Warcraft Is Better Than Expected. But Is That A Good Thing?
Director: Duncan Jones.
Writers: Charles Leavitt and Duncan Jones.
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, and Daniel Wu.
I’ll give it to the filmmakers of Warcraft: They tried hard to make this video game film adaptation as mainstream as they could.
The odds were certainly stacked against them. Unless you physically played World of Warcraft, the online multi-player role-playing game, you more than likely just glossed over this film’s marketing and identified it as some nerd adaptation. Me? I dabbled in WOW for one afternoon, which was enough time to understand the fascination of the game and to realize that I neither had the time nor energy to reach the good, fun fighting parts of it.
With video games now a $61 billion annual industry, Warcraft‘s filmmakers could’ve very easily made a film that sidestepped the nonplayers and casual fans like me alike with their adaptation, completely disregarding any other fantasy movie fan in the process. Thankfully, though, they instead tried to create a more user-friendly movie any fantasy lover could enjoy.
So: Is this the next Lord of the Rings? Far from it. But Warcraft is definitely not as bad as it could have been.
The plot revels in some familiar fantasy realms. With the Orc race’s world is dying, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) convinces his kind to travel through a magic portal to Aezorth, the lush world where the humans live. Gul’dan is using an ancient and extremely dangerous form of dark magic called the Fel to do this; the trick with this stuff is that the more you use it, the more corrupt you could become. Durotan (Toby Kebbell), one of the Orc leaders, gets this and is in turn both unsure of the plan and concerned for his people. Once in the human world, the Orcs are met with resistance from King Llane (Dominic Cooper) and his leader warrior Sir Anduin (Travis Fimmel). Mixed in with the boys along the way is Ganora (Paula Patton), an Orc slave turned human ally.
This film could have been a basic bad-guy-versus-good-guy story, but director Duncan Jones revamped the script to give the Orcs better arcs as characters. Durotan is the most dynamic character in the film: He struggles to balance his morals with his duty as an Orc; he wants to save his clan, but he doesn’t agree with the method. There’s real weight to the Orc storyline as a result. It helps too that Patton is also fantastic as Ganora — she’s fierce but is underused in the fight sequences.
The story isn’t complicated. It’s your basic defending-your-homeland-against-invaders plot. Honestly, that was a smart call. Since this world is rich and dense to people who are not familiar with the game, having a complicated plot would lose the audience.
Still, it’s a heavy film — probably the heaviest fantasy film since Lord of the Rings, which I’m sure scares a lot of people. Unlike Lord of the Rings, though, Warcraft doesn’t have the dense characters or heart needed to push it over the top and into winning territory. The humans are one-note and rather boring; even when the story tries to give them motivation or emotional moments, they fall rather flat.
On the plus side, the action and graphics look cohesive and realistic. Most of this world is CGI, but it all still feels like it has weight to it. The 3-D isn’t worth the extra money, though. It doesn’t add to the visuals.
Sadly, I doubt that Warcraft will draw a lot of outsiders into this community. That’s a bit of a shame. This film is hardly great, but it definitely isn’t bad. If you enjoy fantasy films, you’ll be entertained.
Just don’t go in expecting any Leeroy Jenkins cameos. Unfortunately, he does not make an appearance.