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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sean Kelly

Review: Warcraft

The orchish Horde goes to war against the human Alliance in Warcraft. With their homeworld Draenor dying, the many orc clans, including the Frostwolves lead by Durotan (Toby Kebbell), seek the help of the shaman Gul'dan (Daniel Wu), who uses the dark magic fel to open the Dark Portal and travel to the world of Azeroth. As the orcs raid the land, it alarms the human population, including Stormwind commander Sir Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel), who along with a mage named Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer), seeks the assistance of Azeroth's guardian Medivh (Ben Foster). With a full on Horde invasion imminent, Lothar and King Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper) hopes to enlist the help of captured orc halfbreed Garona Halforcen (Paula Patton) to ensure that this doesn't develop into a full on war.

Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) brings the long-running and immensely popular Warcraft video game franchise to the big screen. Most of the general population is probably familiar with the franchise through the 2004 online RPG World of Warcraft and its multiple expansions. However, the series actually began with the 1994 real time strategy game Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, meaning that there was over two decades worth of mythology for the film to adapt. In fact, it could be argued that the plot of Warcraft is less a direct adaptation of the video games themselves and more an "origin story" about the events that lead to the video games, using the prequel novels "Rise of the Horde" and "The Last Guardian" as inspiration.

I will start off as admitting that I am more than a little biased when it comes to this film. As a kid, I remember playing Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness on the PC and I was once a very hardcore World of Warcraft player, which I first started playing in 2006. As such, it can be safe to assume that I would enjoy whatever Warcraft film was thrown up on the big screen. However, I do have to say that a lot of care obviously went into bring the world of Azeroth to the big screen. From the motion capture CGI orcs to cameos from some of the familiar creatures, Warcraft is an extremely well-produced adaptation of the game.

In fact, if there is a major problem with Warcraft, it is that the film is perhaps a little TOO catered to fans of the video game franchise. For instance, not everyone is going to immediately understand what fel magic is, other than it is the "evil green magic," as opposed to the "good blue magic." In fact, many would be forgiven if they opt to compare this film to Lord of the Rings, since the Warcraft universe uses similar fantasy creatures as Tolkien, particularly the central conflict between orcs and humans. Probably the biggest issue I personally had with Warcraft was Paula Patton's performance as Garona. While the majority of the orcs are created with CGI and look quite like their in-game counterparts, Patton is wearing make-up as Garona and is very obviously such, particularly her fake teeth, which results in a bit of an "uncanny valley" response to her. Then of course, there are the somewhat cringe-worthy interrace romantic moments between her and Lothar.

Overall, I thought that Warcraft was an enjoyable fantasy epic. One of the key component of the games is choosing whether to side with the human Alliance or orcish Horde and the film makes reference to that by having both heroes and villains on both sides. In fact, much of the film focuses on the dual protagonists of Lothar for the Alliance and Durotan for the Horde. The film primarily focuses on the conflict between the orcs and humans, though some of the other familiar Warcraft races are spotted, such as the dwarves and night elves.

While I personally enjoyed the film, I do admit that it would be hard to recommend Warcraft to anyone other than the most hardcore fans of the video game franchise. While Duncan Jones did an excellent job bringing the world of Azeroth to the big screen, a lot of the mythology is probably going fly right over the head of the casual viewer.

8 / 10 stars
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Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).