Warcraft

Posted by Joel Copling on May 17, 2016


Reader, perhaps I am not the person to review this film. I have played not a single level or frame of the computer game series on which "Warcraft" is based, nor have I read the novels that said series spawned or, naturally, been involved in any trading of or transaction involving the subsequent collectible cards, digital or otherwise. I have only the film to judge, separate from the considerable fan base who might be predisposed to embrace its nearly unintelligble storytelling. I do admittedly have less faith that they'll be able to ignore the film's other considerable failures, such as the inability by the screenplay (written by Charles Leavitt and director Duncan Jones) to engage an audience emotionally or on the movie's part to offer more than one performance that isn't almost entirely expressionless.

The plot both matters terribly and not at all. What I gather from the mishmash of fantasy cliches that coalesce into something resembling a narrative, the humans and the orcs are a race apart. The former are on the brink of war. Their world is known as Azeroth, a place of blandly diverse locations and various supernatural abilities among its people. Our principal protagonist is Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel--or possibly some other blond-haired, white actor, such as Garrett Hedlund or Charlie Hunnam, but who knows?), a knight whose sister Taria (Ruth Negga) is queen to the king of Azeroth Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper). There isn't much to the world of humans, admittedly, but there is an offset of mages, chief among them Medivh (Ben Foster) and the self-made outcast Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer).

The conflict is introduced when the orcs, the other race (or, one guesses, species) central to the games, from whose own world of Draenor they have fled to find peace in another one (Is it across a portal or a river? Who knows, really). There is Durotan (Toby Kebbell), a chieftain among the orc's primitive military forces whose wife Draka (Anna Galvin, who offers the aforementioned performance approaching something like gravitas) has just given illegal birth to their son. Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), a villain whose intimidating features including a heavily battle-scarred face and green-glowing eyes, immediately deems the child a future warrior in the realm. When an ancient magic known as the Fel revisits itself upon both worlds (without being explained what, exactly, it does or to what degree it matters), Lothar and Durotan must unite, with the help of an enslaved human/orc hybrid known as Garona (Paula Patton), to engage in a different kind of war.

There might be the potential for this material to work on a cinematic basis. Indeed, the source material is intriguing enough that the thought of such a universe belonging to a successful brand is promising. Jones calls upon his crew to deliver visual dazzlement and succeeds by about a quarter: The visual effects are competent and detailed, if garish, and the motion-capture work done on the actors playing the orcs (especially Wu's main heavy) is impressively executed. Unfortunately for the director and his co-screenwriter, there is nothing involving established on an emotional or intellectual level. The plot runs in circles before offering the inevitable "twist" that can be foreseen from a mile off, and then it shoves two of the characters into physical combat with a giant rock beast. That kind of sums up "Warcraft" better than any review could. This is indicative only of the worst kind of blockbuster filmmaking.

Film Information


Travis Fimmel (Sir Anduin Lothar), Paula Patton (Garona Halforcen), Ben Foster (Medivh), Dominic Cooper (King Llane Wrynn), Toby Kebbell (Durotan), Ben Schnetzer (Khadgar), Robert Kazinsky (Orgrim Doomhammer), Daniel Wu (Gul'dan), Ruth Negga (Lady Taria Wrynn), Anna Galvin (Draka), Clancy Brown (Blackhand), Terry Notary (Grommash Hellscream), Dylan Schombing (Prince Varian Wrynn), Callum Keith Rennie (Moroes), Burkely Duffield (Callan), Dean Redman (Varis).

Directed by Duncan Jones and written by Jones and Charles Leavitt.

Rated PG-13 (extended intense fantasy violence).

123 minutes.

Released on June 10, 2016.