** 1/2 out of 5
Rated PG-13 for extended sequences of intense fantasy violence.
Article first published at TheReelPlace.com
Is there anything scarier than walking into a film based on something where you’re a self-proclaimed noob? In full disclosure, I knew absolutely nothing about Warcraft going into its screening, aside from the fact that the trailers were atrocious. Filled with unfinished CGI that looks worse than the now outdated Avatar Na’vi, the one thing it did have going for it was director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie, RIP).
Jones’s first feature, Moon, is classic sci-fi for those who still haven’t seen it and even his follow-up, Source Code, was a ton of fun. Now before you think I’m not a fantasy fan, I am a big fan of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, and to call me a fan of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is a massive understatement.
With that being said, does it live up to expectations for fans? I was lucky enough to be sitting next to — and surrounded by — major Warcraft fans. For those who may not know — myself included — this is not based on the now uber popular World of Warcraft. This film is for the true fans who have been initiated since the days of dial up. According to the fans I tagged along with, this film is for you.
I still can’t make heads or tales of the plot. However, Jones and co-screenwriter Charles Leavitt, have definitely built a world where some more fun can be had in the future. While the special effects weren’t quite up to snuff — let’s face it, there’s only so much CGI your brain can handle before it all starts to look fake — it still brings Blizzard Entertainment’s world to, at times, breathtaking life. At least until you start to look a little too closely at things.
Pacing be damned, there are some major dead spots, and then there are also times where you just feel like you’re being pummeled with one action scene after another. For the uninitiated, you will leave shrugging your shoulders. The fans will leave clamoring for more. While there aren’t any household names, the film is filled with exactly what a huge scale fantasy should be: character actors. While you may not know Paula Patton, Ben Foster, or Dominic Cooper off the top of your head, it’s always best to have these types in your cast to really sell whatever characters you’re throwing at an audience.
I won’t even try to get into most of the Orc characters, as the actors were all coached to speak as grumbly as possible. Seriously, there should be subtitles throughout most of the film. Fortunately, Toby Kebbell is a smart enough actor to use emoting to get the most of his motion capture performance. Sadly, he’s paired up against the absolutely horrible Anna Galvin as his wife Draka. As for Foster, this is the most likeable he’s been in awhile, and Patton gets to be the badass we know she can be. Meanwhile, Travis Fimmel gives the film’s oddest performance. I don’t think he knew he was in the same movie as the rest of the cast. And Hollywood be damned, of course there’s a forced love story thrown in for good measure.
If the film is saved by anything, it’s the sweeping direction of Jones — with excellent cinematography from Simon Duggan — along with Ramin Djawadi’s Game of Thrones-inspired music. The score shouldn’t come as a surprise considering he’s that show’s composer. When the dust clears in this Orcs vs. Humans tale, it’s us noobs who will be leaving scratching our heads. The other major obstacle facing the film is that there’s no mass appeal whatsoever. As for the fans, it appears to be everything you’ve wanted and more. To quote my lifetime Warcraft playing brother-husband “Totul”: “Overall I give it two and a half stars out of four for normal people. But for those of us who love all things Warcraft, I give it three and a half out of four. This was clearly made for us, so go see it so we can get more!”