Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring: Toby Kebbell, Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Schnetzer, Dominic Cooper
“Warcraft” is a lot like Rudy and by that I mean the character from the film “Rudy.”
You kind of admire its toughness and resiliency and effort to be great but at the end of the day it feels horribly outmatched, out of place and out of its element in big Hollywood Blockbuster world.
(Easily comparable to Leeroy Jenkins as well in this case…)
Its poorly paced editing, unrefined script and over pandering fan service are all irritating but there is juuussst enough to love to not hate this movie if you’re a fan of the lore behind the famous video game.
That said any non-fans need not apply as the film heavily caters to those who already know the story and leaves anyone who is unfamiliar with it fumbling through the narrative. And even if you are a fan it is still a tough one to follow.
“Warcraft” loosely plays along the storyline of the first game, while combining some elements of the second, as the evil orc warlock Gul’Dan leads the orcish Horde through the dark portal from their dying planet of Draenor to conquer the human world of Azeroth. Frost Wolf Chieftain Durotan feels that Gul’Dan’s magic is coming from a dark place and is the reason behind the desolation of Draenor (wha gave it aways? His evil voice or evil green glowing eyes? Or maybe the demon horns coming out of his back?). Meanwhile, human military commander Anduin Lothar catches wind of these orcs invading their lands and leads his forces to protect his people. But the two respective leaders wish to avoid bloodshed as much as possible and now the two must work together to make it happen.
Visually speaking, I don’t think we could have asked for a better big screen adaptation of the characters and the world of Warcraft. Careful and meticulous detail has clearly been put into the design of each setting, weapon, armor and character and it’s often times breathtaking. The choice color palette and fine details to each characters’ appearance is astonishing and it can’t really be understood how detailed it is until you see it on the big screen.
The orcs are easily the crown jewel of the film’s special effects display and it’s amazing how real they look and it’s not an exaggeration. Subtle skin imperfections, hooks and piercings, movements of the mouth and other body parts never break the suspension of disbelief while watching the film.
(I mean just stare deeply into those deep, dark, beautiful eyes of his and tell me you don’t know love!)
Toby Kebbell, who’s had motion capture experience playing the villain role in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” plays the orc character Durotan to perfection through this technology and creates a character that feels organic and real. Other orc character actors such as Daniel Wu who hams it up as Gul’dan, Robert Kazinsky as Ogrim Doomhammer and of course the immortal Clancy Brown who seems like he was born to play a character like Blackhand truly bring these brutish characters to life.
(Clancy Brown has definitely had practice playing big evil assholes in the past)
The story is easily best though when it’s focusing on these orc characters and it’s not just because I’m an unapologetic Horde guy. (#Horde4Lyfe)
Durotan is an interesting character, as anyone who reads the lore closely understands; he’s an outsider from chaos and brutality of the Horde who believes in peaceful resolutions to difficult problems. His relationship with Kazinsky’s Orgim Doomhammer is decently fleshed out and we see shades of a well-developed friendship over the years through these characters. This part of the narrative never strays too far from this center and it’s what keeps the viewer generally focused throughout the film. Doomhammer could’ve been developed a little better in the film, we never really see the badassery he’s known for in the games, but his relationship with Durotan helps keep it interesting.
Unfortunately this where the praise stops and the film spirals, at times, out of control.
Despite being made entirely in CGI and motion capture, the orcs feel more real than their human counterparts.
For one, director Duncan Jones can’t seem to decide on what accent the characters of Azeroth should be speaking with. Dominic Cooper’s King Llane speaks with a British accent, Ben Schnetzer’s Khad’gar and Ben Foster’s Medivh have American accents, and Travis Fimmel, who is an Australian actor, does his Lothar with his Norse accent from the show “Vikings.” It’s strange and takes viewers like myself out of the film constantly, not to mention Ruth Negga (an actress of Ethiopian decent in a very clear way) plays Lothar’s sister (a clearly Australian actor).
These are just the small things though that create a whirlwind of problems for the film.
Travis Fimmel, whom ardent “Vikings” fans like myself know as Ragnar Lothbrok, seems miscast as Anduin Lothar and doesn’t seem to know how to play him. He plays Lothar a lot like his Ragnar whom are two different characters. It’s a shame because “Vikings” fans know he’s a tremendously talented actor as he kills it every episode in that series but in this he feels out of place. If anything, the aloof and strangeness that Fimmel brings to the role of Ragnar would’ve made him a better Medivh.
Speaking of which, Ben Foster is an awful Medivh.
Chalk it up to artistic licensing or whatever but Medivh should be an older actor at the very least and the makeup and wig used to make Foster look more aged makes him look either like a bad Jesus cosplayer from Party City or a middle-aged Amish housewife. Take your pick.
(This is Medivh)
(This is not…)
Cooper’s King Llane too seems to be sleep walking throughout the film, Schnetzer’s Khadgar despite providing some mild comic relief feels like he belongs in Hogwarts more than on the battlefield of a blockbuster movie and Paula Patton’s Garona makeup looks cheap as if the budget ran out just as they got to her character design.
The film’s poor pacing and inability to show us the stakes of this human and orc confrontation helps none of this and creates one of the weakest (admittedly beautifully rendered) battle scenes in film history. We really never get to understand why the orcs left Draenor, we don’t really see much of the destruction they wrought upon the land and the clear narrative focus on paternal sides of Durotan and Lothar are not fleshed out terribly well.
It’s a shame that this side of the film dominates the better parts of it because the film does feel sincere in its approach and to its world building. But ultimately it falls flat because of poor pacing, miscast characters and an inability to tell a concrete story.
As a “Warcraft” fan it’s disappointing to see a talented director like Duncan Jones botch this, especially with the plethora of actors and big studio budget he had but unfortunately this is just another name on the ever growing list of video game film flops.
For what it’s worth, I don’t hate this film (certainly not as much as a couple other movies this year) and I hold out some tiny hope for the sequel but until then better luck next time, Blizzard…
2 out of 5
Guess who is up next, Ubisoft…