********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Duncan Jones
Actors: Travis Fimmel, Paula Patton, Ben Foster, Dominic Cooper
A movie attempt of a video game series has rarely gone well. Games have their own charm and their separate user base, but unlike a book, their background stories are meant only to get the user involved in the game before it is handed over to him. The movies need to build a stronger robust plot, but unfortunately, they rarely do. As is the case here too. Duncan Jones’ Warcraft is an ambitious attempt to put together a large-scale film based on one of the biggest selling game series. While it seems to incorporate many points of the game, a movie is after all meant for a wider audience, most of whom may have never touched a console. Whether Duncan Jones and his team have forgotten for whom they have made the movie cannot be ascertained, though a lack of detailing and a confusing story-line mar the movie’s chances of turning into something truly spectacular.
As someone who has not played the game Warcraft, the world of Azeroth was new to me. It is supposed to be a peaceful land ruled by Llane Wrynn (Dominic Cooper). The peace is however shattered when a fierce group of orcs, led by a magical being, come in through a portal, looking for a new land to live in after their own one died out. The problem with the story, written by Duncan Jones and Charles Leavitt, begins right here when little is explained as to who the orcs are, what happened to their old homes, and why do they follow this magic-yielding monster. While the movie was supposed to provide the story from the point of view of both, humans and orcs, it does not do justice to either side. So the orcs are now here, in Azeroth, in search of a new settlement, thus leading to a conflict with the human king and his troops. But if a movie does not hold greater depth and meaning than this, then it should be written somewhere in a child’s storybook rather than being made into a $160 million movie.
The king of Azeroth relies on his loyal commander, Anduin Lothar (Travis Fimmel) and a magician of sorts, Medivh, also called The Guardian (Ben Foster) to take on the orcs. As is the case for most characters, there is little background provided for Lothar and Medivh, especially the latter’s missing six years that is talked of often but never explained. The most interesting of the characters is young Khadgar (Ben Schnetzer) who too can cast spells, and seems to have an interesting history having renounced his vows as a Guardian, but alas, here too, we are not treated to something more meaningful that can create some connection with the character on screen. Another such example is of Garona (Paul Patton) who looks like a half-human, half-orc, but her character too is incomplete, her story never properly told.
Duncan Jones comes on the back of two well-made and critically acclaimed movies – Moon starring Kevin Spacey and Source Code starring Jake Gyllenhaal. So we aren’t talking of an amateur here. The grand feel to the world of Warcraft, the build-up of the drama, the breath-taking shots of the wide landscapes, the fast pace at which the movie moves forward, are signs of an accomplished director at work. It is because of these elements that the movie still carries moments that are worth waiting for, though the mishmash of characters and the excessive point-of-views never allow us to be pulled into the movie. In hindsight, it would have been better to keep Lothar as the central figure in the film, a story told from his perspective, where we can learn about the orcs as he learns about them, where we can rely on our singular hero to carry us through the film.
Travis Fimmel does quite a good job as Lothar; he’s aggressive, loyal and walks with a knight-like air about him which again would have made him ideal for being the sole hero of the film. Ben Foster as The Guardian displays a strong personality, wise and mystic, devoid of emotions; though Foster’s pallid looks get a bit boring as the movie progresses. Ben Schnetzer is charming as Khadgar, still learning his ropes as a magician, but emerging as an important character. Paula Patton as Garona and Dominic Cooper as King Wrynn play fragile characters, who nonetheless, have the strength to rise upto the occasion when called for. The orcs have been created using motion capture and while the special effects are not the problem, the sound effects definitely are. The voices of the orcs are meant to be gruff and hoarse, but at times, they are not understandable at all, especially when the sentences are short which creates a real problem in following the story. The action sequences too between the orcs and humans, especially the fight towards the end, has not been handled masterfully at all and rather looks like a group of extras fighting!
Warcraft can grab your attention only if fantasy stories with beautiful castles and strange-looking beasts (the big wolves were excellent!) are your thing, no matter how weak the story is. They mostly work for me, and maybe that is the reason for an extra point given to this movie’s rating. But if you go to watch Warcraft with the hope of reviving the memories of The Lord of the Rings, then I suggest that you stay away. A rerun of Peter Jackson’s classic is a much better option indeed!