Warcraft (2016) – Review


I mentioned a few weeks ago when I reviewed the Angry Birds movie that video game movies don’t tend to do well and are usually reviled by general audiences, critics and gamers alike and I think that’s down to various factors. In the old days when we were having adaptations like the Mario Bros or Streetfighter the video game companies weren’t involved in the project or the directors and writers simply didn’t understand the source material and simply took the idea and put their own story to it. You can write that excuse as long as you want to, but really the problem with half these films were that they had poor scripts and poor direction and I think that’s lately down to the latter, but that excuse won’t stand any more because video games are a lot more prevalent in the popular consciousness and more people play them than ever and that’s nowhere more true than with World of Warcraft, the most massive online role playing game ever invented, with millions of subscribers from all over the world. It’s no surprise then that film studios have been beating down the doors to get film rights to the franchise considering if just all of those people buy 1 ticket, they are quids in. I’m pretty sure one of the proviso’s for this film being created was from Blizzard Entertainment, the company who make the Warcraft games was that they would be involved in the production, which they are, but I’m not sure how much they have been genuinely involved in the film’s production overall.

Warcraft certainly has a long history and a really fantastic lore and back story. Despite it being the first major game to get a large following, it was not the first game in the series, there have been 3 games prior to this that set up this world and several myths and legends which still exist in the World of Warcraft game today. Add on to that expanded Universe novels and comic series, this thing is rife with the idea of an expanded franchise, so much so that in the UK it’s been re-named Warcraft The Beginning, which I personally find to be a bit of an arrogant title just because there is tons to base the story on doesn’t mean you are guaranteed a sequel.

I actually saw the trailers for this last year, including a very impressive trailer before Star Wars which got me hyped to see the movie, because this one looked like they were finally going to get a video game movie right. That, plus the film was being directed by Duncan Jones, who may not have directed a film for a while, but his last film 2011 Source Code was a film that I really liked and I would recommend it along with Moon, his film prior to that one. That, plus he has been heavily involved in the process, so this is his ‘baby’. Duncan Jones has promised us that this will be the first ever ‘great video game movie’, but here’s the thing, can he keep that promise?

OK, let’s get one thing clear, there are not going to be any spoilers in this review, but in order to get a few of my points across, I am going to have to hint at a few spoilers, without actually saying what they are, apologies, I really didn’t think there was any other way of reviewing this film. Right, let’s get on with the plot.

The Orc’s home world is dying, in order to find a new land, warlord Guldan (played by Daniel Wu) opens a portal to the world of Azaroth in order to conquer it for the future of the Orc species, however, Tribal Chief Durotan, (played by Toby Kebbell believes that the Guldan and his magic is causing more problems for the Orc’s than they can afford and insists that an alliance is formed with the humans. This leads to him attempting to corner a line and take down Guldan and have peace between humans and Orcs.

Ok, where do I start with this one because this film really has a lot of issues. First off the major problem is that are way too many characters in this film and adding to that is that the film makers seem to think that about 4 or 5 of these are main characters so as a result the film doesn’t know which character to focus on at any one time and we constantly go back and forth between them. They all feel at least a bit under characterized, some more than others. I suppose they are saving more for sequels, but that leads to another problem, many of these characters aren’t going to be showing up in sequels. I’m not even going to talk about which characters I found the most interesting or who I though got the best character arcs since one of them isn’t even going to be showing up in any of the planned sequels. That being said, however, Warcraft actually does start off rather promising. The opening segments of the film really leads you to believe this is going to be a really good film and it shows a ton of promise, it’s unfortunate then when the whole thing starts to go downhill towards the end and that’s mainly because the plot is all over the place. Duncan Jones has really let his ambition take over his sense of a flowing narrative. He clearly wants this to be a massive epic involved with several films, something akin to Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones. The problems is those films, or in the case of Game of Thrones a TV series, have a lot more time than this film to build their cast and their characters and build it’s world, but even if they did have this amount of time they would have built a lot stronger foundation for things to come. The Fellowship of The Ring may have a few issues but it laid the groundwork pretty well and got me to care about the characters, so as a result I felt the need to come back for Two Towers and Return of The King. This one, however, I really didn’t care by the end of the film because it was so over the place and it doesn’t feel like there has been much effort made to completely tell the story in its first chapter, which every good epic does.

