Warcraft: The Beginning is the film adaptation of the hugely popular World of Warcraft video game. Adapting video games to the cinema screen is usually a very dubious proposition as the elements that allow the game to function often don’t translate into an entertaining or even coherent film narrative. This, sadly, is the case with Warcraft: The Beginning a film that, remarkably, manages to be both silly and tedious.
The rudimentary fantasy premise of this film sees the troll-like race of Orcs, collectively known as the Horde, who are led by the nefarious warlord Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) invade the human world of Azeroth in a murderous quest for living space. Opposing Gul’dan are Azeroth King Llane (Dominic Cooper), his champion knight Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmell) and the suspiciously Jesus looking wizard Medivh (Ben Foster). As the two civilizations collide, one Orc, the noble and thoughtful Durotan (Toby Kebbell), seeks a way for Orcs and humans to co-exist.
This is a ridiculous lark that would have been entertaining had director Duncan Jones opted for a satirical Princess Bride-style approach. Instead, he takes the concept seriously meaning we’re subjected to endless scenes of the (entirely CGI) orcs – who look like enormous sabre-toothed steroid abusers – pontificating in ridiculous guttural voices about their warrior pride. It also sees most of the human characters spouting – in the now mandatory stiff, pompous British accent – incomprehensible (to the uninitiated) twaddle about magical realms and other World of Warcraft lore.
Like Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations, this film revolves largely around battle set pieces although here they’re mostly dull affairs. The main problem is that, despite their gigantic muscular frames and bad-ass attitudes, the Orcs are astonishingly inept in battle and tend to stand politely in front of their sword wielding human opponents waiting to be impaled. Consequently, the action scenes lack tension and excitement. Add to this jerky, fake-looking CGI that deprives the film and in particular the battle sequences of any visceral realism.
Jones also fails to create an interestingly weird or inventive fantasy world, it simply looks like a hybrid of other fantasy realms, particularly Middle Earth. It should be noted, however, that in a few scenes Jones makes good use of the IMAX and 3D formats to create impressive sweeping vistas of Azeroth and the orc realm. At times the film’s look and effects recall cheap 1980’s fantasy films like Krull and there’s a fleeting hope that it will transform into a spirited nostalgic pastiche of those movies but Jones doesn’t employ this aesthetic throughout the film so the cheaper looking effects just look weirdly incongruous.
Not only does Warcraft fail to fire as an action film but as a drama it’s a dismal slog with endless scenes of dull dialogue that drag the film out to an unbearable 123 minute running time. The film does improve slightly each time Travis Fimmell’s Anduin Lothar appears, Fimmell gives the character the dynamic physicality missing from the rest of the film as well as a dash of the roguishness we saw in Lord of the Rings’ Aragorn. Elsewhere, though, the characters are either boring or embarrassingly silly and none of them connect on an emotional level. Some of them, however, provide unintentional amusement. The evil Orc wizard Gul’dan, with his bald head and white beard, looks like a big green, muscly James Randi while shapely half-orc half-human double agent Garona (Paula Patton) gets around in a mini-skirt and has fangs that look like they’ve been plucked from a show bag.
There may be aspects of the World of Warcraft mythology that makes this film a more satisfying experience for the game’s acolytes but a film has to work as a piece of cinema independent of sources such as video games and this dull, rambling, ludicrous-looking and uninvolving film does not.
Nick’s rating: *1/2.
Genre: Fantasy/ action.
Director(s): Duncan Jones.
Release date: 16th June 2016.
Running time: 123 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show