Warcraft might be based on a bestselling video game franchise, but its cinematic aspirations are lacking to say the least.
The Warcraft franchise has been around for decades and even though the trilogy is regarded as one of the best real-time strategy series ever made, it wasn’t until World of Warcraft came out that the name Warcraft entered social consciousness. The massively multiplayer online game isn’t as popular as it once was, but it’s still the game with the most number of subscribers in the world, so the decision of making a movie based on the franchise makes sense, but how does the battle between humans and orcs translates to the big screen?
From a technical standpoint, Warcraft looks stunningly. The movie blends CGI with live-action sequences and for the most part, they look remarkably well. There are times when you can see hundreds of Orcs fighting the humans and these sequences look breathtaking. But this comes with a caveat, the designers focus on a limited color pallet so there’s a lot of green and brown. Also, there’s a lot happening on-screen and at times, it’s hard to distinguish what’s happening exactly.
If you’ve played World of Warcraft or the original trilogy of real-time strategy games, you’ll probably recognize most characters, settings and classes. Although there aren’t that many obscure references to the games’ lore, some specific aspects will make a lot of sense for you. If you haven’t though, you’ll have some trouble keeping track of all that and the story.
Let me sum up the film’s story without making reference to specifics: a magic portal is opened and this gate communicates the human world with that of the Orcs. The Orc horde invades the planet Azeroth and a few human heroes try to respond to this threat which results in a war between the two factions.
Warcraft excels in some aspects (character design, costumes, use of CGI, fan service, music,) but for everything else there’s to like in this film, there’s something to complain about. The plot is simplistic and forgettable and the performances feel uninspired. Fans of the games will feel right at home with this adaptation, but everyone else won’t find a lot to like in this well made yet superficial video game movie. Also, the characters are boring. If you think about it, you spend two hours with them, but know little to nothing about them by the time the credits roll. The characters talk a lot, they interact with each other and they fight, but since the performances are mediocre, it’s hard to pay attention to what these characters say.
But it’s not all that bad. A lot of attention went to the character design: dwarves, orcs, humans and elves look just like you remember them from the games. Also, costumes, the different locations feel cohesive and inviting. So it’s a shame that everything else is so uninspired.
In the end, Warcraft might be based on a bestselling video game franchise, but its cinematic aspirations are lacking to say the least. This is a derivative and bland adaptation that’s hard to recommend to anyone other than fans of the source material. When you watch this movie, you don’t immediately transport to a magical world where dwarves, elves and Orcs live, you’re not moved by the actors’ performances and you don’t feel dazzled by the direction. Instead, this movie feels formulaic and ridiculous. Those traits may work well for a game, but for a movie, that’s not enough to delight the eyes of most movie watchers.