Star Wars for example told a complete story, ok not a complete story, but it felt by the end of the film something had been accomplished and we wanted to come back to see where these characters were going. The same with Lord of the Rings, which is probably a fairer comparison. The Fellowship of The Ring made you feel like some things had been accomplished, some things were left un-told and it struck a good balance. This one just leaves way too much un-told for its hopeful sequels and it doesn’t seem to understand that every great epic is built on good foundations. Marvel just didn’t go straight to The Avengers, they created films and supporting casts for Iron man, Captain America and so on, so as a result, when we finally got to The Avengers it felt necessarily epic and we had reason to care. This film, I really just didn’t care by the end. Not to mention the film makes a few stumbling blocks as it’s going along. The characters constantly change motivation at various parts in the film, almost sporadically. The most interesting characters get the best character plot arcs, for example I really was investing in the Orcs story arcs than I was with the humans story arcs which felt like they had more weight and ambiguity and used excellent themes of fathers and sons, honour, redemption and the thin line of war and peace. All of these themes are at least somewhat competently done which is why it’s so frustrating that it doesn’t create a satisfying whole, but I’m not going to say more because that would be giving away too much but let’s just say they are either under-utilised or insignificant considering that they won’t be showing up for any sequels. I don’t want to harp on at the fact that they are saving so much for the sequels except for the fact that this film, here in the UK, is called the beginning! It clearly has no intention of being a complete story, just an over long prologue for the eventual story and that’s no way to make a film.

For fans the ending makes it seem like the next film is going to be a lot more of the same!! Why!! There are a ton of stories to base this on. I honestly thought that the whole plot was going to be resolved by the end of this movie and we would be moving on to a different plot lines for the coming sequels, but as I mentioned, the ending of this film suggests the complete opposite, we are going to be stuck with this plot for a while!! So fans that want to see characters like The Lytch King, won’t be getting what they want. Oh, and there’s a plot twist halfway through the movie in which they attempt to make it seem shocking, but there’s absolutely no possibility it can be because they completely bodge it by hinting at it through the entire movie, so it will surprise absolutely no one. Yeah the obviously evil guy is evil THIS ISN’T MUCH OF A TWIST!

The fortunate thing I can say about this film is that it’s never dull, this is not a dull movie. It may make a lot of errors, but a no point was I bored watching it and I didn’t hate this film, I just found it disappointing . There are some rare moments of genius here and it is an enjoyable ride if you don’t think about it too much. Some of the characters get amazing story arcs that could have potentially been great. Some of them get predictable ones, that don’t really work out and are the worst part of the film and end up dragging everything down, but those rare moments of brilliance made me feel like this could have been great and it just isn’t. This plot is not good enough for the fans and it’s not going to draw anyone in otherwise. I’m certain there will be people who think this is a good plot , but I’m just not one of them and I think it was the ending that lost it for me. So to clarify, there are parts of this film that I genuinely enjoy but because of the way I have been conducting this review so far I can’t really bring a lot up because it would be giving away too much and I didn’t want to spoil this film for people who are considering going to see it and despite the fact I’ve complained about the incomplete story I would be willing to give a chance on a sequel.

As for the cast, well I really don’t feel like doing much of a going through them because none of the premise really stand out. They are all just rather satisfactory. Although I will point out that one of the Orc’s is played by Robert Kazinsky who yet again is a former Eastender’s actor appearing in a big American action film although this time the Director actually gives him something to do and he does a decent performance. The best performance, by far, was Toby Kebbell, who I feel so sorry for because he is clearly giving an excellent performance, but it should have been for a much better film and he has now gone 2 for 2 with this and Fantastic 4, films that should have worked and have not worked in his favour. I wasn’t really a fan of Ben Foster’s performance, I did enjoy Travis Fimmel for the most part though. Dominic Cooper doesn’t look particularly bothered by his performance in fact it seems like he is counting down the seconds until he gets to be in Preacher again. By the way, if you have an Amazon Prime account, watch Preacher, I have only just watched the first episode and it’s fantastic. Daniel Wu plays a pretty one dimensional villain and it’s a good performance, but it’s not a difficult performance for him to pull off. The same goes for Clancy Brown playing Blackhand who one again does a decent job, but then again, that’s because he’s Clancy Brown and he’s good and memorable in terrible things. Other than that there’s no really interesting members of the cast, though I will admit I enjoyed Paula Patton’s performance as Garona. Ben Schnetzer is one of the worst as he’s clearly out of his depth with this role though I think there’s room for him to improve.

Aesthetically is where this film shines completely. This doesn’t look like a Game of Thrones or a Lord of the Rings rip off. This looks like a Warcraft movie. In every sense at all times, I felt like I was watching a Warcraft movie. Blizzard really must have had most of the control here because they have made sure that this films looks and feels like their games and they really bring it to life in a brilliant way. This is the best aspect of the film The music score is also pretty good but I don’t think it holds a candle to the fantastic music scores that the games have had. Seriously go and buy the concert ‘Video Games Live 2” it’s a really great concert that involves an Orchestra teaming up with a Rock Band to play songs from video game scores and when you get the the World of Warcraft segment you can really tell how amazing the music that was composed for it was.

