“Not as boring as the game” Warcraft review


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By Rob Stoakes

Of all of the video game movie adaptations, Warcraft is one of the more sensical ones.

It’s hard to play World of Warcraft for the stellar gameplay. Mostly it’s “click the thing” and “agonise for hours over whether you want +3 ugly green sword or the +1 ugly blue sword with +5 vs goblins.” And for a multiplayer game, the fans are some of the most anti-social people in the world. The basement dweller stereotype is cruel, disrespectful and often times entirely correct.

And yet the MMO has literally swallowed lives whole on this boring, boring formula. Why? Well, it all comes down to the deep, if at times incomprehensible, lore of the games. After all, the most popular entry in the whole Warcraft franchise is the World of Warcraft for a reason. The fantasy world has a history and wealth of characters and stories that the player is merely a small part of, and it is up to them to find the story and their own meaning within it.

Now, setting up that world for a cinematic franchise is a daunting task for anyone, but most of all Duncan Jones. I’ve eaten liquorice whips that are longer than his IMDB page. While it does contain Moon and Source Code, two pretty good but certainly not masterpiece films, Warcraft is a wholly different beast. Going from high concept sci-fi to stupid action-heavy fantasy is like very suddenly going from 1st gear to 5th. But, despite all of the odds, Warcraft works, and works very well for what it is, and most of that comes from the direction.

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Toby Kebbell in Warcraft. Picture by Universal Pictures.

Much has been made of just how unrealistic the film looks, and not without reason. The whole thing looks like a child has just grabbed his toys and bashed them together. The CGI is glaringly obvious and is everywhere, almost more cartoon than live action. However, the fight scenes actually have a weird way of making you forget it. In most CGI action, everything happens with a big animated impact that is very easy to spot as “not real”, more trailer fodder than actual action.

However, the many beasts of Warcraft seem to react to pain with real weigh and gravity, and every impact has a meaty thud that sells it perfectly. I actually winced at one bit where an orc slams face-first into a tree, and genuinely thought “Oh god, that stuntman’s had his skull caved in!” even if the orc was as realistic as a Rob Liefeld drawing of Jesse Ventura as described by a lunatic.

Most of the fun in Warcraft is with the directing and action, and certainly not the plot. The story is there only to set up the world of Azaroth for the coming series of films, and is at once remarkably shallow yet ridiculously convoluted. Maybe a handful of characters have names you can remember, while the rest repeatedly show up but do little of importance. Avoiding spoilers, there’s a character who is built up right from the beginning of the film and is a constant presence, but has such little personality and such little backstory that I thought that it was a different character every time I saw them. The children slapping toys together is the best descriptor for Warcraft, equal parts idiotic and kind of ridiculously cool as it is.

Still, by the end of the film I would not mind seeing more films in this world. The characters are shallow but are at least played with conviction by their performers, and this film works as both a first instalment of a series and a story in its own right. DOA will have to hand in its trophy as being the best cinematic release based on a game, although Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva is still safe as the best overall. Warcraft is childish nonsense, but it knows exactly what it wants to be and succeeds.

It’s certainly not as boring as the actual games, at least.

Category Scoring out of 5 ⭐       
Story/Plot ⭐⭐
Acting/Vocal Performance ⭐⭐⭐
Special Effects/Cinematography ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Soundtrack ⭐⭐⭐
Costume/Film Design ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2
Script/Dialogue ⭐⭐⭐
OVERALL RATING ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2

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