Stars: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Opening Date: Friday June 10th, 2016
As both a chronically sore-thumbed game junky and an avid cinema goer, the news of Warcraft’s coming release felt as enchanting to me as the lush flora and fauna found in the expansive world of Azeroth itself. Although I have never personally succumbed to the (as some have described) near crack-like addiction of playing titles within the Warcraft universe, I’m more than familiar with the legendary lore of what has always been Blizzard’s mainstay franchise.
My enjoyment of both these entertainment mediums has led me to admit that in almost all cases, they are best left alone to thrive in their own jurisdictions. This universally held understanding however, hasn’t deterred many ambitious filmmakers’ pursuits to break free from the stigma, which has perpetually led to less than enchanting results in the past. Nor, in a likewise manner, has it deterred me from stubbornly adhering to the principle that with the right cast and crew, and a serious director who does the adapted source material justice, even a subpar video game-themed movie could be made into something good.
Would Warcraft be the harbinger of a shift toward an era of quality video game films? Would it become a template for how to exceptionally wed everyone’s two favorite wastes of time? I’m sorry to say but absolutely, positively not. In fact, Warcraft manages to pull off the feat of estranging both its intended audiences in gigantic, orc-like proportions.
The film’s title, notwithstanding the two parties involved, is quite self-explanatory as to what one might expect from the plot going in. Placing us in a garrison between the two eternally fighting races of humans and orcs, Warcraft forces us through a standard armada of bi-racial RPG class tropes’ journeys to save their worlds from the likes of one another.
We’ve got our obnoxiously big sword- and shield-wielding warrior class, embodied in the character of Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a gallant, bulky armored clad knight who loyally defends his king and sibling queen. You’ve watched Vikings right? Well essentially, his one-trick pony Ragnar Lothbrok style of acting is melded into a fantasy narrative as opposed to a historical one to some overly familiar results.
Add in our thief cliché character, Lothar’s awkward, hybrid orc-ish romantic interest, Garona (Paula Patton), who creates for some fake lovey-dovey subplots that make an elementary school note-passer look like Don Quixote in comparison. Throw in her fledgling English and her mildly speech-impeding Dracula fangs, and she easily became the single most annoying character in the film. Which is saying a lot.
And then there’s the abracadabra-uttering mage characters Medivh (Ben Foster) and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), who’s magical, er, Richard-measuring contest and contrasting personalities, create for some of the more interesting moments in the film. Which isn’t saying a lot.
On the opposing side, we’re treated to the gorgeously animated horde of antagonists, the orcs. Their skeletal armor, large (and oddly pierced?) protruding tusks, and steroidal frames are jaw dropping.
Complementing the eye candy is their hoarse, deep and resonating dialogue, along with their core rattling roars. Our main orcish, warrior protagonist, Durotan (voiced by Toby Kebbel), is altruistic and wholly willing to go unspeakable lengths to save his people, which masks his beastly exterior and makes him feel relatedly human. In complete opposition, Gul’dan (voiced by Daniel Wu), the token warlock character, is the expropriator of life itself, forcing his prisoners to relinquish their vitality in order to power his destructive fel magic. Although his dialogue is mostly derivative villain talk, the mere idea and image of his character almost makes up for it. Almost.
The film’s only other redeeming factors is its memorably crafted environments, from the fly-ridden swamps, to life-cluttered villages and towering gothic castles, the world of Azeroth has failed to look this breathtaking in any of the iterations of the game.
Yet pretty graphics and one solid character do not suffice for a story that fails to accommodate both of them well, and as a result, Warcraft just ends up feeling like any old side quest in an RPG. Useless to the lore at large, needlessly long, hard to get through, and with far too much travelling in between, without the option to fast track. I sadly have to renounce my faith in the possibility of a good video game film being released by giving Warcraft a 4.5 out of 10.