Warcraft (2016)

The homeworld of the orcs is dying. The fel magic – powered by death – wielded by the twisted Gul’dan can be used to open a gate to another world, and so a war band is sent through to capture enough enemy slaves to open a portal big enough to transport the entire orc nation. Among the advance party is clan chief Durotan, who is already experiencing the seeds of doubt about the death magic and its effect on both the orcs who embrace it and the world – either of them – surrounding them.

This new world on which they arrive is well-known to fans of the game: Azeroth, where a peaceful alliance exists between men, dwarves, and elves. Aided by the mysterious ‘Guardian’ and his magic, can they stop the orcs from colonising their home and slaughtering everyone who gets in their way?

I’ll say now that while I’m well aware of the game, World of Warcraft, and probably a big enough geek to enjoy it, I’ve never actually played. This feels like a bit of a downside on watching the movie, as none of the ‘famous’ character names meant anything to me. Certainly, the tiny bit of knowledge I did have – that there is an Alliance, for instance, and the Horde is the dark side – was essential, as very little is given by way of explanation: we just dive straight in to story, and are left to figure out what we can. I spent half the movie unsure as to why half the orcs were green, for instance.

Still, I’d love to say this was perhaps the most successful game-to-screen adaption – goodness knows, the competition is low – to date, but while the movie looks very pretty and the world feels fully realised, the whole thing is just… well, a bit messy. There are far too many ‘main’ characters, leaving the audience not quite sure who to pay (most) attention to – yes, I understand part of the point is not to have a straight good v. bad, and to encompass the feel of the game where you can play any character on either side. But in terms of story telling, it just didn’t work for me. Was this Lothar’s story, the knight who fights beside his king to protect the realm? Or perhaps that of Khadgar, the mage who has abandoned his training to warn everyone – and who seems to have a bigger role to play than is explored? Ooh, but there’s a lot in there about the half-orc slave, Garona, seeking acceptance…

There are so many possibly interesting off-shoots here, but not one of them felt done to satisfaction, for me. Most do seem to reach a sort of conclusion, which is where I think familiarity with the characters and their role in the game might have made it all a little more ‘inevitable’ and fulfilling to see play out. Hmm.

Which is not to say the movie is a disaster, but it did disappoint me a bit. Still, I hope it does well enough for director Duncan Jones to get to make another – without the shackles of an origin story, there could be a lot of fun to be had with a series of these movies.

Released: 30th May 2016
Viewed: 3rd June 2016
Running time: 123 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 6/10 – good effort, but not quite there in terms of story-telling

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