Directed by Duncan Jones, starring Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper, Ben Schnetzer, Toby Kebbell and Ruth Negga. An Orc horde is moving from planet to planet via a magical portal consuming everything in their path until they arrive at the planet Azeroth and meet resistance from humans.
This is the latest adaptation of a fan-favourite game into a film, this follows on from other ventures including Prince of Persia and the continuing Resident Evil series, amongst others, all of which have received poor reviews. In December Michael Fassbender’s adaption of the popular Assassins Creed series will be released in cinemas, and will likely face the same scrutiny. Adaptations of this nature are a mystery to many, for others it calls for furious tweeting of how mainstream Hollywood is ruining their favourite game, but do they have a point ?
Game consoles for some time have been the primary format in which you are placed in the heart of the story as the protagonist, where you are in control of the character and to a certain extent control the narrative from main campaign missions to side quests. By removing these key component of gaming when adapting them into films creates a number of problems, and Warcraft suffers from many of them. VR (virtual reality) has the potential to solve this problem, certainly, it’s making gaming a more immersive experience, but it still has some way to go regarding feature films. A recent attempt has been made at filming with VR, called Bible-VR, where users can experience stories from the bible using VR, the experience of which is said to become overwhelming for the audience who do not know where to look.
Personally, I have never played Warcraft and so I have absolutely no knowledge of the history of the game or its characters, to the extent that I do not know even know how you even play this game, I know it involves a lot of clicking of the mouse. My little experience involves watching it over the shoulder of an old housemate of mine who at one point played quite frequently. On this point, I feel I am not alone, and yet as an audience, you are clearly expected to know more about the history of the Warcraft characters. In particular the names, which I found increasingly hard to follow, or to understand, owing to the at times, incomprehensible speaking voices of the Orcs. This meant I missed the importance of hearing a name, or that something had happened to a particular character. Though this may be a comment on my own ability, I am quite able to follow the characters of Game of Thrones which is an accomplishment in itself.
Without researching this game I feel there is probably a very basic narrative, but my assumption of my own experience in gaming is that the bigger component involves assembling a team of which either race you choose to be, build skills and experience in order to fight and defeat other online players. This sounds great for a game but truly awful for a film, which is the only reason I can imagine why they employed Duncan Jones to direct. I am aware he is is a great fan of the game, but I am more keenly aware of his superior narrative filmmaking abilities.
Jones is an incredibly talented filmmaker with a surprisingly short number of film credits. ‘Moon’ and ‘Source Code’ are his only other feature films, they are intelligent, developed and very carefully orchestrated, I even studied ‘Moon’ at University. This was what appealed to me regarding Warcraft, the thought that Jones may have been successful at incorporating an engaging narrative structure and compelling characters to overcome the adaption-problem against a backdrop of Lord of the Rings type characters. This expectation was short-lived, the characters are quite basic, the narrative is predictable and though it has one or two potential moments, they are few and far between. This is a big blockbuster entertainment film perhaps for those who know the game, which is fine, but then generates a bigger question, why make it in the first place on this scale for a wider audience beyond the fanbase of the game.
The CGI is exceptional and by far the strongest appeal of the film, the interactions between the humans and the CGI creatures, which can be the biggest weakness, was flawless. Certainly, the acting of Toby Kebbell as a CGI Orc was compelling, I would even have been happier for the CGI cast of Orcs and various other creatures to be a much larger part of the film. The humans were all very odd considering the strength of each actor in other projects. Cooper is miscast as he seems quite bored and lackluster in the role of the King. Negga slips from British to Irish accents, and Travis Fimmel appears to have walked straight from the set of Vikings to Warcraft forgetting he was playing two different characters. Paula Patton was possibly the strongest in this ensemble with a character who was boarding on becoming something quite interesting but was never allowed to reach full potential.
From the title alone, it is clear that this is setting up a much larger narrative. Although both the CGI and the Orcs are simplistic in the narrative they are effective characters. Work, therefore, needs to be done on developing a stronger narrative and more convincing cast of humans.
OVERALL ** This seems entirely made for the fans, poor casting for many of the human roles, basic characters, and narratives but visually impressive CGI.
RECOMMENDATION – You may wish to watch this if you are a fan of the game but otherwise not worth the time.