Warcraft: The Beginning
Dir: Duncan Jones
Starring: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Toby Kebbell, Ben Schnetzer, Rob Kazinsky, Clancy Brown, Daniel Wu, Ruth Negga, Anna Galvin
Run Time: 123 Mins
After the intelligent, contained Sci-Fi Moon and the lively Source Code Duncan Jones had a growing reputation as a film maker to watch, so there was much interest in how he would handle a big budget blockbuster based on wildly popular video game franchise.
The Orc homeworld is dying, so the powerful warlock Gul’Dan (Wu) opens a portal to the world of Azeroth and leads a horde of invaders through. Azeroth is protected by the gallant King Wrynn (Cooper), his fiery Military Commander (Fimmel) and the wizard Medivh (Foster) who is either good turning evil, evil turning good, or just a misunderstood emo. The Orc Durotan (Kebbell) doesn’t want to rule out an alliance with the humans, but most of the rest of the horde do, and there is Garona, a half-orc caught between the two factions. Oh, and Schnetzer plays a young, and deeply annoying mage who ran away from his training but who now wants to play magic again.
It’s just bogged down by too many characters vying for screen time that almost none of them get enough attention and it becomes impossible to care about any of them. The story as is really should have been a TV mini-series, to give the characters that extra care, or they should have settled for a simpler, streamlined plot for Warcraft’s big screen debut.
The performances vary wildly too. Patton does well as the Half-Orc Garona, but she is one of the few blessed with anything close to sufficient screen time. Toby Kebbell does good work behind the CGI of the Orc Durotan, but elsewhere the disinterested Dominic Cooper plays the least convincing noble King in film history and Travis Fimmel left all his screen presence behind on the set of Vikings. At the time of release reviewers criticised Ben Foster for overacting where as he’s almost the only person bothering to do any; while everyone else is lost in the mix.
The script is terrible: characters exchange trite cliches out of an adolescents Tolkien fan fiction, trying to mine the source material for depth that simply isn’t there. Incidentally, that’s a perfectly legitimate way t get into writing, or even to pad out the flavour text of an MMO, just don’t make a two hour film written out of it. The lore of Warcraft may be complex, maybe too much so, but Tolkien or Martin it isn’t and the chance to make a camp, tongue-in-cheek film that has fun with its own derivate nature is lost as everyone plays it straight as if they were doing Shakespeare.
Looking for positives? The CGI is excellent.
The Verdict: Impressive CGI can’t cover over a bad script with inconsistent performances and a confusion of characters. In fairness it’s more boring than bad.