Duncan Jones tries to deliver the next epic fantasy that he and Universal Studios hope to turn into a franchise, but unfortunately Warcraft fails at being a good movie. First and foremost though, the movie is entertaining in some moments; although it struggles in many aspects. These problems far out shadow what the film actually does well and I couldn’t help but feel like they should have kept the film in the oven for a couple more years.
Warcraft is the equivalent of someone jumping into the most recent Game of Thrones episode without any prior knowledge of the story or characters. In other words, if you aren’t a fan of the of the lore already, the movie does nothing to make new audiences feel comfortable in the world it’s so desperately trying to build.
Before I get into all the bad stuff in Warcraft, let’s go over what actually works in the movie. SPOILERS AHEAD. The movie revolves around an orc shaman named Gul’dan looking to escape his dying world by utilizing dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. He also brings along many followers from different orc clans, including the conquering army called the Horde. Uniting to protect Azeroth from this new threat are King Llane, the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar and the powerful wizard Medivh.
The plot is pretty basic, but there is a subplot that revolves around Durotan, a member of the Horde that believes that following Gul’dan isn’t what his people should do. After all, the orc shaman is the one who made your world uninhabitable in the first place. So Durotan and close members of his clan set out to plead and help the human realm rid Azeroth of the new threat and stop Gul’dan from bringing the rest of the horde through a portal. Anything involving Toby Kebbell’s Durotan was very engaging and at time emotional. This character wants to do the right thing and protect his wife and newly born son, along with his clan. I like the arc as a whole and I even thought its conclusion was actually surprising.
I also enjoyed the main villain in the movie called Gul’dan. He was appropriately sinister and he looked freaking awesome. His intentions were sort of clear, though he is clearly just a bad soul looking to wreak havoc and have followers. Speaking of things looking cool, Warcraft boast some great visuals. Whenever the horde is one the screen fighting, it looks fantastic. Creatures and vistas look great too. The film certainly has the look of a huge budget film.
Last but not least is the action. It was surprisingly brutal for a PG-13 flick. You hear bones being crushed and blood bursting from wounds. They show a good amount of combat in the film, a stand out being an ambush taking place about halfway through the movie. I’m a sucker for swords and shields, Warcraft gladly gives the goods.
So with all the things I liked about the film, there bad things that branch from them. First off, the filmmakers did little to no set up with the world of Azeroth. They just drop you in and refer to things that you have no idea about. These include historic events, past relationships, characters, places, and things. I totally respect them going all in by creating a fully fleshed out world, which you get, they just do a horrendous job at getting you familiar with most of the world. Characters say lines that promote history between characters, but feel out of place because there’s no weight to anything being said. The movie also just flops you into a scene, I felt like I missed something. They should have definitely did a prologue type scene like another certain fantasy film did(wink,wink), it certainly could have gave us a brief history of Azeroth and add levity to the film.
Yes, the CGI is good for the most part and Warcraft boast some impressive visuals at times. BUT. A huge BUT. Some scenes feature all CGI orcs and environments, I was almost sure I was watching a trailer for the next expansion, not a feature length film. It made me roll my eyes and I actually said to a friend that the recently released Uncharted 4 looked better than some scenes in this movie. Yes, I went there.
The biggest problem with Warcraft has to be it’s characters. Aside from the orc cast, every human character felt severely miscast. Dominic Cooper’s performance felt like he had just been crowned king the day before the movie started and he was a bit shy about the prospect. Travis Fimmel felt like your run of the mill action hero and a want to be Aragorn (he did settle into the role though, but far too late). Paula Patton’s character looked absolutely stupid, whoever made that look should look for another job. Her character Garona is also in a lot of the movie and does much of nothing. She wasn’t likeable and did nothing the whole movie. She felt thrown in just to be a love interest. Ben Schnetzer played a young warlock who seems to be there just to move the plot along, he is horrible in the movie though. The actress who plays the queen just seemed grateful to be there. Finally and sadly, Ben Foster is done a disgrace by this script even making it into his hands.
Ben Foster is one of the best actors working today and he totally felt out of place. His character was the worse thing about the movie and practically didn’t even do anything important in the entire thing. If fact, anything having to do with the warlock characters was very cheesy and gave the film a straight to VOD vive. That and the all to cosplay looking costumes worn by most of the live action cast.