The video game movie. From Angelina Jolie doing her best tight topped Indiana Jones impression, to Michael Fassbender doing his best medieval parkour impression, to Bob Hoskins doing his best career suicide impression, the genre has ever been the bastion of quality. With the help of David Bowie’s son and source material that’s a bit richer than plumbers stomping on turtles, Warcraft tries to succeed where others have failed. Does it? Do we give Mortal Kombat’s color swapped ninjas points for originality?
Warcraft is frustrating. A tale of a orcs trying to save their people the only way they know how (war) only to have to forge a fragile alliance with the humans whose land they have been conquering in order to stop something that threatens them all. Maybe not the most original stuff, but the story is there. And if there is one thing the Warcraft Universe does not hurt for, it’s lore (though this is based off of the first Warcraft strategy game, not the more popular World of Warcraft MMO). There are mages, warlocks, griffins, interdimensional portals and cities in the sky–all things that should fill you with excitement and wonder. But aside from a few moments, Warcraft fails to live up to the potential of its immense and fascinating world.
Take Stormwind for example, the teeming city where our human protagonists spend a good deal of their time planning their next moves. It looks like an interesting place to visit, and most fantasy and adventure flicks worth their salt would at least give us a few moments to experience what life in the city would be like. But Warcraft relegates our experience here to a few fly over shots and scenes in the throne room. How are we supposed to care about the plight of the humans if we don’t know how they live? The orcs at least get a better narrative treatment, as we see them struggling in the conditions they are trying to escape.
The plot is very disjointed, no doubt a product of the well documented production troubles. As someone who is vaguely familiar with the Warcraft universe mainly through the spinoff card game Hearthstone, I did not have much trouble figuring out who was who, but a bit more time could have been spent on some of the more important characters in the narrative. The acting ranges from tolerable to “please stop talking,” though Ben Foster does a pretty decent job hamming it up as the mage Medivh. The special effects are also all over the place, with the notable exception of the main orcs, which is good considering how much screen time they get. The exception to the exception is the CGI job on Guld’an, but his voice work was also shit, so they either ran out of money or just didn’t give a damn at that point. Shame, considering he has the insignificant role of being the main antagonist.
Warcraft reminds me in a lot of ways of the Star Wars prequels, a decent base idea that is unsuccessful in the execution. But while those films only squandered the good will George Lucas had built up, Warcraft has no such luxury. Warcraft may not be fit for a murloc, but given the possibilities, I hope they give the world another, more capable attempt. The Alliance (and Horde) deserve it. And if you understood none of those words, save yourself and go see a Star War, I hear they are pretty good.