Looking to escape from his dying world, the orc shaman Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) utilizes dark magic to open a portal to the human realm of Azeroth. Supported by the fierce fighter Blackhand (Clancy Brown), Gul’dan organizes the orc clans into a conquering army called the Horde. Uniting to protect Azeroth from these hulking invaders are King Llane (Dominic Cooper), the mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh (Ben Foster). As the two races collide, leaders from each side start to question if war is the only answer.
With Summer comes big films and now we have another one with Warcraft. Unlike most big Summer releases, this was not on my list of most anticipated films of 2016. The reason for that is that I wasn’t particularly the most excited about this because I wasn’t that big a fan of the video game series in which this is based. Most films based on video games have not fared very well but I did like the fact that the trailers did have some Lord of the Rings vibes so I was expecting something along those lines.
For a film based on a video game series, those who are not intimately aware of it (those like me) may be lost here as it does not go easy on newcomers. Some may spend a bulk of the film trying to acquaint themselves with the characters and the world if they actually bother to care but for this film, it just felt like a lot of exposition. If this film does well, and it’s too early to tell, the series might explore these superfluous areas. There’s a lot going on within the film’s universe but we only really have to concern ourselves with the humans of Azeroth and the orcs.
With the orc world dying, the orc shaman Gul’dan (Wu) creates a portal to the human realm of Azeroth and brings an army of orc clans with him. In order to protect the kingdom form these new invaders, King Llane (Cooper) must call upon his mighty warrior Anduin Lothar (Fimmel) and the powerful wizard Medivh (Foster). As both races go to battle, each side begin to question whether or not war is the answer. This whole debate brought upon a surprising amount of political stuff as the chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), was left wondering whether Gul’dan was indeed their rightful leader. This debate took up a lot of the plot as Durotan’s doubt in Gul’dan was one of the main reasons for him and his clan’s alignment with the humans. Of course as this developed, we got to spend some time with him and his growing family. All of this was okay but for the most part, it was kind of hard to care too much for a CGI character.
What also didn’t help was because all the subplots the film had to juggle here, we weren’t given much of a chance to create a connection with any of the characters. It just felt like some of these subplots, especially the whole orc arc, could have been films all to themselves. Because of this, characters felt shallow and underdeveloped. Further films could solve this but that’s no excuse as there is no guarantee of future films. It was just really hard to care about any of the characters here since they were all very dull. Pacing problems aside, the actors did a great job at committing to world here but it was hard to take a lot of them seriously when a lot of the dialogue was on the cheesy side with some performances being cheesier than others.
The one thing the film did a great job with is the special effects. Of course, a world as ambitious as this could not be depicted by traditional means so there was a lot of CGI here. There was a fair amount of it but it never felt distracting. The world was very lush, vibrant, and colorful and the effects were very well done. The only real problems were the motion capture on the orcs and magic animations which consisted of a lot of blue light. Sometimes it was hard to tell when the orcs were talking because you couldn’t always see their mouths moving and the fighting animations weren’t the most exciting. In a film that looked like it would have a lot of battle scenes, it still did but they were mostly disappointing. They were few but they were big, perhaps too big, but they were not very exciting.
The actors did a great job at committing to the world but this did not improve their performances as no one really stood out here with the bulk of them ranging from bad to okay. Fimmel and Cooper were okay as Lothar and Llane respectively but weren’t overly memorable and Foster and Ben Schnetzer as Khadgar were on the bad side. Foster as Medivh just felt odd here as a great wizard and Schnetzer as Khadgar was just bad as the apprentice wizard who was over his head.
Overall, while a beautiful film to look at, some may have difficulty turning their brains off to tolerate the messy plot and the questionable performances.