The quest to deliver a hit video game movie has eluded studios for many years. Not even a party of epically geared adventurers could complete such a quest… much less hack filmmaker Uwe Boll. MMORPG maestro Blizzard Entertainment has however decided to give the challenge a shot. Perhaps their fantasy tale can do for video games what Spider-Man did for comic books? Their talent for gorgeous cut scenes does seem to indicate that they can craft convincing CG effects and even more promising is the recruitment of Duncan Jones behind the camera. He is an excellent director, as anyone who has watched Moon or Source Code will attest to.
Based on the popular RTS and MMO games, Warcraft: The Beginning brings the conflict between Orcs and Humans over from PC monitors to the cinematic big screen. The movie begins on the dying world of Draenor, which the Orcs call home. In order to escape certain extinction, Orc warlock Gul’dan uses his unholy Fel Magic to open up a portal that leads to the human kingdom of Azeroth. He instructs his brutish minions to cross the gateway, where they begin claiming the human territory for their own. Unable to convince the neighbouring dwarves and elves to aid them with defence, Azeroth’s troops struggle in fending off the physically stronger invaders. Why can’t they just f-orc off and leave us in peace?
Spearheading the protection of Azeroth’s borders is knight champion Sir Anduin Lothar (played by Vikings actor Travis Fimmel) and Medivh the wizardly Guardian of Tirisfal (Ben Foster sporting a Jesus like beard.) Just like the video game it is based off, Warcraft isn’t a simple good versus evil storyline. Both sides in the conflict have their fair share of compassionate characters. It could be argued in fact that CG horde chieftain Durotan is ironically more fleshed out than many of his live action co-stars. Presented as a loving father and honourable leader, Durotan offers to help Lothar fight against his own kind when it becomes apparent that Gul’dan’s life sapping sorcery could be the cause of his homeland’s demise.
My rating for Warcraft: The Beginning is a three out of five. It’s one of the better video game movies I have seen, even if that isn’t saying much because the competition in that genre is so weak. Despite the lengthy two hour running time I was never bored, as interesting plot and emotional character moments were weaved in between the action packed scenes featuring armour clad swordsmen and bulky brutes from another dimension. The movie isn’t perfect, but all things considered I think Duncan Jones did a good job handling a film of this scale. Quite an accomplishment given that two of Jones’ relatives were afflicted with cancer during the filming process and how he had to contend with Blizzard’s interference, which had previously dissuaded Sam Raimi from helming the movie.
One thing I disliked about Warcraft was how CG heavy it was. Apart from the human cast, most of the environments and characters are computer generated. Couldn’t the elves and dwarves at least be actors in makeup? Paula Patton for example looked convincing as an Orc half-breed with just the use of green skin paint and prosthetic tusks. Some more humour would have been nice too, as World of Warcraft is a funny MMO. The movie treats itself too seriously, despite some moments of levity by bumbling sorcerer Khadgar. All that said, I think the movie is fine. I wouldn’t mind watching a sequel, although a follow up may be unlikely due to the flick’s poor US box office earnings. Thankfully anyone who liked Warcraft has the option of learning what happens next by reading the novels and playing the games. Keep away from World of Warcraft though. As a former addict, I must warn how that game can take over your life!