Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, Daniel Wu
Release Date: June 10th, 2016
For those who aren’t familiar with the video game Warcraft, ask the new cinematic adaptation probably isn’t for you. This is a feature made for the long-term fans of the game and a bit alienating to those — like myself — who don’t know the game well. Although the feature offers some solid visual effects and a few strong moments, the feature drags on for too long and never offers a strong enough story to keep viewers enthralled.
Durotan (Toby Kebbell), one of the lead characters here, is an orc whose world is being destroyed. In order to save his people, he allies himself with the mysterious Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), a fellow orc with magical powers who helps save Durotan’s stillborn child. Gul’dan’s powers derive from a ‘fel’ mystical force that grants him the ability to open a door into nearby worlds.
Gul’dan’s plan for survival calls for the orc takeover of Azeroth, a land where humans currently hold power. The orcs begin invading the peaceful land, where they face off against a human army. Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), one of the human military leaders, takes command and attempts to stop the orc invasion.
Lothar teams up with a mage — who operates like a magician/sorcerer —named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) and an ancient sorcerer named Medivh (Ben Foster) to prevent the orc army from advancing.
Director Duncan Jones, who previously helmed Moon (2009) and Source Code (2011), attempts to build a visually captivating world here and mostly succeeds. His work brings the dueling civilizations to life and his depiction of the large and the commanding orc army stands out as a distinct achievement. Fans of the games will be pleased that Jones honors the source material while building upon it.
The filmmakers’ far more difficult task though was crafting a feature-length story that would appeal to viewers. That’s the task the filmmakers faltered at.
The script by Charles Leavitt and Jones does little in really building up the myriad characters here or creating a captivating story. Unlike the brilliant fantasy world of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series or even the breathtaking television show Game of Thrones, this script does little to create memorable characters here.
The visuals might be strong but they aren’t enough to keep viewers interested for a sluggish two hour and three minute running time.
There are admittedly a few solid relationships established but unfortunately, they are given short shrift. Two of them stand out above the rest. The relationship between Durotan and his love Draka (Anna Galvin) strongly provides a familial grounding for some of the proceedings. The couple’s conversations help establish Durotan’s noble goals and honorable personality. Also, the relationship between Lothar and his son Callan (Burkely Duffield) sets up an interesting dynamic during the raging battles. The father wants to protect his son while the son wants to serve honorably in the military.
The other relationships aren’t as interesting though. Nor is the story, which never really adds anything to the genre. Even Garon (Paula Patton), a half-orc who works alongside the humans, doesn’t receive enough time to create a strong character, despite Patton’s best efforts. King Llane (Dominic Cooper) suffers a similar fate. Both actors deserved better than this.
Warcraft will likely be remembered for its solid visuals but this cinematic adaptation never does enough to build a story to stand out. Video game fans may be pleased but others should steer clear.
Review by: John Hanlon