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Warcraft: The Beginning

2016-06-10 10:37

What it's about:

The peaceful realm of Azeroth stands on the brink of war as its civilisation faces a fearsome race of invaders: Orc warriors fleeing their dying home, intent on colonising another. As a portal opens to connect the worlds, one army faces destruction and the other faces extinction. From opposing sides, two heroes are set on a collision course that will decide the fate of their family, their people and their home. So begins a spectacular saga of power and sacrifice in which war has many faces, and everyone fights for something.

What we thought: 

Admittedly, I am a noob (a person who is inexperienced in a particular sphere or activity) when it comes to the Warcraft game franchise. Having never played it myself, I have heard much about it, as most people have. The most popular massively multiplayer online role-playing game ever, Warcraft has kept its fanbase loyal for more than two decades and it’s no surprise that they would enter the movie industry. Its creator, Blizzard, also decided to keep control of the production instead of selling off the rights, which makes for an interesting collaboration between the gaming and movie industries. But can a gaming company pull off a movie franchise?

Faced with a dying planet, a horde of orcs follow a powerful warlock through a portal to the world of Azeroth, a peaceful world of many races. As they start pillaging for resources to create another portal, a human king and his commander request the aid of a reclusive sorcerer tasked with protecting the realm. One of the orc chieftains starts to question the agenda of their leader, and seeks an alliance with the humans to save his people.

The first Warcraft film (and there will be many more if the box office plays nice) is more concerned with establishing an origin story for their franchise than really creating an intriguing plot. Instead, it’s a megafight of multiple storylines vying for attention from the viewers, and one can easily get lost in the multitude of apparent main characters. Ironically, it feels more like a videogame than a movie, and perhaps this is what Blizzard was going for, but if you’re not a WoW-player you end up feeling mightily confused.

In terms of visual artistry, however, Warcraft is a first class bonanza of visual graphics. Although the film is heavily laden with CGI and motion-capture, it stands up fantastically in the IMAX cinema, where even a small flaw would be glaringly obvious. The imagery of magic is also spectacular, looking more like the geometric machinery of physics come to life. One easily becomes immersed in this fantastical world, and the 20 months spent on post-production was time well spent. It will easily receive a technical Oscar nomination, and if it doesn’t the fans should riot.

This however means that most of the cast is pretty unrecognisable, and the filmmakers definitely spent the bulk of the budget on visual effects and less on actors’ salaries with little big name recognition (except for the random Glen Close cameo that came out of nowhere). The most well-known one is Travis Fimmel, known for his lead role in Vikings, who plays the burly commander who’s a little too emotional and tries to tie all the other characters together in some loosely intertwined web. The one who stood out for me the most though is Paula Patton (known mostly for her divorce from Robin Thicke), who plays a half-orc caught between the two armies. Her character is both badass and heartbreaking, and I really hope she'll be included in future films. 

Director Duncan Jones (the late David Bowie’s son) probably also saved the script somewhat (but not completely) by pushing Blizzard to turn the orcs into more than just the typical monsters. Instead, we have two warring sides pushed by other forces and both find sympathy with the audience. This makes it a little fresher, but cannot completely make up for a script that feels like it was created by a nerd committee with too many ideas. 

This is a film solely dedicated to the gaming fans and not to movie critics, and its massive opening in China, where it has already broken an IMAX record, already proves this. The geeks and nerds will be the ones supporting this franchise, and they are not going to be swayed by what us critics say, even though I did enjoy the squashing of skulls as much as the next nerd #TeamHorde.

Read more on:    paula patton  |  movies  |  warcraft

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