DIR: Duncan Jones • WRI: Duncan Jones, Charles Leavitt • PRO: Stuart Fenegan, Alex Gartner, Jon Jashni, Charles Roven, Thomas Tull • DOP: Simon Duggan • ED: Paul Hirsch • MUS: Ramin Djawadi • DES: Gavin Bocquet • CAST: Dominic Cooper, Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Robert Kazinsky, Ruth Negga, Ben Schnetzer, Tony Kebbell, Daniel Wu
Surprising no one, the World of Warcraft film is a pile of crap. Even diehard fans of the popular role-playing game, of which admittedly I am not one, will be left cold by this exceptionally clunky and boring adaptation. Frankly, the film has a distinct ‘straight-to-DVD’ flavour to it, with its terrible acting and special effects that are more akin to a video game cutaway scene rather than a feature length picture. While there is no doubt that director Duncan Jones took on this project with nothing but love and good intentions for the original source material, the product is an unsatisfying watch that mistakenly equates fan-service with good storytelling.
As convoluted as it is tedious, our story takes place in the magical realm of Azeroth, ruled by the beloved King Llane (Cooper). Peace and prosperity have been the status quo for many years but the sudden and violent arrival of the Orcs, a race from another dimension, threatens to destroy everything unless their diabolical leader, Gul’dan (Wu), is stopped. Durotan (Kebbell), chief of the Frostwolf clan and an orc with a conscience thereby making him the only somewhat interesting character in this entire mess of a film, is troubled by these developments and seeks to work with humans to ensure a better future for both their races. There’s also a whole host of human characters, a mage, and a half-Orc, half-human hybrid, but, seeing as the scriptwriters put no effort into developing these two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, I’m not going to waste your or my time explaining them either.
Like a poor man’s Lord of the Rings, the film jumps around to a number of various, cheap looking locations as our heroes try to discover the source behind Gul’dan’s magical powers. But, it turns out the evil they are seeking to destroy may be closer to them than they think and blah, blah, blah, you get the gist.
The acting in this film ranges from decent (Kebbell and Patton) to downright terrible (Fimmel, Schnetzer and everyone else, basically). But, to be fair to the actors, they were not given much to work with. The dialogue reaches levels of cheese that even a four-cheese pizza with a cheese-filled crust could only aspire to; rather than drawing the audience into the world of the film, it merely provokes mass eye-rolling. There are also moments throughout the film where the dialogue sounds muffled, sometime barely comprehensible, suggesting that some more audio work was needed in post-production. A strange oversight, really, considering the film’s sizeable enough budget. Another major problem that the film faces is its erratic pacing. Practically no time is devoted to building the mythology of the WOW universe, leaving those unfamiliar with the franchise struggling to grasp who is who, and what is what.
Moments that should be of emotional or narrative significance are glossed over so quickly that the audience is left feeling somewhat detached from everything happening on screen. If there is one element of the film that works well, however, it is the design and rendering of the orc characters. They have a tangibility missing from the rest of the film’s special effects and, with their skeleton armour and huge tusks, look genuinely menacing when stomping towards their opponents. Alas, this small successful element is not enough to redeem the film’s gargantuan problems.
Overall, Warcraft has more in common with a high-budget fan film than a professional work of cinema; it will satisfy those who merely wanted to see their beloved characters brought to life on screen, but even they will not be able to argue that the film resembles anything close to good.
Duncan Jones is a talented director but sadly he has dropped the ball with this monstrous flick, perhaps too fond of the source material to realise that it would not translate well onto the big screen.
Give this film a miss, there are better ways and better films to invest your time in.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Warcraft: The Beginning is released 30th May 2016