The world of Warcraft is a massive one. The franchise started out as a real-time strategy (RTS) game back in 1994, and spawned not just another two RTS games, but also World Of Warcraft (WOW) – the hugely popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that boasted more than 12 million players at its peak. And we haven’t even gotten to the scores of merchandise, novels, toys, card games and other Warcraft tie-ins out there. Heck, there was even a South Park episode called Make Love, Not Warcraft that actually won an Emmy award.
The point is, the fact that Duncan Jones even managed to make a movie based on such a sprawling franchise with millions of characters is already a commendable feat.
Never mind that Warcraft: The Beginning is a pretty uneven affair with way too many main characters and a rather flimsy plot – if you’re a fan of the video games, you’ll probably like this.
Speaking of the flimsy plot, the story is actually quite faithful to the one in the video games. The orcs come through a portal from their dying homeworld into Azeroth, led by a sinister warlock named Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) and orc war chieftain Blackhand (Clancy Brown). Gul’dan wields a foul magic called The Fell, which sucks the life-force from living things, and he plans to use it to open the portal for the orc horde to come through and conquer Azeroth.
Of course, the denizens of Azeroth, ruled by King Llane (Dominic Cooper), aren’t going just roll over and let the Horde hoard everything. Led by heroic commander Lord Lothar (Travis Fimmel), the powerful Guardian Medivh (Ben Foster), and apprentice mage Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), they seek to take the fight to the orcs.
They get some unexpected help from the half-orc assassin Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton) and the noble Durotan (Toby Kebbell), chieftain of the Frostwolf Clan, who seeks an alliance with the humans to bring an end to Gul’dan’s tyranny.
As far as plots go, it’s in keeping with the usual fantasy film tropes of humans versus monsters, with powerful mages tossing about lightning bolts willy-nilly (and in a particularly pleasing homage to the game, turning people into sheep), powerful warriors exchanging blows, and of course, an all-out battle between armies. It goes to show that video game plots usually don’t translate well to live-action films.
Action-wise, there is little to complain about though. While some of the bigger battles tend to be a bit numbing at times, it is the smaller action sequences – one particular one-on-one fight between two orcs, for instance – that work better, as Jones is able to put a bit more creativity into them, as opposed to the violent monotony of the bigger battle scenes.
By the end of it all, however, you get the feeling that Jones was a little overwhelmed by the sheer massiveness of the Warcraft world. While he tries gamely to stay faithful to the backstories of the main characters and also sets up future instalments of the franchsie, there is a sense that this could have been a much, much better movie if he had not been so adamant on being faithful to the game.
Still, as far as video game adaptations go, this isn’t a complete disaster. If you’re a fan of Warcraft, you’ll probably like it. Personally, I was always more of a fan of the RTS more than the RPG, so I was quite disappointed not to hear at least one “zug zug” in the dialogue. Still, as the peons in the game would say: “JOB’S DONE.”
Warcraft: The Beginning
Director: Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Robert Kazinsky, Daniel Wu, and a sheep called One Take Charlie