Quick Hit: Surprisingly effective, the movie manages to hold onto an emotional connection to well rendered CGI characters while allowing innovative action shots to take place.
After hearing the Duncan Jones (director of the most excellent Moon) would be taking the reins of a World of Warcraft movie, I was cautiously optimistic. And whilst I left the movie slightly disappointed, I wasn’t that disappointed. The expansive world of Warcraft is touched upon, if briefly. What is most impressive is that Jones brings some of his usual storytelling craft to a movie that is largely CGI’d characters.
Despite the complexity of what the game has grown into, the movie boils down to this simple fact: the orcs are coming to the world of the humans. That’s it really as far as the main plot, and that’s what I think makes the movie succeed overall. When the movie tries to jump off the main plot thread, constantly explaining certain character’s motivations and making references to the largest universe that abounds, it gets a bit confusing for the uninitiated. That’s because it’s a world just as large as Middle Earth, with just as many characters. Duncan does an admirable job about giving each their own screen whilst they have it, but there is only so much you can do with a two hour running time.
To further expound on the character development, I was amazed at how easily I was able to tell the orcs apart. It was almost like when you read The Hobbit for the first time – there are so many dwarves to tell apart, if Tolkien wasn’t a skilled writer who could develop a bit of a character for each dwarf, you would lose who was who. And whilst in the battle scenes even Jones falls into the trap of losing each CGI’d orc to just being a large toothed muscular body, the quiet scenes easily develop each character to the point where you can easily recognize and tell them apart.
I think likewise, the humans were developed as well, but they are arguably the weaker of the two species being presented. Besides Ben Foster’s mage, most of them seemed to fall off for me a bit in my mind. That may have just been because I was absolutely floored by the job that Toby Kebbell did with the main performance of Durotan. Given a complex hero to play, Kebbell brings the same amount of life to the character that he did to Koba in the Planet of the Apes series. The difference here is that Durotan arguably has deeper character motivations than Koba, and Kebbell allows those to come through the CGI.
Warcraft is a good movie, but not a great one. As I mentioned, it falls short in the area of side plots that at times go absolutely nowhere. The main bad guy, Gul’dan, while intensely animated, seems to have very little going for him otherwise being evil and terrifying. An interesting story there would be his backstory, but as I stated before, with limited runtime you can only do so much. There’s also the matter of the battles starting to get repetitive towards the end, with some of the fancier camerawork falling away to allow us to just watch the battle unfold.
All in all, I’d recommend it, especially if you like fantasy movies. I’m giving it a “B-“.
For more on this movie check out IMDB.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy"