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Review: Warcraft – “An enjoyable slice of fantasy action”

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Warcraft, the new film from Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), is an adaptation of the video game series. I only played the old Warcraft game from Blizzard. I have never played World of Warcraft. I would love to, but just haven’t had the time. I just mention it as that means I will not be able to compare how closely it follows what happens in the game. However, I did know that the look of the orcs, creatures, armour and more are based on the game.

Films and TV shows have many different genres. Within those genres there are many different types. Not all horror films are the same, not all sci-fi is the same, not all comedy is the same and you get the idea. That means there are many different types of fantasy – The Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Willow and The Wizard of Oz are all fantasy, but all different.

What I am trying to say is that just because there are Orcs and Elves doesn’t mean it has to be exactly like The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. You can tell different stories and the Warcraft film does just that. These Orcs are totally different from those of Tolkien. Instead of the generic bad guys we spend some time with a few of the orcs and get to know that they are a loving, honourable race. This is brought to life by Frostwolf leader Durotan (Toby Kebbell) and Draca (Anna Galvin) who do an incredible job. Within a short space of time we come to know these characters and realise that they are not monsters. They have hopes, dreams and plans for the future. They love each other deeply and their relationship has the touches and jokes that couples have. We then quickly learn that the Orc homeworld is no longer habitable and a new one is needed. We also see that the Orc way of life has been corrupted over time and also find out why some Orcs are green and some are not.

We are then brought to the realm of Azeroth, where the main action takes place, along with the orcs so we basically have a fantasy tale where a planet is being invaded by aliens. Some quick scenes introduce us to the major players on the side of good – Lothar (Travis Fimmel), Medivh (Ben Foster), Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) and Lady Taria (Ruth Negga). That’s right, Preacher’s Jesse and Tulip are the King and Queen of Azeroth!

There is some great storytelling on display in these opening scenes. As I mention we zip through various places, but the world is quickly built around what we see and here. There is no standing around while someone spouts lots of exposition. Instead we follow one character who meets another which leads on to another. While doing that we find out that these people have a past, the whole world has a huge history and just these small bits and pieces mean we quickly put together what is going on. Quite refreshing compared to many other big films. Sure, you can argue it is just another form of info-dump, but it is done in such a way as it seems natural and draws you in to what is going on. It must have also been tricky not having a young hero type character to follow along as so many of these type of tales usually have. I would have liked some of these earlier scenes to have been longer, just to spend more time with these characters before events go bad.

We don’t need to know the origin of Paula Patton’s Garona or how Daniel Wu’s Gul’dan became so powerful. It has happened and we are dropped into the story and brought quickly up to speed. Any reviews that say it is a confusing film just means the person who wrote it wasn’t paying attention.

The story does follow some of the usual story beats you get when opposing forces are brought together and some of the twists and turns are not as surprising as you hope, but on the whole the plot pushes along nicely while the characters develop.

Luckily, to go along with the script that gives us the great characters, we have a fantastic cast of actors to bring them to life. Of course there is also a great team of animators who bring the motion-capture performances to a beautiful vivid reality. Yes, the images of the orcs we have seen before the film was released do look a bit clunky, but they are sticking with the WoW design. When you see them in action they look fantastic (although there are a couple of moments that do seem a bit cartoony. I think it is the giant wolf that is most guilty of it). Huge creatures with weight that move swiftly in battle which would make them absolutely terrifying to those going up against them. Yet, as mentioned above, they show great emotion on their faces during the quieter scenes.

On the side of the humans Fimmel is cool and funny as Lothar, Foster plays it wise and aloof as Medivh and it is always great to see Callum Keith Rennie (Californication) even though he only has a few scenes.

Paula Patton as the half-orc slave Garona initially has a lot to overcome as at first, you just think she looks a bit odd with those tusks. However, I quickly got over that and she does a great job of this clever, compassionate person who has been treated abysmally and her character probably has the biggest journey.

As this is a Warcraft film there are many fights. Some small and some huge in scale. Once again these are done well. We know where all the characters are and don’t get lost as the fight progresses as can easily happen. Plus it is always great to see knights in armour firing guns!

After a most enjoyable slice of fantasy action I was left wanting more and really hope that the film gets a sequel. I would have liked the film to have been another 20 or 30 minutes longer just so we could have had more chance to spend time with the various characters.

All in all, Warcraft is hugely enjoyable and well worth seeing on the big screen. Nice to have a good film based on a video game.

3.5-out-of-5

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2 Comments

  1. Amazing Review. I agree the movie had to be a tad longer in order to further develop the characters. I give this movie a solid 4/5. Unlike movies that are 2+ hours where you get tired and just can’t wait for it to end already (BvS), Warcraft keeps you hooked the entire film and instead of wanting the movie to end already you get the opposite feeling. I didn’t want this movie to end. Really good movie if you ask me.

    • Glad you enjoyed the film and thanks for the kind words of the review. Yes, it definitely could have done with being a bit longer.

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