too dull to warrant such extracurricular research. There is also a prevailing sense, resulting from poor critical and commercial reviews along with poor box office takings, that this is a world that will not return to the screen again…
The characters that inhabit this world are fine, not particularly good nor particularly bad. Just. Fine. Kebbell is standout as the conflicted Orc, proving yet again at his great skill at using the technology to create such wondrous creatures. Fimmel is almost an Aragorn 2.0, a reminder of just how good Viggo Mortensen was in the role of charmer with a heart of gold. A shoehorned-in romantic subplot with half-orc Garona (Paula Patton) is undercut in terms of believability both by underdevelopment and forced chemistry. The rest of the cast are criminally underused.
Warcraft is a film that is fantastical, but far from fantastic. Although the story being told is adequately entertaining it is told in a manner that is rather butchered, dull and rushed. It’s enjoyable enough but there is a prevailing sense that this film is not as good as it could have/ should have been.