FILM REVIEW - WARCRAFT
Running Length: 123 minutes
Directed by: Duncan Jones
Cast: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper
Story by: Chris Metzen
Cinematography: Simon Duggan
Release Date: 30th May 2016
Ben Foster is better than this, but the rest of the cast certainly aren't.
The gaming community must be giddy with excitement for this big screen version of World of Warcraft, the massively successful “massively mutiplayer online role-playing game” (or MMORPG if you must). Elsewhere, enthusiasm for Duncan Jones’ video game adaption is harder to come by. It’s easy to get sniffy and condescending about video game adaptions, but the source material shouldn’t really matter. Surely the main thing is if the story is a good one.
Sadly, this isn’t.
Like The Beastmaster with a bigger budget, Warcraft is a leave-brain-at-door sword-and-sorcery adventure with orcs, wizards, and the odd dwarf thrown in for good measure. The orc homeworld of Ironforge is dying, so an evil warlock called Gul’dan (Daniel Wu) leads a horde of orc warriors through a magic portal in a landgrab on the human realm, Stormwind. Shenanegans ensue, but the half-orc outcast Garona (Paula Patton) finds acceptance with the humans and orc chieftain Durotan (Toby Kebbel) wants to broker a peaceful alliance between the two species.
It’s tempting to look for a metaphor here on the present humanitarian crisis in Syria, but The Muppets got there already. And with jokes, too.
Ben Foster plays a Gandalf-lite wizard called The Guardian. He is better than this, but the rest of the cast certainly aren’t. Patton, Travis Fimmel and Ben Schnetzer are out-acted by the CG characters at every turn. But that’s what you get for making your cast perform against a tennis ball on a stick.
It’s hard to work out what Jones was thinking, but following 2011’s disappointing Source Code with this makes his extraordinary debut, Moon, appear more and more like a happy fluke.
The relentless use of green screen is so overwhelming that it is nigh on impossible to become invested in the vast, virtual spectacle that Jones has constructed. With such a dearth of practical effects and physical sets, it would be a genuine shock to discover that a single physical prop had been used during production. There is probably more drama and excitement to be mined from playing 10 minutes-worth of the video game itself.
Some of Warcraft’s publicity material comes with the appended subtitle, “The Beginning”. This might sound like a threat of more to come, but ends up looking like optimistic studio bluster. I wouldn’t anticipate Warcraft: The Middle Bit appearing any time soon.