Movies based on a video game franchise have so far been Hollywood’s hardest nut to crack. They keep trying, but over many years have released one disappointment after another. But can the might of Blizzard bring an end to that with their transition of the World of Warcraft games to the big screen?
To keep the synopsis short, the Orcs led by the warlord Gul’dan, have found a means to leave their ruined and broken world, by using a portal to travel to the world where humans reside. But the humans are fearful of the new race, and what it might mean for their own world. Through the aid of both humans and orcs alike, the deadly powers behind Gal’dan are shown to be a great threat to all, but not the only side of villainy.
I’ll admit that I’m one of those people who has never laid a mouse cursor over a WoW game before, and so went into this as cold as you can for a film. Hence why the synopsis isn’t all that detailed, since when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, the story design is quite simple. In the same way that the design for many Fantasy flicks is. But like those too, the details are in the development of the lore and structure of the world(s), and from the start it was that aspect which caught my attention. It has been quite a while since Hollywood has taken on a full-on Fantasy story, and I’m kind of a sucker for those.
Blizzard partnered with Universal Pictures for this project, and their combined effort gives some nice design aesthetics. Everything to do with the Orc clans are by far the most interesting aspects going on here, their plot of escaping a dying world with the help of a nefarious warlord is kind of cool. There’s no denying that they are warring murderers, but you at least see their intentions and reasons behind what they have to do. Clan leader Durotan (Toby Kebbell) puts in a nice performance that doesn’t feel tired or cliche, in fact, his arc is what kept my interest in the overall story going.
To go alongside that, the CG work here is impressive, leaning towards a dark visual style, but grounded enough to make it feel like a living and breathing world. The Orcs looks excellent, as do the backgrounds and the majority of the locations. I can only take a stab at a guess and say that it is quite faithful to the original material, or at least, it feels like the time was put in to give that result. It isn’t all a dark or brooding tone in the visuals either – there’s plenty of variety going on, which mainly shows itself between the bright landscapes of the human’s world, and the results of the dark magic following the Orcs.
I wish I could be saying the same for the story parts dealing with the humans though. What sticks out the most is that so many of the character types are cliche for this genre – the clumsy hero, the strong leader, the all-powerful who sees all, and so on. The writing feels very stilted and attempts at comedy are flat. I can’t say it is all particularly bad – but not good enough to merit praise either. The primary human charactrs are quite forgettable, and their development of the plot seems to always be secondary to the Orcs, except in the final act.
And here is where things began to slide for me, because you have two areas which are opposites in entertainment and quality. One side works to push the narrative along and give some meat to the story line, the other almost tags along because it has to. Because they have to meet in the middle for the finale, but both get there on paths of very varying levels of enjoyment. It was a let down to see this take shape over the running time.
I can say a few other good bits at least – it has a main theme score which is recognisable and not the usual ineligible mash of notes. There’s enough here to merit a sequel that can take it in a good direction. And as I said before, the quality in the visuals is primarily good, helping to immerse you in the fantasy world.
“Warcraft” is sadly not the saviour of adaptations of video games. They had the right material, the right initial designs, and the right aesthetics. Butthe human half to the story lets it down in a way that could have been avoided if they were just a bit more interesting, and not simply a regurgitated set of character architectures and uninspiring dialogue.
But, I can safely say that if you are a fantasy fan, or enjoy the WoW series, you’ll still have a good time with this despite the flaws. You won’t get many big budget releases of this corner in the genre world, so at least enjoy it for what is there, and is good. A strong attempt, but just…. not held together as well as you would hope to see. And hell, it is a MILLION times better than Assassin’s Creed was, so there’s that nugget of safety too.
Thanks for reading!