The fights scenes are also pretty damm good and a lot of effort has clearly been put into them and there’s not a lot of reliance on tricks to pull it off, plus I think the motion capture for the Orcs is pretty damm good and there are some really good effects all around. So the effects have no fault to them? Wrong! The effects are great and the backgrounds are all great for the most part until the live action actors appear and then some of the backgrounds tend to feel very fakey because this film is very reliant on CGI and green screens. Some look better than others and there’s clearly been some good on location shoots that have gone very well, but the fact of the matter is you can tell half the time this has been entirely green screened, to such an extent, I think they could have gone the whole hog and had all the humans been motion capture and made this a whole motion capture animated film, it probably would have looked better as a result.

I saw the film in 3D and it was actually pretty good in that format, it did have a few hiccups where I thought the 3D didn’t really benefit but for the most part the film makers know how to shoot good 3D. I would say if you enjoy seeing films in 3D then go and see this one in that format, but I suspect the 2D version is perfectly serviceable.

Did I hate Warcraft? No. Did I like it? No. I’m just disappointed in it. This could have been a great film, it had all the potential for that, but it doesn’t work due to its poor pacing, poor characterisation and an ending which had a fight scene that was so laughably boring and it felt like the film ended on a bum note and that the sequel is just going to be rather more of the same rather than expanding the story. The film tries to be an amazing epic but it doesn’t build up its world and characters before it tries to go into that and all the character revelations and twists are really things that the majority of which should have been saved for the 2nd movie of this proposed trilogy. As it stands, however, it’s a bit of a mess. The performances aren’t great with the exception of a couple of the Orc actors, the effects are very good and reflect the video game well but are wasted because they don’t blend well with the live action actors and I just didn’t buy into this story entirely. It’s a real shame because when you take all the Hollywood adaptations of video game movies, this one is still the best, but that’s just because the bar has been set so horribly low. It’s really only there by default. This is the best one and I still don’t think it’s good. I’m certain fans will get something out of this, and just seeing these environments realised on the big screen will probably give them some joy, but I don’t judge a film by its aesthetics. I judge it by the story and the characters it gives me as well and this film wasn’t good enough with the exception of the Orcs who I thought were ok for the most part. It’s so concerned about building up an epic trilogy that it forgets to get its first part down completely. Maybe Assassins Creed will recover things for the video game films when it comes out on Boxing Day, but for now we are still stuck with the bad reputation the Genre has.

As for other films I have seen between this film and X Men Apocolypse, I saw two, Sing Street and Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Sing Street is a fantastic film. While it may not be that original, it’s not that different to most of the Directors previous credits, it’s still a damm good movie. I really liked the characters and the story and the main characters relationships with the other characters really sold the film, along with the very well written music with songs that reflect the 80’s which there film is set in. I really recommend this one, it’s a lovely little film that will warm the heart strings, even if it is a little predictable. But, hey, a bit of predictability is sometimes quite a good thing because it provides a sense of comfort.

Alice Through The Looking Glass, however, is a much worse film than Warcraft, just simply on the fact that it has no substance whatsoever. This is the film equivalent to eating a fast food burger, it’s just empty calories and it doesn’t taste of anything!! This film is so pointless and padded and it has no reason to exist, which is why it’s so poorly written and goes into way too much detail about the characters and back story and tells a plot that no one could get interested in, plus the effects were terrible. There was literally no reason for this film to exist, there have been very few points this year where I felt like I was wasting my time at a cinema screen. Avoid this film at all costs because I don’t want another of these films coming along in 5-6 years, and before you ask, No I didn’t like Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, I already made that clear in my Big Eye’s review.

So what are your thoughts on Warcraft or the other 2 films I have just mentioned? Do you agree or disagree with me? Please leave your comments, I welcome all opinions.

Well this week wasn’t so good but I think next week things will pick up because I review what may be the final film from Studio Ghibli, the Oscar Nominated “When Marnie Was There”. This film has only come out today and has a limited time release, please if it is playing in your area, go and see it because I want to show film makers that this is the kind of film we like. This could be your last chance to see a Studio Ghibli film in a cinema. Do not miss out on it, this studio has given so much joy to people that I think they deserve a great send off

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Since the last 2 films I have seen in cinemas feel rather commercial and to a sense soulless, if you don’t have a comment on them, leave a comment on some of your favourite Studio Ghibli memories and I may try to put a couple of them in my next review or in a future review because we need a great send off for this fabulous studio.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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The Next Axia10th July 2024
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