REVIEW: Warcraft: The Beginning
Travis Fimmel, Toby Kebbell, Dominic Cooper, Paula Patton
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…an overstuffed script kills any real sense of adventure or narrative flow.
Do a quick google search on “Warcraft movie” and you’ll see dozens, if not hundreds, of scathing reviews, snarky opinion pieces, and lazy comparisons to that blazing cinematic diaper pile, Battlefield Earth. The good news is that this comparison isn’t even vaguely apt, as Warcraft is leagues better than that baffling John Travolta-starring stinker from 2000. The bad news, however, is that for all its good intentions, Warcraft is still a bit of a mess.
Optimistically titled Warcraft: The Beginning, the story tells of humankind’s first interaction with the race of Orcs. The Orc homeworld, Draenor, is dying, and glowing eyed, magic orc Hitler, Gul’dan (Daniel Wu), is leading the Horde into the peaceful world of Azeroth through a portal powered by the Fel, a kind of soul-sucking death magic. Interestingly, we start the movie with orc chieftain of the Frostwolf clan, Durotan (Toby Kebbell), who is clearly having doubts about his mission. Durotan is easily the most sympathetic and interesting character in Warcraft: a refugee with a pregnant mate who just wants to find a home for his family. This promising opening is soon squandered, however, when the action cuts to the humans.
The human stories involve Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), a dishy knight who serves King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper). As the orc threat becomes apparent, they need to recruit the services of mage-who-looks-like-a-shonky-weed-dealer, Medivh (Ben Foster). Add to this a half Orc/half human character, Garona (Paula Patton), and Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), a young mage on a secret quest, and you’ve got a full slate of confused subplots, leaden expository dialogue, and a dizzying amount of lore to take in. In trying to pay sufficient homage to Blizzard Entertainment’s 22-year-old game franchise, director, Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), has simply bitten off more than he can chew. It’s a pity too, because the Orc characters and story is sporadically interesting and imbued with an unlikely amount of pathos, given the strange and cartoony appearance of the Orcs themselves.
For all its (many) flaws, however, Warcraft at least attempts to tell a story and convey emotion. It’s stymied by a number of fairly bad casting choices; Paula Patton in particular is never convincing, and an overstuffed script kills any real sense of adventure or narrative flow. However, it should be noted: the hundreds of Warcraft fans attending the preview screening whooped, cheered and chanted along with the action on screen, so perhaps this film is simply a (very expensive) niche effort. For the Warcraft faithful, this is likely a treat: a big budget, lovingly crafted homage to the games that they’ve spent hundreds of hours playing, replete with bulk fan-service and in-jokes. For the rest of us, however, Warcraft often feels like an overlong, albeit pretty, unskippable cut scene.