Warcraft: The Beginning (12A)
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer & Daniel Wu
Running time: 123 mins
Warcraft takes place in the land of Azeroth, a peaceful world inhabited by humans until an army of orcs invade from their dying world Draenor through a magically powered gate. Led by the power mad mage Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) the orcs begin attacking human inhabitants, capturing them to use them to power a larger gate and bring through the rest of their kind.
Outnumbered, Anduin Lothar (Fimmel), commander of the armies of Stormwind, learns of hope from a captured half-orc named Garona (Paula Patton) who tells him of a leader among the orcs named Durotan (Toby Kebbell) that seeks their help to overthrow Gul’dan, and lead the orcs in peace.
Fantasy is perhaps the hardest movie genre to make successfully. The main problem that you face is due to the typical elements of the genre which often includes things like magic, huge beasts like trolls or dragons, and largely the difficulty of establishing a completely different world, all condensed into around two hours of running time.
In recent years the only films to have any real success with the genre were the Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit movies as directed by Peter Jackson. On television there is Game Of Thrones, which has the luxury of multiple hours to take time and setup the world in which it takes place. Now Moon and Source Code director Duncan Jones has accepted the challenge of not only the fantasy genre, but has also taken on the often impossible video game adaptation.
Warcraft is based on the Blizzard MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game, don’t you know), and while there are references to elements of the game, you do not need to be a player of the game to understand and follow the movie, which stands alone in its own right.
The above paragraphs explaining the story may read like a mix of gobbledigook, but this gives a perfect example of the difficulties inherent in the genre alone. It’s a huge hurdle that often handicaps fantasy movies right out of the gate before they have even started, and it’s true that Warcraft is no different when it comes to suffering from this issue. The scale of the movie means it is dependent on a large amount of effects to create the world early on, which requires a suspension of disbelief that, at times, is tested to breaking point.
Yet, while the movie has that scale, it fortunately does not overwhelm the story/plotting or the well handled action set-pieces. Perhaps most importantly what writers Charles Leavitt & Chris Metzen and Duncan Jones have focused on is character, with both sides of the conflict having their own reasons for their actions – specifically with an emphasis on family and one’s own family having a future.
This is done with small beats between the characters that feel natural and surprisingly un-forced, allowing the viewer to connect with said characters and in turn engage with the story. There are some moments where this does slip up the pacing of the movie but it’s never to the level that the audience completely loses interest in the narrative’s progress.
For the majority, cast performances are good enough to service this, even the likes of the orc characters, which are fully computer generated characters based off of motion captured performances similar to those seen in James Cameron’s Avatar. Even their appearance with disproportionately sized bodies and features such as tusks protruding from their mouths quickly cease to be an issue thanks to the level of work that has gone into both the performances and the effects.
Warcraft is not a perfect movie, and will likely not win over those who have no interest in the fantasy genre, but it is a fully serviceable and entertaining two hours that has this reviewer hoping it does well enough to earn the further two movies in its trilogy that it is no doubt intended to start up. One to see on the big screen if you like the look of it.
3 out of 5 nerds.