Warcraft: The Beginning

Missing The WOW Factor

I never played World of Warcraft for the simple reason that I feared for my life. Seemingly normal friends would disappear for days on end only to be found in their room, curtains closed, hunched over their computer, surrounded by half eaten pizza and covered in their own shame.

Prying these warped individuals away from their gaming rig was like trying to remove a zombie from a fresh corpse, hiding a heroin addicts needle or stealing the one ring from Golum only instead of hearing the words “My precious” would be confronted with “Fuck off, I’m WOWing!!”.

Before Mojang’s popular Minecraft game and King’s soul destroying evil that is Candy Crush Saga the biggest name in Gaming was World of Warcraft so it’s only fitting that it has had a silver screen adaptation.

Orcs, magic, elves, kung fu pandas (no, really!), bull-man hybrids, golems… it’s a no-brainer to translate this into a fantasy epic it just needs a new angle to differentiate itself from Lord of the Rings.

In steps director Duncan Jones whose career has been catapulted thanks to his seminal film Moon which is one of my favourite all time films as well as the excellent Source Code. Both films triumph by focusing on one fascinating aspect of a story and Warcraft tries to do the same with middling success.

What this film really focuses on is the invading Orc army and the reasons behind why they have to invade the peaceful realm of Azeroth. There is an impressive amount of detail to the history, culture and the Orcs societal structure that I simply wasn’t expecting and quickly becomes the most interested aspect of the film.

Some excellent CGI work and refined acting help shape the Orcs into something you might not expect from this genre of film; They are something more than a barely comprehensible, topless football hooligan with the IQ of a mouldy sponge cake… also known as “a  football hooligan”.

It’s not all jolly green giants though. Dominic Cooper is incredibly bad as Llane Wrynn with his performance more apt for a depiction of a badly performed local stage play than it is of a noble and enigmatic king.

Similarly; Ben Foster plays Medivh – an all powerful defender of the realm fighting with magic forces beyond our comprehension – feels only slightly less farcical than Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s bi-polar Zaphod Beeblebrox who was ironically played by Sam Rockwell: the star of Duncan Jones’ Moon.

Even though these characters are as compelling as juggling hedgehogs the on screen magic is subtly better than most films. Computer games have been trying to make magic look jaw-dropping for years and this aesthetic is brought to life on the big screen through floating runes and orbs around the relevant spell-caster.

It’s not just the magic that is impressive either, the first encounter between Orcs and man brings home the terrifying brute force like a bus to the face and show them as more than worthy adversaries.

That’s all good but this is high fantasy so it’s not for everyone. It has bright characters and mythic beings that all have names that are pronounceable only when being tickled and trying not to sneeze at the same time.

Finally, the film does a really poor job of explaining the geography of Azeroth as we are introduced to a ton of new places with no explanation of why they are important or how they fit together but this is merely a symptom of the rich lore that is available to be built on.

There is clearly room for future entries into the franchise if the funding is there and the next film is more impressive otherwise I guess this is the beginning and the end.

The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:

+ First encounter
+ The Orcs
+ Interesting magic

– Terrible acting from Dominic Cooper
– Poor exploration of lore and geography
– High fantasy – not everyone’s cup of tea



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