Warcraft is a feast for the eyes that unfortunately that fails to keep the attention of even the most ardent fans of the video game series.
Warcraft is based upon a popular line of computer games from Blizzard Entertainment that have been around since the early '90's and that reached its peak popularity with the addictive World of Warcraft online game. The challenge that filmmaker Duncan Jones and studios Universal and Legendary, had going in was overcoming the stigma of video game-based movies. Past game-to-movie adaptations like Super Mario Bros. and Prince of Persia have been terrible, but fortunately Warcraft easily overcomes them to become the best video game movie to date! Now that isn't a huge compliment as there has only been a couple of decent video game films so far, but the breadth of visuals and compelling characters allows Warcraft to stand atop the heap.
Warcraft is the story of two worlds colliding and how the heroes and villains on both sides deal with the other in order to achieve either peace or world domination. The world of Azeroth is ruled by the noble human King Llane, who has kept peace in the kingdom by maintaining an alliance with the other races of the realm: the dwarves, the elves and the mages. When a mysterious enemy comes through a portal into their world, the king sends Lothar, his brother and knight of the realm to investigate who these invaders are. But this enemy horde is actually the Orcs, brutish creatures with tusks for teeth, from the land of Dreanor. You see, their world is dying due the magic of their evil leader, Guldan so they need a new home that is uncorrupted. One of the orcs, Durotan and his clan set out to make peace with the humans in order to save their people. If this sounds like a lot of weird fantasy names and places to remember, that's because it is and if you aren't a player of the game series, it can be tough to follow along. The movie expects you to remember who is who and what is what throughout its two plus hour run time and that is a daunting task, even for a avid reader of fantasy such as myself. It does't help that the story is quite meandering at points, lacking a sense of pace to the proceedings. Its disappointing that the director who has done phenomenal films in the past like Moon and Source Code, couldn't give the film a brisker pace to keep the action coming in between the talk-y scenes. Even worse the downtime in this film is tough to get through and I found my eyes getting heavy multiple times during the film.
The action and visuals on the other hand are, in one word: breath-taking! This film looks fantastic and the various worlds and creatures pop thanks to excellent art design and solid visual effects. The fact that half the characters in the film are CGI and you forget that minutes into the film is a testament to that success. That's right, all the orcs in this film are CGI, being motion-captured by some seriously talented actors like Planet of the Apes star Toby Kebbell as the heroic orc Durotan and Daniel Wu as the villainous Guldan. The orcs are the best part of this film as they provide a sense of emotion and depth that is severely lacking in the human cast. Travis Fimmel as main hero Lothar is the weakest of the bunch. bringing nothing but boredom to his character, while the young mage Cadgar is straight-up annoying. The other stand-out is the female lead Gorona who finds herself caught between both sides and has a satisfying arc for her character by the end. The action is intense and hard-hitting, making for moments of real excitement after the film takes a breather with a dull talking scene. The orcs and humans clash multiple times in this before ultimately culminating in a epic final battle that unfortunately ends abruptly, both the battle and the film in order to set up a sequel.
Warcraft is a visually pleasing film with visceral action and some great (orc) characters, that is undermined by some pacing issues and dull (human) characters. The film surprisingly boasts a powerful message of about how sacrifice is often required to achieve peace that is refreshing in today's dearth of superhero blockbusters. Its surprising how timely the story of two nations battling for peace really is in today's world climate, even if one of those nations is made up of CG orcs! Its easy to recommend this film to fans of the games, who have a built in understanding of this universe and harder to, to those who don't play the games. If you are an avid fan of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit you will probably enjoy it, if not you probably should skip it.
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence. Warcraft is colorful and full of creatures, some of which can be scary for younger kids. Also the violence is very intense at times and numerous characters die in the course of these battles between humans and orcs, so younger kids beware. Also there is some CGI blood and dismemberment along the lines of the Lord of the Rings films. Other then the violence, this film has no language and no sexual content. However there is a scene of a mother giving birth that might be confusing for the young ones. Finally the villain absorbs the souls of people and animals, which is a bit disturbing. Overall I would say stick to the rating, so 13 and up for Warcraft.